Three years ago, Chris Cagle thought he had reached the end of the road for life as a country music star. He had parted ways with Capitol Records after struggling to get his music played and battled many obstacles in his personal life, which would leave many wanting to give up entirely. Cagle knew happiness was out there somewhere, and he continued to carry on with his life and career.
Luckily for fans of country music and the loyal “Cagleheads” who never left his side, the singer is back with a Top 40 hit single, ‘Got My Country On,’ and is living his dream life in Oklahoma on his Big Horse Ranch with his gorgeous wife, Kay, and their daughters, Stella and Piper.
Taste of Country recently chatted with star about his picturesque ranch, the new music on the way, life as a father and husband and how he has coped with the bumps in the road along the way.
Talk about where you were three years ago in comparison to now.
Three years ago, I really thought that I was done [with music], and I was okay with it. I was not a happy individual. The business of this thing just didn’t work out the way I thought it would. Just being onstage and having fun cannot be enough. I was super, super angry in my career. I just got to a place where I thought. you know what … it ain’t worth it, man. The guy that I’ve become and the person who I was, I just wasn’t happy with him. I was embarrassed to look in the mirror. I thought, you know what, nothing in this world is worth your moral compass, so I quit.
I definitely missed it. I did probably 20 or 30 shows a year after that. Just being able to do what I had done — in spite of some things — to make it and take what little talent I have and go as far as I did, I was proud of it. At the same time, I wondered what would have happened if I had a big corporate machine pushing this thing.
Then Bigger Picture called and said they wanted to do a record with me. It has been unbelievable. I don’t know if my music ever changed the world or anything, but I feel like I’ve been missed. People are so nice. I’ve been blown away by all of it and blown away by the experience of making a record with [producer] Keith Stegall. That guy’s just unbelievable. I just feel really super fortunate to have him in my corner. It’s been pretty amazing to kind of get back out there.
What can you tell us about the new music you are currently in the studio working on?
We’ve cut some great stuff! Some of it I’ve written. Some of it we found. There is some very typical stuff like the new single. I think that’s what people would absolutely expect from me. Then there’s some stuff on there that’s absolutely not what people would expect from me. That’s the stuff I’m really excited for them to hear. I’ve always said that each album is a snapshot of where you are in life, and where I am in life is in some songs about letting go of the past, some songs about looking forward and some songs about loving in a different way than I’ve ever loved. Then there’s the rowdy and the rockin’ fun. I’m really, really, really proud of the way it’s coming out.
You mentioned letting go of the past. You had your share of hardships in your personal life. Was it difficult to hold your head high and carry on with your life during that time?
It’s funny because the last half of my career, a lot of it was drama and embarrassment. I was just scared. The baby thing … I’ve come to grips with the fact that there’s no way I could ever have any control over that situation. I wasn’t even there when it happened [laughs]! The shame side of it has left. I carried a lot of shame for a long time. The Tucson thing … yeah, I hit the guy, and hey … I’d do it again tomorrow in the same scenario. I was afraid for my well-being. Then of course the girlfriend that said that I hit her … I don’t mind talking about it because I didn’t do anything. I threw the purse at her, yes. Even when my counsel asked for a dismissal, the judge said, “I’m not going to dismiss this, Mr. Cagle. I’m going to find you not guilty.” But nobody wants to print that. They just want to print “Cagle’s Scotch Free; Girlfriend Pleads the Fifth.”
After all that stuff, I can’t blame anybody because I put myself in that situation, but I didn’t handle the situation well enough. I was in all those situations. It doesn’t just happen … they’re not just accidents. I had to take responsibility for that, but at the same time, I was so angry at life and so angry at the fight I had every day with Capitol Records. I was fed up. I wanted to be happy.
You eventually moved to Oklahoma, and it’s probably safe to say you found the happiness you were looking for when you met your wife.
I moved to Oklahoma because I had a friend out there, and he had a ranch. I had been out there back and forth between both places. I ended up getting some land from him and started building a ranch. I went to the Chamber of Commerce, and I said, “This is where I’m going to live and where I’m going to make my home, and if you guys need me to help with some charity work locally or tornado victims or anything like that, please call me … I want to give to the community that I’m going to live in and raise my kids in one day.” I got a call to wait tables to raise money for a Toys for Tots thing, and I happened to meet a girl. I was working, so I couldn’t really talk to her much, but I saw her a couple of days later at the grocery store because it’s a small town. We started talking and hung out a little bit. Man, she’s the best. She’s awesome. Next month it will be a year that we’ve been married, and I thought I’d never get married again!
You are also now a father of two beautiful little girls …
Stella was born April 15, , and she’s absolutely beautiful. I bonded so heavily with this child after she was born. Then three months later we were pregnant again with Piper [laughs]! I’ve also got an 8-year-old step-daughter who’s amazing. I truly hate the word “step-father” and “step-daughter,” but I accept it because her father is a really great guy. After becoming a father, I realized I was in love with my wife before, but watching her be a mom and watching her make our house a home … I fell into a much different kind of love with her.
So how are you as a daddy?
I am Father of the Year material. I truly am. There’s a certain level of fear that comes with being a father — don’t touch that, that will hurt you. Every time they go somewhere, I just want to follow them. Now I understand why it’s difficult for some parents to let their children go. I am hopefully 25 years away from giving my daughter away at a wedding, and I dread it. I do. That’s my little girl. That’s my baby.
How has fatherhood changed you?
Something happened to me once I became a father. When Stella came out, something snapped in me … I don’t know what it was. I wanted to be better at everything. I work so much harder now on my music. I used to just pick up a guitar, play, bang it out and that was it. I really, truly now work hard — hard — on my music. I work hard on building our ranch. I work hard on my relationship with my wife. I work hard on maintaining a level head. I work hard on every time I get to a place where I want to get upset about something, I think, is this even worth it? Just relax for a second … is this really worth it? This person could be having a really bad day and you don’t know what’s going on in their life. Why are you getting upset right now? It’s weird because I never really cared about what anybody thought of me. Now all I care about is setting an example for what a man should be so that my daughter winds up picking the right guy.
Do you see a lot of yourself in your girls?
It’s so funny because they are so different. Piper looks a lot like I do. Stella looks a lot more like my wife . Piper is a lot like me. She’s this tough little robust thing. Stella would go [sweet girly voice] “Hiiiii!” She would never yell and she would always laugh. She is always sleepy and smiley. She wakes up a joy, and just laughs and giggles. Piper is 8-months-old and she just started crawling. She sits up, holds her own bottles, she crawls all over the house. Piper sits in the middle of the floor and she will yell real loud. She’s not hurting and she doesn’t need any food … she wants somebody to notice her and she’s going to make a really loud noise until they do, which is so much like me [laughs]! It’s funny because I call her Pipes, which is short for Piper, but what’s interesting is she’s got a set of pipes that is like immeasurable … to the point where it is just shrilling! I never thought that my own child would annoy me, but when she gets to that point where she just does it to get everybody’s attention, it’s like, “Stop, stop, stop!” [laughs].
Tell us about your latest pride and joy: Big Horse Ranch!
That’s something that I always wanted! I was tired of going to other people’s ranches and seeing their place, but at the same time it served me well by doing that because I learned the good and the bad of all of them. I put the combination of all of them into my place. It’s going to be pretty special. I’m pretty excited about one day getting to finish it. That ranch is my work. I’m proud of it. The welding and all the metal work, all that stuff I’ve done. It’s pretty awesome. Eventually it is going to be a place that sustains us, and we’re going to live off of our work.
We have horse babies running around and mamas having babies. We grow our own beef, and instead of having ferns and hanging baskets, we put arugula and lettuces and basil there. We have our own miniature lemon trees and orange trees. I’ve planted blueberry bushes and blackberry bushes so if the kids in the morning want yogurt and blueberries or blueberry pancakes, they go pick their own blueberries and I cook it. They have fun picking them, and they have fun helping me make the batter.
That ranch is going to be a refuge for us. It’s going to be a home. It’s going to be a place of peace and love and happiness and discipline. I’m going to give things to my children on that place that they can’t buy, and hopefully if I finish it the right way and do it the right way, I hope that at least one of them gets into horses and wants to carry the legacy of the Big Horse Ranch and the brand and what I build out of that place.
I just got the girls their first pony. I got them a little saddle, so as soon as they can handle it, they will be out there riding. They will always have what they need, and I’m going to do my best to give them what they want until what they want changes their heart and then they don’t get what they want. That’s the thing that I want to teach them more than anything.
By - Alanna Conaway