Talk Music: Gene Watson gives it all he's got

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Aug. 21, 2013 at 3:21 a.m.

Gene Watson

Gene Watson

Just back from touring in Colorado, Gene Watson and the Farewell Party Band will fill in for Ray Price on Saturday at Schroeder Hall.

Watson's career goes back four decades and includes six No. 1 songs, 23 Top Tens, more than 75 charted singles and 50 albums.

Revered as one of the greatest pure vocalists among working country singers, Watson and his traditional brand of country music show no signs of slowing down.

He caught up with Get Out to talk about working more than he has in 20 years, his 50th album and his philosophy on life.

Who are some of the vocalists you admire?

I hate to pick favorites because it seems like I've stolen from all of them throughout my career as far as music go.

Merle Haggard is one of my favorites. Of course, George Jones just passing away - it's a tragedy that we lost him, but my goodness, what a tradition. And there are a few young ones I really admire, Joe Nichols. There are some I admire who I think are pure country singers, but they're not nearly as good as the ones we're losing.

It's sad to say; all I can do is carry the torch as well as I can.

Mr. Haggard played at Schroeder Hall earlier this year, and at the time disagreed about being labeled an "old fart."

I hate to put my mouth in a bad position. When Blake Shelton's been around for as long as Ray Price or Merle Haggard has, then let him start blowing off his mouth.

It was a dumb*** remark.

I'm glad Merle Haggard said something about it.

You're already in the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and honored as the 2010 Country Legend of the Year. What does it mean to be honored in the town you cut your teeth - in the Houston Music Hall of Fame?

It took me by surprise. I've been on the road so much.

I think it's great because I'm based personally out of Houston, and my hometown is in that area.

I still love all my fans around Houston.

There have been a lot of things that have gone by me as far as the national awards.

I don't want anyone to give me something I don't deserve. It just means so much to me. I'm thankful and humbled by it.

I'm working more than I have in 20 years.

I'm so thankful because traditional music really died away there for a while, as far as the artists.

Thankfully, I had enough track record that I stuck it out and stayed with it working. Now, they're working us as much as we can work.

Ray Price, who was scheduled to play this date, has called you one of his favorites. What's your relationship like with him?

I hate that Ray couldn't be there, but I'm glad it's me who gets to go in his place.

We're friends - he's a legend; he's someone who I've always admired and looked up to. We've worked together several times.

He's one of the greatest artists I've ever known.

At this juncture in his career, he's one of the truest singers in the world.

I was certainly happy that I could fill in for The Great Ray Price.

I'm just sorry he's ill.

I hope the folks will enjoy our show. We're looking forward to it.

When you re-recorded your songs for your 50th album, how did you capture the original phrasing, the original feel and emotion of the song?

It was extremely hard. I was so critical because I knew what people expected of me.

I hate cover tunes because usually they're never as good as the original was. I didn't want that reputation.

I took my time. I picked out the Top 25 most requested, most popular.

We would refer back to the original track.

I was real critical to do them in the same key, same tempo and same phrasing. I tried to capture them as well as I could.

I enjoyed doing it, but it was really a project like I never thought it could be.

I hope all the fans are happy with it. All the response we've had on it has been extremely positive.

After quitting alcohol and smoking both cold turkey, would you say you have a strong will?

I quit drinking over 32 years ago.

Really, I'm kind of a self-made man along with my fans. Anything that hinders or hampers my career, I try to do something about it.

I don't believe - now this is myself - in alcoholism. Everything a person is addicted to is controlled by the mind.

If you take it out, you don't even think about it.

I was drunk out of my mind one night, and I made up my mind that I would see how the other side lives.

I quit smoking the same way. I smoked up to four packs a day. I just decided when I smoked the last cigarette in the pack I wouldn't buy any more.

I just don't really think I can stand addiction.

What's your philosophy to facing life?

It's a simple philosophy, nothing really complicated. I take each day as it comes.

I try to take care of myself, rest when I can. The miles and the years take their toll on you.

Every day above ground is a good day.

I try to live my life to the fullest, but I try to respect the ones around me that I deal with, too.

I believe in the good Lord above.

I've been through the cancer thing, and I'm cancer-free, I'm happy to say.

If you approach life in the perspective that it could end tomorrow or tonight, you might think a little more of it.

You've always had the freedom to pick your own material. How do you sing so honestly about situations you may have never experienced?

Recording a song is a lot like acting in a movie: I have to live that story to make it believable to my fans.

If I'm singing about something, I have to step over into that guy's shoes, live that life, play that part and believe in it.

Each song I record means just that much to me.

Do you have a favorite?

My songs are sort of like children - it would be hard to pick one over the other.

Certainly, there are ones that I know the fans appreciate more, and I try to make that my favorite at the time.

Each one means a terribly lot to me.

When I leave that stage, I want to lay down that night and know that I didn't leave anything on that stage.

I give it literally everything I've got.



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