Aaron Watson is a Texas country artist who's been performing for almost 20 years. In 2015, he was the first independent male country artist to have an album debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Album chart. He performs at Billy Bob's Texas on March 31.

Aaron Watson is a Texas country artist who's been performing for almost 20 years. In 2015, he was the first independent male country artist to have an album debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Album chart. He performs at Billy Bob's Texas on March 31.

Joseph Llanes/

He's performed to 70,000 fans at the Houston Rodeo and toured all over the U.S. and Europe.

He's released more than a dozen country records and in 2015 was the first independent male country artist to have an album debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Album chart.

For almost 20 years, Aaron Watson has built quite the country music career.

"And it wasn't an easy road," the 40-year-old Amarillo native said to GuideLive. "It's still not an easy road. But the rest of the world is out there hustling and putting in long hours. So it really shouldn't be any different for an artist."

Fans and musicians often ask Watson how they too can get into country music and achieve the same type of success. Truth is, there are many routes, especially in the digital age.

Take Kris Jones for example. The 39-year-old Alvarado dad became a viral sensation after he sang the song "Tennessee Whiskey" to his daughter in a truck. Now with viral fame, he wants to leave his job as a contractor and become a country star.

Watson never had the luck of overnight success. He learned how to play the guitar in college at Abilene Christian University, and performed in coffee shops. On his way to stardom, he once lived in a closed down gas station, where every morning, he had to drive to his friend's house to shower.

Thirteen albums later, Watson has seen it all. That's why we asked him: What does it take to be a country star?

Aaron Watson is a Texas country artist who's been performing for almost 20 years. In 2015, he was the first independent male country artist to have an album debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Album chart. He performs at Billy Bob's Texas on March 31.

Aaron Watson is a Texas country artist who's been performing for almost 20 years. In 2015, he was the first independent male country artist to have an album debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Album chart. He performs at Billy Bob's Texas on March 31.

Joseph Llanes/

Question: The music industry is a grind. Did you have any side jobs when you first started playing music?

Watson: Oh, absolutely. I did some work in the oil fields. Landscaping. Restaurants. Anything and everything.

Q: Was it difficult to support yourself starting out?

Watson: Well, you know what, I think I only made about $250 a show for the first five to six years. And man, that's just part of the ropes. You're not going to be making a lot of money. It just kind of is what it is. If you want to become a doctor, you've got to go to medical school. It's a struggle.

Q: What were your expectations starting out?

Watson: I was going to be a high school baseball coach [if music didn't work out]. So if I could somehow turn my music into something that could provide for my family as good as what I was going to make as a coach, then I could justify it. Now, it's such a blessing that I'm able to make music and provide for my family. But without a doubt, if there ever came a day where music wasn't providing for my family, then I'd have to figure out something. As much as I love music, taking care of my wife and kiddos is my number one priority. Always.

Q: How were the crowds when you first started out?

Watson: I played to nobody for a long, long, long, time. I still go to new places -- we were up in the northeast playing towns we've never played before, and I pretty much played for nobody. I'm investing in my brand when I go to new markets.

Q: When did it feel like you had finally made it?

Watson: I don't know. The term "made it" is a very interesting term. Some people think a definition of making it is having a Ferrari, a mansion and playing sold out stadiums every night. For me, making it was sweet and simple. Being able to make that house payment for my little house, and making enough so that my wife could stay home with the kids.

Q: What are your thoughts on the viral, overnight success phenomenon?

Aaron Watson

Watson: Nothing's ever gone viral for me. Nothing's ever been overnight. I've kind of had to scratch and claw every inch of the way. And it's not like that for everybody, but that's just how it's been for me. You go look at any of the legends. It wasn't overnight for them, either. George Strait was singing cover songs for forever.

Q: What's your advice for someone like Kris Jones, who's trying to turn viral fame into country music stardom?

Watson: Things go viral, but unfortunately that's not how it works in the music business. Views don't always turn into dollars. And you've got to have dollars if you want to take care of the family. Without a doubt, what a voice that guy has. I love the video of him and his daughter. She seems so precious.

That viral thing, it's a really neat deal and it can be a bit of a launching pad. But I think in the grand scheme of things, it's not a foundation. I think between his family and his voice, that's his foundation. I'd tell Kris, don't quit your day job, not just yet. You put out that EP, and work on a full-length album.

But he's a contractor. He knows how to build things. So he's just going to have to get out there and build his career little by little, brick by brick.

Watson, whose latest album was his 2017 release, "Vaquero," will perform at Billy Bob's Texas on March 31. Click here to buy tickets.

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