"I'll never be
A legend of a story
Or a saint that's bound for glory…
I've got a soul and I use it for yearning
With a heart that skips a beat for you
And a fire that keeps on burning
I'm a simple man - and that's okay.."
Chris Cagle is an anomaly -- a blue collar, working class
country singer who's not afraid to sweat or get loud. The way he
sees it, it's pretty simple: it's all about holding your head
high during the day and putting in good, honest work then
letting it all go once you hit the honkytonk.
Chris Cagle is real. Unadorned. Broken fingernails, aching back
-- ready to come right back at you. Because he knows that in the
real world, there's no quarter and no excuses; just done and not
getting it done. For the songwriter from Baytown, TX, a rugged
knot of shoreline just outside Houston, not gettin' it done
ain't even an option.
"Here's what I know," says the solidly built
guitarist. "Nothing's handed to you in this world. You
gotta get up every morning and fight for your place at the
table. You gotta believe in your dream because nobody else will.
And you have to keep going, no matter what…because it's the
only way you're gonna get there.”
"And if you're smart, no matter how rough it gets, you need
to enjoy whatever you find along the way. You're only gonna pass
this way once, so while you're hitting it hard, have some fun
too. If you're having fun, it's a whole lot easier to stay in
Certainly Cagle's music reflects his fight, his fire, his
irrepressible desire to stay in the game -- and make music that
can be the music his fans, the blue collar, the overlooked and
underpaid, the just-getting-bys, can see themselves and their
lives in. Chris Cagle is an album for them.
"I am my audience," the hard-charging performer
explains. "I'm as romantic as every woman wants a man to
be; as rough and tumble as every guy. That's the funny thing:
I'm not afraid of pain in the sense of physical pain, yet the
thought of walking up to a woman and having her respect – that
petrifies me. I'll play it all off -- that's what guys do -- but
everybody wants to be the guy in the beer commercial. You know,
'Drink this and she'll love me'…but real life is a lot
Whether it's "Just Love Me," the plea of an honest man
looking for the woman he loves to love him completely for what
he is that sets the tone for the whole project, "I'd Be
Lying," which traces the conflict of wanting to be in her
arms, but not being man enough to own up to all the things he's
feeling, "It Takes Two," a classic George Strait
buckle-polisher that merges the dance floor with the notion that
you've got to work with someone to get where you want to be, or
"I Love It When She Does That," where a man is utterly
taken over by love, lust and desire, Chris Cagle examines the
vulnerabilities of a man seeking his place in the world.
Romantic without being wimpy, he explores the depth of a real
man's doubts even as he works hard to sweep the girl off her
feet -- the almost country heavy-gothic "Night On The
Country" with its rising chorus or the freewheeling whirl
of "Chicks Dig It."
"All of what I write is grounded in real life," he
continues, illuminating where the songs come from. "It's
not necessarily how I experienced it, but more the way I
sometimes wish things would work out, you know, make it better.
And sometimes people tell me their stories -- you'd be shocked
what you hear on the road -- and they're very sad. That hits me,
so I try to write 'em happy endings (without using their names
of course), because sometimes you write about how you'd like
life to be rather than how it is."
But Cagle is also about living in the moment. The glory of right
now. The blaze while you can. For the guy who's toiled as an oil
field worker, mechanic, a cook, a bartender, waiter, songwriter
and house framer, he knows you better deal with what's there.
It's a reality he wields with pride.
"There's a lot to being a redneck… It has to do with
passionate pride in your country, in your people -- even when
they're bad. It's standing up for what's right and being the
bigger man. But it's also about not taking it when someone's out
of line. It's sympathy for the downtrodden and the underdog, the
beaten and the shut out. It's about chivalry for those who
deserve it. It's turning the other cheek, working hard and then
when that line is crossed, standing up for what you believe
"I am absolutely a redneck. But being a redneck is a good
thing. Of course, it probably depends which side of the redneck
you're on. But these are hardworking, live-and-let-live people
who just wanna get the most out of life. I dig 'em."
"Scars heal, glory fades
all we're left with are the memories made
pain hurts, but only for a minute
life is short, so go on and live it
cause the chicks dig it…"
Certainly his live shows reflect that no guts, no glory, do it
for the bleachers attack. And if the heart of the honkytonks and
the quiet of a remote field on a starry night define his
extremes, Chris Cagle takes both his heart and his dreams
seriously. Seriously enough to never give up.
And it's not like it was handed to the scrappy songwriter,
either. Cagle understands adversity… He knows what it's like
to get your foot in the door and then have it slammed, having
lost Virgin Records Nashville in corporate consolidation.
But like the true "backbone" Americans, the ones who
keep this country moving, there were no other options for the
man who won the inaugural fan-voted CMT Flameworthy
“Breakthrough Artist of the Year Award” earlier this year.
He clung to his dream. He kept fighting the good fight -- and he
watched as each successive single met with greater success:
"My Love Goes On and On" being Top 15,
"Laredo" cracking the Top 5 and "I Breathe In, I
Breathe Out" going #1 on the Country Singles charts.
"I only know one way to go -- and that's forward. If it's
tough, well, that's tough… because no one said life, or
chasing your dream, was going to be easy. We're not owed
anything. Don't think I take any of it for granted. I am so
grateful for everything…that's probably a lot of why I push as
hard as I do."
No other young artist has had such flashfire acceptance as the
muscular songwriter/guitarist. His Cagleheads are the stuff fan
legend is made of… and his high-energy no-frills stage shows
are the buzz of an industry used to the extremes of both grand
spectacle and country stars who stand planted like trees.
"The work is getting the songs and the records just the way
you want them," he says. "Knowing people are going to
hear them, maybe even live a part of their life to them --
whether it's the first kiss or realizing it's over -- you're not
going to give it any less than all you've got. And believe it or
not, when I finish a song, I'm exhausted. It hurts behind my
eyes and I literally have to go to sleep…”
"So for us, me and my band, getting on the stage is where
we get it all back. All the energy, all the excitement, all the
thrills. You hit that stage, hear the fiddle whirling around the
electric guitars that're slashing, those drums crashing on that
opening number, and you just KNOW it's going to be a good night.
As long as there are people who want to forget the week, who
think they see some piece of their life in these songs, who want
to have a good time, then there's nothing better in the world
than being on that stage. It's intense. It's a rush. It's the
best feeling in the world."
Well, next to maybe being consumed with love. In "What A
Beautiful Day," the first single from the follow-up to his
certified Gold debut Play It Loud, the songwriter who captures
the pulse of real people everywhere, traces the trajectory of
the transformative relationship we all seek. From the moment of
that first awkward hello, the notion that it might stick, the
decisive moment where the
girl opts not to leave when the going gets rough. "What A
Beautiful Day" is the joyous celebration of Cagle's faith
in how sweet life can be no matter where you're leading it.
"You have to have hope and you can't believe bad times
last," says the resolute Texan. "If you fall in love
and you get hurt, you're learning about love. You're learning
that that might not be what you need. It's the same thing with a
dream…you have to keep coming back."
At the other end of the spectrum is the aching "Look At
What I've Done," a breaking ballad in the best Haggard
tradition of weighing the consequences of one's actions against
what ultimately comes back around. Against an acoustic guitar
with an interwoven string section, this unadorned song is
steeped in regret in not being enough, not being right and being
the source of the pain.
"Look at what it's done to me
You gotta know it tears me up
I gave it everything I had
And it just wasn't enough
Hurting her like this just seems wrong
Look at what I've done to her…
Now she's long gone"
"Look not everybody is in touch with what's going on inside
them. Truthfully, I'm not always either. It's only when I'm
writing, and I've got to really look at what's churning that I
get there. It's easier to just live and forget about it…but it
catches up with you if you do that. That's a fact…”
"Take a song like 'Just Love Me,' every single line is
soooo real. It's just a very simple straightforward plea, but I
feel like every single man who likes my music feels that way.
We're simple men and we need to feel like that's enough. You can
bet every prideful, hardheaded person feels that way: let me
just be what you need. I know I do."
Whether accidental clarity or not, Cagle's glimpse into the
psyche of the average American male is sweeping -- "Look
What I Found," "Everything," even the upside down
metaphor of love as agricultural enterprise "Growing
Love" address the exultation of what everyone wants in
simple, direct terms. With Chris Cagle, men can be honest,
strong, wanting. And by owning their needs, their doubts, their
desires, they open the gates to even greater and deeper
"There's an intensity to relationships that makes
everything that much stronger," Cagle admits. "It's
just like music…the more you surrender to its momentum, the
more intense it gets. That's one thing about my music -- and I
talk about the notion of pleasure and pain a lot as people know
-- I want it to be every last bit it can be. I want it to be
right…to be everything it should."
To make sure he gets the maximum impact, Cagle again co-produced
with Robert Wright. The pair enlisted Play It Loud anchors,
Texas guitarist John Carroll and keyboard veteran Gary Smith,
then supplemented the session band with two string wizards:
24-year old Russian banjoist/guitarist/mandolinist Ilya
Toshinskiy of Bering Strait and fiddler/mandolinist/bass
mandolinist/cellist/Celtic harpist Jonathon Yudkin of the
Chain-Smoking Altar Boys. With a rhythm section of Wright and
drummer Chris McHugh, it maintains Cagle's bulked up country but
brings in new layers of nuance.
Given his full-frontal, revved up approach to country, Chris
Cagle's marked by a more melodic sense, an increased depth to
the rhythm and the pocket and, most importantly, the continued
honesty -- both in terms of ardor and vulnerability -- that's
always marked the Texan's vocals.
"My audience is blue collar, hard worker anywhere in
America. A farmer, a factory worker, a nurse, someone in an
office building putting in too much time for too little money, a
mechanic, an oil rig worker, every housewife figuring out how to
make it work....It's every woman who starves for verbal
attention from her man and every guy who doesn't know how to
give it to her. If I can fill that gap, build that bridge with
this music, then we're doing fine.”
"See, making the music is where I feel the most
alive," Cagle says with a broad smile. "Whether I'm in
the studio or on a stage somewhere, when I put on that guitar, I
can feel it in my veins: it just sweeps me up and takes me away.
There's no feeling like it in the world -- and it drives me. I
wouldn't have called the record Chris Cagle, if I didn't think
it reflected all of that."