Wayne Watson is a Christian music pioneer who has won 8 Dove Awards, had 23 #1 songs, and even performed on Johnny Carson. He also has a sweet soul patch and detailed strategy for fighting the members of 4Him. We’ll get to that. His new studio album Simple Life is about to drop, and after I falsely claimed to be Russell Moore, he agreed to be interviewed about it.
MP: First things first: In a street fight against the members of 4Him, assuming that they attack you one at a time and no one has weapons, what is your preferred order of fighting them and how many of them could you defeat?
so that might not be a good way to start. Maybe start with Kirk. He’s a teddy bear and I think all the hours in the tanning booth have probably caused some muscle atrophy. Mark would be next. He’s like Yogi Bear…just so nice and friendly and shuffling along, probably whistling, and wouldn’t ever imagine anybody could be angry at him. In the end, Mark would probably say “OK…heh heh…you win.” Marty would be last ’cause he’s just a little bit nuts. He makes faces and bugs out his eyes and makes you think he might be some kind of alien like in Men In Black.
Of course, I think I could take ’em all but that’s just what a guy has to say, right? They are younger than me but on the other hand, I DO have a (almost) two-year-old who is keeping me saucy. And I live in Texas so the no weapons thing doesn’t apply.
MP: Did you sense the shift in CCM towards worship music, or was it a spontaneous thing that caught the industry by surprise?
WW: I didn’t sense anything at all. I was just out there doing what I do and all of a sudden, Christian radio is playing nothing but worship music. And if you (I) came out and were critical of “worship music” well, you looked like a heratic…hairatik…heirati…you know what I mean. So you couldn’t pitch a fit and put it down.
Seriously, in the beginning, it was refreshing and then it became everything. Most of my songs were/are about life: how we deal with it or not, failure, success, victory and defeat, etc. I have written a couple of worship songs that I really love. One was “Almighty” and I recorded that with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir singing with me. That was a tremendous experience. The other was a song called “Glorify Your Name” that I produced with my son, Neal. I re-arranged and re-cut it for the Simple Life project.
I considered giving an all-out effort to write worship songs and I was divided over it. I think my motivations were not exactly just right. So, I just write what comes and what is given. Sometimes it’s work and sometimes you’re just a faucet.
It’s a shame that Christian media is so often unable to give attention to different genres of music and artists from more than one generation or age group. That’s not the way it is in other music circles. I’m not comparing myself to anyone, but in pop, rock, R&B, jazz, classical music, you hear everything and everybody. You can hear Sting, The Eagles, Faith Hill, Coldplay, U2, Mumford and Sons as well as lots of younger artists on the same station. If they can bring it, they play.
That’s the end of my message for today. Will the ushers please put out their cigarettes and come forward to take the offering?
MP: When was the last time you went demon hunting with Carman?
WW: He never calls me!! I did shoot quail in south Texas with a Southern Baptist Preacher. I think there might have been some demons on that trip. And I did shoot a rattlesnake 6 feet in front of me, it was 8 feet long and as big around as a Mason Jar. I recited the book of Genesis as I pulled the trigger (in Hebrew).
MP: When zombies attack the Dove Awards, which Christian artists would have the best chance at escaping?*
WW: I don’t know anyone that goes to much less wins Dove Awards anymore. But I’m not bitter. Really. I’m serious!
MP: Yeah, but didn’t you break up the infamous 1995 Dove Awards street fight between Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith?
WW: Uh huh. It all started because both of them had more Dove statues than they could carry. Chapman dropped one of his on Smitty’s toe or something and then they just started throwing statues at each other. There were a few of us standing around…I think Bruce Carrol took off with one of Michael’s Doves and then it just got nuts. But in 1995 SCC was still under age so I think they carted him off to juvey. If I remember right, Smitty paid off a judge. Judge was charged with corruption. Smitty paid off the DA. State Supreme Court got involved and they’re still trying to sort it all out 20 years later! I think they’re meeting with Vince Gill and Amy this afternoon to take their statements. It’s a bad scene. Bad scene.
MP: Are you currently rocking the Middle Age Watson Soul Patch? (Because it is singularly glorious and if you are, we might need a selfie for verification)
As a matter of fact, I am:
MP: Soul patch verified!
WW: It morphs from shape to shape depending on how awake I am when I’m ‘scaping and how the battery is doing in my clipper. One day, I was trimming as the battery was dying and it pulled a few hairs out of the patch. I spoke in two foreign languages.
MP: What is your dream musical collaboration and why is it Family Force 5?
WW: You can give them my email addy or phone. I’ll be holding my breath.
(ed.–if he thinks I won’t do it, he is sorely mistaken)
MP: Field of Souls. Great song. Underrated album. 20 years later, how do you regard that project?
WW: THANK YOU!! I humbly agree about the album being underrated. I remember writing the title song wondering “Has anybody else written a song about a field of souls, the harvest, etc.?” So much so that I called my publisher (that sounds cool, doesn’t it? Don’t you wish you were me?) and asked if he would search and see if there were any songs about that subject. Nothing. I could imagine a bunch of us singing FOS like a “We Are the World” thing but it never took off. Do you have Quincy Jones’ phone number?
The album was released by Warner-Alliance. It was, at the time, the Christian music arm of Warner Brothers Music. The budget was about three times more than I’d ever spent on a record. But this was right after the Michael English thang and they were trying to recover. Warner Bros. pulled most of the support for the label soon after and “Field of Souls” never did much.
MP: Oh wow. How do you come away from that and not be jaded?
WW: WHO SAYS I’M NOT JADED??? 🙂 You just have to get over it. I remember thinking that I could either sit in the corner and pout or get off my tail and work within the parameters and structures of the new environment. New normal applies to lots of areas. I’ll tell you, we sure didn’t see the decline in sales of physical product coming. Most people download everything (at best) or just a song or two that they like. It’s changed everything – the way we produce (we have to find less expensive ways of doing things) and distribute, how we find our listeners (and honestly, that’s still the biggest challenge) People are inundated with information and demands on their attention and competition for their dollars. I just want to find them and let them decide if they want this new music or not. I hope so.
MP: In lieu of the standard “what advice would you give an aspiring Christian artist” question, let’s do this: what is a mistake or regret from your own career that you would caution others against?
WW: This will not go on forever!
You will not always have the following you have now. People move on.
Live within your means (or even less).
Find some solid, trustworthy soul to manage your business and your money or better yet, do it yourself.
I DON’T regret spending so much time with my family. I never toured for weeks on end (except for a half dozen Young Messiah runs around Christmas) and I would be home a lot to make sure my boys didn’t go off the track.
There are other regrets that I just don’t talk about. And, by the way, people that say they have no regrets…hmmmm…
MP: [from twitter guy Steve Bullard] Do you regret allowing 21 other Wayne Watsons to beat you to Twitter? And was @watercolourponies already taken?
(ed.–Wayne’s handle is @WayneWatson22)
WW: I don’t know if there were 21 other Wayne Watsons that were beating a path to Twitter. Didn’t try “Waynewatson1” I just like the number 22. Didn’t try @watercolourponies Man, that’s a lot of letters!
MP: Finally, what can you tell us about your current project?
WW: I approved the proof of the cover and layout an hour ago. The title is Simple Life and I’ve been working on it for a couple of years now. It was complicated.
MP: Complicated? How so?
WW: I was kidding, sort of…”Simple Life” . . . complicated….get it?
(ed.–Leave me alone.)
But it just took a long, long time.
And I wanted to find a new approach to a couple of my older songs. I’ve been playing “Almighty” every night for over a decade and I just wanted to find a new perspective. I orchestrated it and tried it out in a concert here in the Houston area with The Woodlands Symphony Orchestra. That arrangement is what’s on the new project and it sounds nothing like the old version.
MP: Where will we be able to find Simple Life?
WW: There are dozens (at least) of digital distribution sites that will have it. Of course, that fruit company will have it on iTunes but there will be several places where you can order the physical product complete with pictures, credits and such. One fulfillment site (the main one for me) will be rivetmerch.com
MP: What motivated you on this project?
WW: As much as I love, am thankful for, and still enjoy playing the old stuff like “Somewhere in the World” “Watercolour Ponies” “Friend of a Wounded Heart” and others, I don’t want to end up on PBS singing just those songs when I’m 80. I’m still a work in progress under the Master’s hand and I’m trying to stay observant as to what’s going on in my life and heart and in the world around me. I’m not trying to stay musically relevant necessarily. I mean, what exactly is that??? It changes from one minute to the next. But I do want to stay fresh as much as is within my ability. Probably not going to do rap or hip hop (I think Pat Boone already covered that) but I do listen to lots of different music. I’m still stimulated by the challenge of the creative process and the desire to share some of God’s truth through music. I think there are more and more people in terrible pain that can’t find help anywhere and sometimes, by the grace of God, a simple song can help open their eyes and heart. The technology that was supposed to free us is creating a culture of isolation and despair. What motivated me? I still care. □