Aaron Watson is a man that has everything going for him right now. The country star has a successful career, a beautiful family and a future that looks as bright as ever. But even he has been able to feel the general unhappiness and uncertainty that has seemingly enveloped this country as of late.
So, he decided to do something about it.
He decided to record his first ever Christmas album.
“It’s all about having love and kindness and a little more generosity,” Watson tells PEOPLE in a recent interview about his new album, An Aaron Watson Family Christmas. “You can sit and watch the bad news all day or you can go and make a change in your little world. This album changed me. I wanted it to be a light in a dark place. I wanted it to focus on the real meaning of Christmas.”
Watson did just that, recording the much-anticipated album alongside his wife Kimberly and their three children. And while his reasons for recording the album were many, his inspirations for the album were clearly laid within his past.
“We always had the Christmas music on,” recalls Watson of his time growing up in Amarillo, Texas. “My dad had an incredible vinyl record collection. I mean, it would be The Beach Boys and Frank Sinatra and of course the Chipmunks Christmas album. I can listen to that music today and it can take me back to that time and place.”
And as a man craving the feeling the holidays bring, he began wondering if this was the year to finally actually record the Christmas album he had been putting off for so long.
“The fans have been harassing me every holiday season about putting a record out,” Watson says with a laugh. “I always wanted to get working on it but, you know, life gets busy. But this June, I had some time with my family and it was 105 in the shade in Texas. We were sitting at the table and we decided it was time.”
Soon after, the Watson family would cancel their scheduled family vacation and stay home in the hopes of creating a record together. 12-year-old Jake, 10-year-old Jack and 8-year-old Jolee Kate would swim all day and then take turns gathering in Watson’s wife’s closet, where Christmas lights were hung and recording equipment was staged so the family could lend their voices to various tracks when the mood hit them.
“My kids are very musical,” says Watson. “Jake and Jack outplay me on the guitar and Jolee sings like an angel. It was so cute to see how excited they were.”
The album includes a total of 10 songs, with eight being classics of yesteryear such as “Silent Night” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” And then there are two originals, one of which being the Drew Womack-penned “She Stared at Him All Night.”
“That’s definitely one of my favorite songs on the album,” Watson says. “The first time I started to sing it, I was crying like a baby. It just broke my heart. I ended up recording my vocals in a hotel room with my guitar player because I knew he wouldn’t hold it against me if I started sobbing.”
And while everyone involved quickly got used to the idea of lending their collective hands to the project, Watson’s wife Kimberly often needed a little more convincing.
“There was one night that we put the kids to bed and we needed to work on some harmonies on ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside,’” Watson recalls. “It was 11 p.m. and she was telling me she didn’t feel comfortable enough yet to sing. Look, we have been married for 15 years. I have seen her naked and I have seen her give birth. Now I just needed for her to sing this Christmas song. And she ended up killing it. I was so proud of her.”
And now that the record is complete, Watson is ready to set his sights on 2019. Besides making a triumphant return to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Jan. 24 for his “A Night of Texas” show, Watson is also prepping for a headlining tour that will have him playing from coast to coast starting on Jan. 11.
But one thing is for sure. He will never forget the making of this album.
“I don’t know if it’s because it was recorded at home or what, but there was so much love and joy infused into every song,” Watson says. “I really didn’t realize how special this record would be to me until after it was done. I love thinking that people will have this Christmas record on when they are opening gifts or having dinner or just sitting in front of the fire.”
And yes, he is already thinking about recording another one, because maybe, the world needs it.
“It’s really time for this country to come together,” he says quietly. “Don’t focus on all that’s wrong with the world, but instead, focus on what is right. I just think if we turned off the TV and put down our phones and put on some old vinyl records and wrapped our arms around each other, we all would be just fine.”
And as much as the world needs more of this kind of music, maybe he needs it too.
“It makes me teary-eyed to think about years from now when my kids are grown, and I’ll just be crying my eyes out listening to my little ones singing,” he says. “That’s the moments I will forever live for.”
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