Authentic. Original. Timeless. Searching for the one correct adjective to describe Dale Watson and his music is impossible. It’s all of the above and a lot of stuff that you know it’s not. It’s everything you remember that it was once and he reminds you that it still is today (if you are looking hard enough).
Dale Watson founded the “Ameripolitan” genre of music. To hear him describe it, “It’s definition is ‘Music with prominent roots influence.’ The people like Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, and Taylor Swift can’t buy their way into this genre. And that’s a beautiful thing!” The genre consist of honky-tonk, rockabilly, and Western swing. “When people say they like country music, they used to mean artist like Merle Haggard. Now-a-days that means something different.” It’s something that Dale is passionate about. “I used to get upset and focus on what I’m not, which is today’s country music. Now, I tend to focus on what I am.” Ameripolitan.
Dale released his first album “Cheatin’ Heart Attack” back in 1995. With well over twenty albums under his belt (more if you count the live albums), Dale released “Call Me Insane” to rave reviews. A standout song on the album is “Jonesin’ for Jones.” Dale remarks, “It was a song written as a reaction right after the death of George Jones. I didn’t want it to be a sad thing.” When asked if he had any favorites, Dale replied, “The title track, “Call Me Insane,’ is a favorite to play. ‘Burden of The Cross’ is probably the most personal.” The song deals with the death of his girlfriend to a car accident years ago and the emotional journey afterwards.
Dale Watson and His Lonestars (Mike Bernal on drums, Chris Crepps on upright bass, and longtime bandmate Don Pawlak on pedal steel) play over three-hundred shows a year. “If you ain’t blowing you ain’t goin’!” And the live shows get their substance from the crowd in front of the band. Each show takes on a life of its own. “I used to do a set-list and it just didn’t work for me. It was like I was leaving the audience out. It should be a conversation.” If you’ve been to a Dale Watson show, you know that Lone Star Beer plays a big part. I asked if the “commercial” that runs through the show for Lone Star Beer is out of love for the beer or a sponsorship. “Yes. The answer is yes.” Dale said that Lone Star Beer is in his contract rider but that it’s not a problem in Texas. He did just finish a week in New York City and the Lone Star Beer was readily available. “The crowds in New York are very savvy to the roots music. There is a ton of support for the music.” When asked the difference between a New York crowd and a Texas crowd, Dale replied, “More dancing in Texas.”
Most comfortable in a honky-tonk, Dale said he really enjoys the “theater” venues as well. “The show is different in a theater setting. I get to play songs that get drowned out in a honky-tonk setting. I still encourage the crowd to get loud. They tend to feel like they are supposed to be quiet. Not at one of my shows!”
In discussing Dale’s songwriting style he said he likes to write most of his songs on stage. “The problem with that though, is that many of the songs written on stage die a tragic death.” However, many of his biggest hits, including “I Lie When I Drink” from his “El Rancho Azul” album were born and honed on stage. “We’ll get the idea and play around with it at sound-check and during the show. I’ll glance back at my drummer (Mike Bernal) and he’ll record the song on his phone.”
Three-hundred shows a year doesn’t leave Dale a lot of room for downtime. When quizzed on his other interest, he quickly injected, “Riding motorcycles. Mostly around the hill-country. I enjoy to get out and clear my head. Doing the things that get neglected being out on the road so much.”
Having a bus emblazoned with his name on all sides, with an appearance different than anyone around him, and a personality that makes it hard to be anything other that exactly who he is, it’s hard for Dale to get away from people in public. However, it’s not something that Dale finds as a problem. The southern gentleman says, “I’ve never taken it for granted. I’m just honored that people think enough of me to want to get a photo with me or an autograph.”