A CANDID INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS CAGLE...
by Helen Neal
Every artist wants to take that "rocket ride" to the top of the charts and stay there. When I first talked with Chris Cagle back in the fall of 2000, he was primed to climb into that rocket. His first single release, "My Love Goes On and On" was just entering the charts and was already so well received that you knew it was headed to the stratosphere and Cagle with it. His initial album, Play It Loud, spawned two other chart toppers, "Laredo" and "I Breathe In, I Breathe Out." Then followed his self-titled sophomore album, Chris Cagle, which debuted at #1 on Billboardís Top Country Albums chart.
Cagle is known for the emotion and the strength in his music. Never afraid to show his vulnerabilities, or to duck anything head on, he reaches audiences with his high-energy shows and his ability to write songs that live with you.
In that first interview he spoke of his grandfatherís admonition, "In anything you do, bet on yourself and when you do, bet the farm." Since relating that story, nearly four years ago, Cagle has bet the farm every time heís stepped on stage. And sometimes the stakes have been high. And sometimes Cagle has paid extra.
Besides the price of the emotional fuel consumed by a "rocket ride" career, Cagle has incurred some high physical costs, too. One bad jump from the top of a speaker, an action heíd done many times, left him with an injured knee. Then the big bill came when the physical demands of six hundred dates in three years laid a claim on the franchise, his voice. And the payment due was "six months of vocal rest." To him, the boosters fell off of the rocket.
Asked to relate how the rocket ride had affected him so far, Cagle replied, "Like most things itís had its ups and downs. I believe firmly in the fact, that as people, we cannot control most of the things that we think weíre in control of."
On getting the orders to stop speaking, "In the very beginning, I was angry. Lord, I donít understand. It turned out to be one of the greatest blessings that ever happened to me in my life. It got me to a place of forcing the issue of finding balance in my life."
"When they made me shut down I was going stir crazy. So, I went down to a farm and had my little notepad, and I wrote Iím on vocal rest."
The farmer asked him, "What do you need? " "Can I work for you?" Cagle penned.
Farmer, "Iím not hiring. " Cagle, "Then I wrote Ďfree.í I work for free. "
Farmer, "What do you do?" Cagle, "Iíll start by shoveling stalls. So Iíd get up every morning and go shovel and clean twenty-eight stalls Ė fourteen on each side Ė and took care of the horses. I didnít speak; I didnít have to. I was occupying my time. Then I went and built a barn with this man for his father and learned how to build my on so that I can literally do it by myself."
"Iíd worked so hard for so long and then when I got the record deal, I began to work even harder. On my days off. I wouldnít take my days off ... This year, itís going to change. On my days when Iím off, Iím off. Iím going to go ride my horse. Iím going to go love on my colts. Iím going to go take care of my mare. Iím going to clean my house if I want to."
"Itís all about balance. You know itís funny cause when Iím on Pete, my stallion, if I lose focus I hit the ground. When Iím working a cow and start thinking about music Iím going to be in the dirt. Finding your seat and your balance in the saddle is like finding a whole new balance in life."
And if you donít have that balance Ö
"You have all these great things happen to you and you never stop and you never think about it. You get rolling and the ball is rolling down the hill and you canít quite stop it. Then, youíre in a place where all of it comes to you. Like yesterday I was out on the softball field playing at that City of Hope Celebrity Game, and I looked around and there were people whoíd had success and you donít really hear them on the radio anymore. And there were people who are just starting out and you donít really hear much of their stuff on radio. And I thought Ö I mean there were just a few of us there who are really played consistently in the mainstream market. It was just like Ė whoa Ė how blessed I am. "
Whatís ahead for Chris Cagle?
"Weíre going to be do the Rascal Flattsí tour this fall. Iíll be back out on the road in a pretty heavy schedule Ė in between all of it Iím going back in the studio to start my third album.
Did the vocal rest give you some time for songwriting?
"I tried. I wrote a ton of songs and itís just not there, and I hate to say that. Iíd love to say I wrote another ĎWhat a Beautiful Day,í but I didnít. I have some stuff thatís OK, but I donítí have anything thatís in a position to take me to another level After all the momentum that ĎBeautiful Dayí and ĎChicks Dig Ití gained for us and then stopping when you have that going. To get that momentum back, I need to find that three-minute moment in my life that changes everything. Iím going to wait until this album has that before I release it. Iím definitely not going to ask my fans, who are so dearly supportive of me, to go out and support something that I would not believe in."
It has to be inspiring to you to know that there are many people just waiting to hear you sing again.
"I had insecurities of being just flat out forgotten. It was pretty awesome to have the fan base that we have and to have them feel the way that they do. It makes me want to do better."
You canít be around Chris Cagle, either on the other side of the footlights or sitting across the table from him without feeling the passion that he has for life and for his music. You donít even have to ask; you know heíll be back out there jumping off speakers, and "betting the farm," in every performance. And you know heíll work just as intensely looking for that balance in his life.