Chris Cagle Is Back in the Saddle
Chris Cagle’s recently released new album, Back in the Saddle, reflects his “rock-infused country roots,” as well as some of the things that are most important in his life. It “is a snapshot of my life over the last three years – every verse, every chorus, captures a chapter.” I talked with Chris on June 19th, just before the album release, about his music, his ranch, and his horses. He occasionally had to break our interview to respond to his two-year-old. As she peeked around the corner, he greeted her with, “Good Morning Sweetheart.”
The music, family, and horses are all related in Chris’ life. “Music feeds me and my family. And music feeds my ‘disease,’” he said, referring to his horse habit. Like most horse people, income from work supports the horse habit. “It’s expensive,” Chris said. “I’ve got three in training now and it costs more than our house payment.”
But for Chris, music also feeds his soul. He feels blessed to have this album produced by Keith Stegall, who makes the music really “stand out. The way he set it up dynamically, it’s just – hard to explain. He let it be all it could be,” Cagle said, still at a loss for words to explain the phenomenal work that Stegall puts into producing a record. Cagle had the opportunity to work with some top notch musicians, too, like Brent Mason and Tom Bukovac on electric guitar. Also on the album, playing acoustic and resonator guitars are Bobby Terry and Stuart Duncan; on dobro, lap steel and steel guitar, Dan Dugmore; on fiddle, Stuart Duncan and Andy Leftwich, who also plays mandolin; plus many other talented musicians.
It’s the kind of music you can dance to, clean stalls by, or compete in barrel racing, cutting, team roping, or working cows. “When I was a kid and had to do chores, music always seemed to make them go faster. So if you’re cleaning stalls, by the time you’ve finished listening to the album, the stalls are done! And you think - that went by fast! But I’ve never really sat down and explicitly thought, what do I want people to feel when they hear my music?” He simply sings about things that are meaningful. One of the songs, “Let There Be Cowgirls,” he’s taking to the National Finals Rodeo, where he hopes the music will appeal to the barrel racing ladies.
Chris has “just under 80 acres” near Marietta, Oklahoma, his Big Horse Ranch, which is still a work in progress. It’s a “cutting horse ranch” where Chris has about 15-16 horses. Owning, breeding and competing cutting, reining and working cow horses is the other part of Chris’ life, as he aspires to be successful in the horse business, too.
One of the songs reflects his life on the ranch. “We grow our own beef, vegetables and fruits; we have chickens. The song ‘I’ll Grow My Own’ is autobiographical,” Chris said, “but I didn’t pen it. I called a buddy of mine and asked him to send me something that I’d like. So he sent this song and it’s perfect!”
Chris spends a lot of time on the road, playing concerts all across the country. So he doesn’t get as much time as he’d like to ride his horses. “We’re still in the process of building the ranch,” he said. He talked about building his arena, which will make it easier for him to ride more often. “When I get the dirt right and get it set up properly, then I hope to ride daily. Now, I don’t get to ride as much as I’d like. But when I’m home, I try to ride 30 to 45 minutes to an hour a day.”
Being on the road is tough on his family, too, especially his girls, ages one, two, and eight. Just as the record out June 26, he started another whirlwind tour of shows, interviews, and TV shows that will keep away from home until July 8. “It’s tough on my family when I’m gone. My wife doesn’t have much help when I’m gone. And when I’m home, there are always things that I’ve got to do. But we have realized that it’s only for a season and not forever.” I asked, how long is the season? “The next ten years or so,” Chris replied. It was obvious on the phone that Chris is devoted to his children. “I try,” he said.
Chris explained that in country music, if you want to stay working, stay on the radio you’ve got to stay busy. “I take 45 days off around Christmas and in January. January is when my 2-year-olds need to be started, and we see which ones will fit in our program and which ones we need to sell.” And Chris isn’t talking about children – he’s talking about his horses.
Chris has three horses in training now with Jody Galyean. “I respect him. I trust him. He’s a real good hand with horses and has a soft touch. I like the way he handles my animals.”
Eventually Chris want to get to the place where he can pick and choose the concerts he wants to play. If he never gets to headline status, he at least wants to have made enough money to make his ranch a “go,” he said.
“We’ll know in the next two years if my horse breeding program will work. My dad said that I picked the two hardest businesses to try to make a living (ranch and music), and you’re making both work.”
“Let There Be Cowgirls” (lyrics)
Let there be Cowgirls
For every cowboy
And make them strong as any man
Something you can’t tame
She’s a Mustang
The heartbeat of the heartland
She’s got a drawl, ya’ll
She’s the salt of the Earth
That rocks my world.
Let there be Cowgirls!
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