As a young boy in the border town of McAllen, Mitch Watkins started piano lessons at the age of eight and picked up a guitar at the age of twelve. It was the early 1960’s and Mitch joined a young band playing covers of surf-rock songs.
It’s no surprise that his inspirations were Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, given that Mitch came of age as they were burning up the airwaves. He dropped out of Texas Christian University to travel with a rock n’ roll band, but after two years of touring, he enrolled at the University of Texas to study jazz guitar.
Along with classmates, Mitch formed Passenger and played all over the Austin area. In 1979, they served as the backing band for poet Leonard Cohen, touring Europe and Australia with him.
In 1989, Mitch released an album of his own compositions, Underneath it All. He followed it up with Curves in 1990. He has also toured extensively with songwriters Jerry Jeff Walker, Joe Ely, K.T. Oslin, Jennifer Warnes, as well as jazz artists Jack Walrath, Bennie Wallace and Barbara Dennerlein. His production credits include a Grammy nomination for his work with singer/songwriter Abra Moore.
In 1992, along with a group of Texas musician friends, Mitch recorded the album Strings with Wings (Tiptoe). Humhead (Dos, 1995) and In the Time of Long Shadows (Viewpoint, 2006) followed. He also worked with Austin singer/songwriter Bob Schneider on Underneath the Onion Trees (Shockorama, 2000).
He was guitarist for Lyle Lovett and His Large Band and made numerous appearances on the Tonight Show, Late Night with David Letterman, and Austin City Limits. He did live work with Lyle until he joined Leonard Cohen on his 2012-2013 world tour.
Mitch is currently working with his own band. He owns his own production studio and works with Lyle Lovett, Jerry Jeff Walker, mandolin player Paul Glasse and bassist John Fremgen, and many other collaborators. In addition to performing and recording, he has served as an educator at the University of Texas at Austin.