Wayne Watson is wearing this season of his creative life with the ease of a favorite well-worn leather jacket—relaxed and comfortable. The man whose voice and songs helped define an entire genre of Christian music throughout the ‘80’s and ‘90’s is re-connecting with his music with a new passion seemingly born at the intersection of age and wisdom. That passion, wisdom and transparency can be experienced on Wayne’s new project, EVEN THIS.
The songwriter known for his remarkable depth and relevancy has just brushed past the milestone marker of half a century—most of it shared intimately on the trail with God and his music. Much of the journey has been chronicled within the library of songs contained on more than two dozen album projects since his memorable breakthrough album Working In The Final Hour caught the imagination of an entire generation of Christian music listeners and radio with its release in 1980. To say his vocal styling and lyrics of open, honest communication of God’s presence in every day life circumstances helped lay the foundation on which today’s contemporary Christian music is built would in no way be an overstatement.
Wayne Watson’s connection with his audience has to date produced a history of 23 #1 singles at Christian radio—including “Friend Of A Wounded Heart,” “When God’s People Pray,” “Almighty, Be In Her Eyes,” “Watercolour Ponies,” “More Of You,” “Another Time, Another Place,” and “Home Free” (which became the most played song at Christian radio in 1991).
His litany of career credits include a dozen Dove Awards wins –including those for Male Vocalist of the Year in 1989, Song of The Year in that same year (“Friend Of A Wounded Heart”), Pop Contemporary Song of the Year and Contemporary Album of The Year (1988) with Watercolour Ponies, and Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year (1992) with “Home Free.” He has twice been nominated for the Grammy Award—both for his performance of Watercolour Ponies (1987), and for Best Pop Gospel Album in 1992 with his stunning A Beautiful Place project.
In the 90’s Wayne Watson became one of the first major Christian artists to attract mainstream attention. He gave a groundbreaking emotionally charged performance of “Another Place, Another Time” with fellow artist Sandi Patty on NBC-TV’s Tonight Show—an event that was deemed a defining moment in Christian music’s move to wider audiences. In the late 90’s, his inspirational hit “For Such A Time As This” became a centerpiece theme of CBS-TV’s then highly rated series Touched By An Angel.
Picking up a prolific pen and guitar these days, Wayne Watson is poised to write a whole new chapter of his remarkable career. “I was just thinking to myself the other day, ‘you know at 50 years old men are presidents of countries, CEO’s of big corporations—they run businesses and are looking forward to retiring.’ If anything these last few years have refreshed me and prepared me for what’s next. I’m definitely opening my heart to new opportunities. I’m wide open to going anywhere in the world to do what I do and to try to touch people in the process.”
His life is a remarkable testimony of a man not interested in resting on past laurels.
A native of Wisner, Louisiana, Wayne seemed destined for a mission from an early age.
“I grew up in church—in a small town of 1,200-1,500 people. My mother was the organist and my dad was a deacon—and church was the center of my world. I remember walking the aisle—you know they’d have an invitation to come forward and either accept Christ or re-dedicate your life—and I did that quite a few times!
I remember walking forward and telling the pastor, ‘I don’t know why I’m coming down here but I feel that God wants to do something special with my life and I don’t know what it is—but please pray for me that I’ll know.’ I didn’t feel I was being called to be a pastor and I didn’t want to box Him in or put God in a traditional definition of what it might look like to be ‘used.’ I didn’t even know if it was music or not at that point in my life.”
At this point in his life, Wayne has no doubts of his calling. After several years of dedicating his gifting to his role as musical director for a major church in Houston, Wayne is now re-focusing and re-opening the mines of his creativity with a fresh rush of enthusiasm towards a full time re-commitment to his career as an artist and songwriter.
“Someone asked me in an interview lately if my songs were ‘pearls from deep within’ or ‘diamonds dug from the soil of life’—it was a great question that really got me thinking. In the past I didn’t dig deep enough to find some of those gems that might be there from a lifetime of experience, and years of walking with God—through seasons when He’s seemed sometimes near, sometimes far away. I’m just now at this season in life beginning to tap into some of the real potential depth of my writing—and that’s very encouraging to me.”
Moving forward to what God has next is a constant theme in his conversations these days. When asked about a retrospect of his first twenty-five years of influence that produced hits songs and awards, he feels his greatest accomplishment might have been less tangible. .
“I think if I had any accomplishment for my generation I hopefully influenced Christian songwriters to be very transparent and not be hesitant to writing about things that are going on in their life—good and bad. I always tried to find a way to artistically shape these things so they could be listened to by others who may be going through the same kind of challenges—and hopefully the music would be an encouragement. That’s the challenge as a writer. To find a way to paint pictures that might be intrinsically sad and depressing to some degree—and introduce God’s hope into the mix with the promise of a good end coming—even if we can’t yet see it.”
Wayne admits the journey has been constant in the learning process. “As a parent raising my boys, I remember specific occasions when they’d throw little fits and I’d just wait ‘em out patiently rather than try to intrude and shut them down. God’s done this for me many times in my life. My last album had a song on it called “Grace” and I realize if any thread has been consistent through the last four or five years of my life it’s been my awareness of the depth of God’s grace.”
What’s ahead in this latest season of life for Wayne Watson is about to unfold for listeners. “There’ll be worshipful music to come. From my experiences over the past two or three years I’m learning finally in my life what it truly means to worship God through my music. There’ll be personal insight type issue songs as well--songs of personal revelation that I hope will reach out to others.”
For Wayne Watson it’s like a warm ‘welcome home.’ “You go through your youth thinking ‘this is just going to go on and on—then you blink your eyes and it’s twenty-five years later. I’m propelled now by the knowledge that life is precious and that God has ordained a certain number of days for me to serve Him. I wake up every day thankful and that feeling of gratitude makes me passionate to creatively serve God with my music. It’s a great time of life.”