Backstage at the Kiss Country Chili Cookoff Jan. 29, Chris Cagle is the epitome of the small town southern man. Dressed in Wrangler jeans, a black T-shirt and a cap from his new record label, Bigger Picture Group, Cagle sings a soulful set of country music at C.B. Smith Park. He later shares the stage with his longtime friend Clay Walker for a crowd-pleasing duet before returning to his bus to kick back with a brewski, a Marlboro Light and an interview with City Link. While many country artists sing about plowing fields and life on the farm, Cagle actually lives it. After two gold albums, two No. 1 albums and 12 charted songs, Cagle parted ways with Capitol Records Nashville in 2008 and traded the chaos of the country music scene for a simple life in Marietta, Okla. Now Cagle is back and ready to give his fans the music he’s been waiting to record his entire career.
What sort of sound can we expect on your album when it’s released this April? “I’m so excited. Keith Stegall is a phenomenal producer. Not only is he my producer, but we’ve become really great friends and he’s a really great guy. This is a comeback, period. I’ve been gone for three or four years and I wanted this record to come out of the box and be as big or as good as Not A Moment Too Soon by McGraw. That was my goal. We’re not done with the album but we’ve got some really great stuff and I can say this, it’s better than my last three as it stands. Hopefully it will be the biggest one I’ve had.”
Do you have any guest stars on this album?
“No, I don’t do that. For me to do a comeback record, I’ve got to stand on my own two feet. If I put guests on anything, it’s got to be when I’m big because if I do it now, people are going to say I just did that to get the record played. This is a hard industry and if people find a hole in your program, they’re going to talk about that hole. So I just want to make sure there’s no holes in what I’m giving my fans.”
Have you written any material on the new album?
“I’ve co-written some but honestly it’s just like anything in life. When you get away from something for a while, you come back and you think you’re gonna have it and you don’t. You’ve got to work a lot harder at it and right now, I think I’ve got four songs on the record that are really great. We’ve got about two ballads on it and the rest is just in your face, southern rock and slammin’ country. It’s what I did when I started out and it’s kind of where Jason Aldean ended up going. I respect that dude. I think a lot of him. I buy his records and support him because that’s kind of the same music I like listening to and playing. I would’ve cut just about every song he’s cut. I think the world of him. Maybe one day we can wind up out doing music together. It would be cool.”
What kind of music can we find on your iPod?
“If I’m cooking in the kitchen, I’m barefoot in some Wranglers and I’ve got a T-shirt on and a towel over my shoulder and I’m listening to Sinatra. It’s funny because I want my food to come out like him—smooth, groovy, classic. If I’m in the show pen and I’m working my horses, it’s Skynyrd and AC/DC. If I’m in the barn welding or staining wood, it’s George Strait and some of the old country. If I’m out jogging or running I’m listening to some of the younger country like Brantley Gilbert or some of that stuff. I listen to everything. The hard thing for me about listening to current country music is the fact that I do write and you have to be careful stepping on other people’s toes because I want to be original. I just want to be original.”
What’s your favorite way to “Get Your Country On?”
“I live on a ranch, about 80 acres in Oklahoma in a doublewide. I built a deck on the back that actually has more square footage than the house itself. So I go home, I light a fire in my fire pit and I put a brisket on. I go out and collect eggs from the chickens. I ride my horse and my tractor. I love my kids. I may get in the shop and weld some stuff. I don’t know how many guys do, but I can tell you when I go home, I actually live a country lifestyle. We grow our own beef, we grow our own vegetables, we raise our own chickens. We’re raising babies to be little southern debutantes.”
When you’re not touring, what’s a typical day like for you?
“When I get up in the morning, I put on my chaps and my spurs and I go to my buddy’s house and we’ll ride horses and then I’ll go back to my ranch and start building a fence or shake my pecan trees. We made almost $35,000 last year in our pecans. Our land produces. And instead of having ferns and little hanging baskets, we plant lettuce and arugula and basil. So I go out and clip stuff and bring it in to cook it fresh. It’s awesome. I’ll take my wife out to Ruth’s Chris or Pappas Bros., and she’ll say ‘The sides are great, but the steaks don’t taste as good as yours. I really love to cook and I’m good at it. I’m hoping to get on Guy Fieri and Rachael Ray’s Celebrity Cook-Off. What would be really cool is Zac Brown does an eat and I greet, so I’d love to go on tour with them and cook a meal every night. Hopefully one day. That dude is my hero.”
Will you ever write a cookbook?
“I want to do a DVD called I’m Not A Chef And You Don’t Have To Be.”
What three things matter most to you in life?
“Right now with my children, I’m the man that they think I should be. I want to work really hard at staying that guy. I have faith when my kids look at me, they know who I am and they hear it my voice. They love and respect me and they don’t fear me. I never had that as a kid. I know my wife loves me but I also know she likes me as a person and I want to stay that guy. I’d have to say going in the future where I should’ve gone in the past in country music is the third most important thing. I’m tough but I also give a lot.”
What do you like to do when you come to Florida?
“I always like to come down to Florida and go deep sea fishing in my off time. I love it. I was always a small lake bass fisherman. I came down to Fort Myers one year, got on a boat and we caught our limit in Amberjack, American red snapper, black grouper—we killed it. I went home with almost 300 pounds of filets and for a year, I just ate great fish.”
What’s something your fans would be surprised to know about you? “
I don’t have any secrets. I don’t hide anything. I’ve been through some tough stuff. I didn’t hit the girl [in reference to domestic assault charges in 2008 with ex-girlfriend Jennifer Tant]. I would love for people to know that. I was found not guilty for it. She plead the fifth because her lawyer told her if she didn’t, she was going to jail. You can read the public record. I’ve had some tough times, but I think that when you can make it through those things— it makes you feel closer to your fans because a lot of times music is the escape from the problem.”
How have you grown as a person?
“I didn’t go away four years ago because they weren’t playing my records. I went away because I wasn’t happy with who I was as a person. I had to find the passion and joy of what I found in music again. I think God started adding to my life. I met my wife and we had our kids and got married. Then Bigger Picture called and all of a sudden I’m a partner. I own my records and I own my masters. I own my publishing and my merch and I can’t help but just be happy and just sing. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I went out there today and I gave those folks everything I had and they gave it back. I’m really in a good place now.”
By - Joanie Cox
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