In 2002 Watson released his first album, Shutupanddance, which was a major success in Texas, spawning the hit singles "Off the Record," "I Don't Want You to Go (But I Need You to Leave)," and the title tune. The album also earned him airplay and media attention nationwide, and Watson followed up his debut in 2004 with The Honky Tonk Kid, which was produced by Ray Benson
of Asleep at the Wheel
and featured guest vocals from Watson's hero, Willie Nelson
. Watson and his band the Orphans of the Brazos captured their energetic live set on tape with their 2005 release Live at the Texas Hall of Fame, and Watson returned to the studio in 2006 for his fourth album, San Angelo.
In 2008, Watson began transforming his sound -- albeit subtly and without leaving his Texas roots behind -- toward a more contemporary country radio-friendly approach on the reflective Angels & Outlaws. In 2010 he released The Road & the Rodeo, returning to more uptempo material, while smoothing his edges further. The result was more airplay, higher-profile touring engagements, and charting inside Billboard's Top 200. Watson's success continued to grow with 2012's Real Good Time, which rose to number nine on the Billboard Country Albums chart and cracked the Top 20 of the Independent Albums survey. And Watson scored a major breakthrough with 2015's The Underdog. Belying the album's title, The Underdog (produced by Keith Stegall, who also worked with George Jones
and Alan Jackson
) made its debut on the Billboard Country Albums chart at number one, the first time a male artist on an independent label had topped the chart in his first week. "That Look," a single drawn from the album, also hit the Country Airplay chart, topping out at 47, and another, "Getaway Truck," was a radio hit in Watson's native Texas. The hard-working Watson did plenty of touring in support of the album, playing 148 shows in 2015. He regrouped in 2016 and returned in early 2017 with Vaquero, notching another hit in "Outta Style" and rising to number two on the Top Country Albums Chart. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi