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Independent streak: Dale Watson makes country music on his terms, in his studios

Dale Watson is a traveling man.

Luckily, he has homes in both Austin, Texas, and Memphis, Tenn., to rest his head.

Having homes in both cities also gives the country musician access to his personal recording studios.

“I’m finishing building an analog recording studio here in Memphis,” Watson says during a phone interview. “It’s kind of being set like Sun Studios. It’s going to go straight to tape and vinyl.”

Watson’s no stranger to the long hours it takes to make it as a musician.

For nearly a quarter century, he’s released music on his own terms.

Known for his attitude of a bad boy with tattoos, Watson has always wanted to make authentic country music.

His most recent album, “Blackjack,” was a retrospective of sorts and included the title track as the only new, original track.

And he has over 30 albums’ worth of material.

“I never go by a set list,” he says. “I let the audience predict that. I just find that any given point, things can change. If I’m doing a festival, it’s going to be a mix of fast and slow songs. The crowd really dictates what they want. Then I try to pepper in songs from the new album.”

When it comes to writing, Watson never forces anything.

He also stays aware that inspiration can strike anytime.

“Pieces of songs seem to hit me when I’m on stage or driving,” he says. “The spontaneity is something I’ve learned to embrace. I make sure that I’m always ready to capture the piece of the song. I’ll sing it into my voice recorder when I’m driving. It’s amazing that inspiration can still find its way to me after all these years.”

Watson is also always up for a challenge.

With the work near completion on his second studio, he’s aiming to try something new.

“I think doing a live recording in the new studio is going to be the next journey I’m going to take,” he says. “I want to do a duet album, and all of them I want to do live – no overdubs and no second chances. With that style, there’s some brutal honesty to it. I think that’s going to be the next adventure. These are some of the ways I like to challenge myself.”

Watson will perform in Santa Fe as part of the Santa Fe Bandstand summer series.

“Last time we played there, it was an amazing environment,” he says. “Santa Fe holds a special place in my heart.”

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