"I've always been the first one to (say) Nashville's putting out the same records, and not taking any chances. But Audium's in Nashville, and look what they've done."
Watson has also been mastering a tribute CD entitled "Austin, Texas Through the Eyes of Terri Herbert," which will feature contributions from a number of local musicians who Herbert had assisted in one way or another, including Kelly Willis, Matt Powell, Seth Walker and several others. Watson's contribution is a previously unreleased number entitled "Blue Eyes," the only song that Watson wrote about Herbert before her death. Watson describes the album as "a very good record, but very eclectic - it shows all the aspects that Austin is."
"She always wanted me to write a song for her. And I told her, 'You can't ask me to write a song for you. It's just gotta come.' And luckily 'Blue Eyes' did come before she died. She loved that song. That's the only one she got to hear."
The Audium deal comes following a brief period during which Watson was signed with the revived Sire label, the home of Madonna, the Talking Heads, and the Ramones during its '80's salad days. Internal label politics and a merger kept Watson sidelined until he was finally released from his contract last year.
"Sire merged with London Records, and they wanted to put my record out in fall of 2002. And I said, 'Nope, this ain't gonna work. We want off the label.' And (Sire label head Seymour Stein) said, 'Just bear with me. We'll find a place for it. We can't afford to pay you off.' So I said, 'Don't pay me anything '. Just keep the record, and let me off.' And they did."
While with Sire, Watson completed an unreleased album that will probably remain that way.
"I liked the record. It came out really good. It had James Burton playing guitar on some stuff. It still would be one of my better records ever, but it'll never see the light of day."
Though nearly signing with Sony's Lucky Dog imprint after the Sire debacle, Watson ended up throwing his lot in with Audium, also home to Loretta Lynn, Ricky Van Shelton, the Kentucky Headhunters, and The Tractors.
"A couple of different people knew Nick Hunter and Audium and knew the integrity of what they wanted to have on the label. People came up to me and mentioned Audium in that same fashion, too, because they knew that would be the type of label I'd want to go to. A friend brought Nick some CDs and Nick liked 'em. He made a phone call to my manager, and we just got together and started talking."
Watson adds that the American versions of both the live and Christmas albums will differ from the European versions.
"Me and Danni Leigh are going to re-cut the vocals on 'Christmas Love,' so that's going to be different. And with the live album, they put out an edited version of the CDs burned straight from the board. And what's going to come out in the states is a mixed version off the 24-track tape with some different songs on it."
Over the past year, Watson has also been performing on the Grand Ole Opry on a semi-regular basis, including a featured slot on the TV segment in early August. When asked how the Opry has been reacting to the man who wrote "Nashville Rash," Watson laughs heartily.
"We get requests for that all the time! We (also) get requests for 'Country My Ass,' which is a song that's on the live album. The only people who come out and see us at these shows in Nashville are people who know the machinery. They're educated. They know what's going on."
When finally asked how he's feeling these days, Watson thoughtfully answers, "(I feel) like you would seven months along after something like this. It's really been since January that I was able to start the grief process in a normal fashion. I'm doing good, but I still miss her all the time. The thing I love about this album is that it lets me say to her what I never got a chance to."
"I never listen to any of my albums, but this album I do. Late at night, I pour me a glass of wine, listen to it and think about her."