"Part of me always toyed with this idea of going it alone," he explains. "I had to relearn some things, how to fill out all that space.
"Once I was on my own, I wasn't sure what my next move was – if I was going to have another band, or try to write a bunch of songs. At first, I did start writing songs but I don't think I was satisfied with what I was writing.''
" I was starting to do some solo shows and I had a few songs I'd written, and I would do a mix of those with old traditional songs at those early shows. I was a lot happier doing those old folk songs and I think the crowd was a lot happier, too. I thought those were great songs that people should be hearing and that I wanted to be singing.''
"As soon as I heard that record I was hooked," he says.
He was also influenced by the old-time musicians that played around his home county, including banjo player Richie Stearns whose group The Horse Flies mixed old-time fiddle music with eighties pop. Donna The Buffalo, an electrified old-time group, was another introduction to the genre.
''I was about 13 and I would see this stuff and thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen,'' he says. ''It was dance music and it really moved me in a big way.''
His vocals recall the quaver of Roy Orbison who Willie first heard when he returned to the charts as one of the Traveling Wilburys.
Pundits have compared Willie to music giants like Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger but he says: "I try to take songs I can relate to and that I can sing with urgency, that I can feel. I'm just happy if people dig it."
Willie Watson 2015 tour:
July 28: Oslo, London;
July 29: Greystones, Sheffield;
July 30: Bodega, Nottingham;
August 1 & 2: Southern Fried Festival, Perth;
August 3: Ruby Lounge, Manchester;
August 4: Hare & Hounds, Birmingham;
August 5: The Tunnels, Bristol;
August 7: Queens Parade Methodist Church, Bangor;
August 8: Leap Castle, Roscrea;
August 9: Coughlans Live, Cork.