By Michael-Shawn Dugar
He’s not the same guy he was when his music career began. At that time, his life was all about him: how many records he sold, where his singles ranked on the charts, the number of fans at his shows and how often he was having a good time partying until the middle of the night.
So when Cagle takes the stage tonight at Boomers’ Garden in Lewiston, people will see a country music singer, because that’s indeed what he does — but that’s not who he is.
At age 45, Cagle is a family man. So being a chart-topping musician takes a back seat to being a good husband to his wife, Kay, and loving father to his 4-year-old daughter, Stella, his 3-year-old daughter, Piper, and his stepdaughter — though he prefers the term “bonus child” — Chloe.
“My little girl Stella, when she came out of the womb, I just remember telling her, ‘Sweetheart, you don’t know how strong you are.’ ” Cagle said. “They always say it’s going to change you, but they never say how, nobody can ever define what looking into the eyes of your child can do to you. It just about broke me in half man, it’s pretty amazing.”
Even before the birth of his first daughter, Cagle began to mentally prepare for his own dreams and aspirations to be put on hold, potentially forever.
“When I was 22 years old, I would’ve never been OK with it, I would’ve been a terrible father, probably the worst, and just another stat on the Census Bureau’s list,” Cagle said. “My No. 1 goal is to make sure my wife and I respect and love each other and care for each other enough that we never have to deal with custody issues or divorce, so that our children can grow up in a home environment that she or I never had the opportunity to grow up with.”
Like a true musician and songwriter, Cagle’s emotions can be tracked through his music, most notably by his album titles. His 2000 debut, “Play It Loud,” represented his party-heavy lifestyle. While he wanted to title his sophomore album “Louder” to piggyback on that same mentality, to his displeasure the label pulled rank and decided on a self-titled second album.
“I love the album,” Cagle said, “but I hate the fact they got involved and made me do something I didn’t want to do.”
The multi-instrumentalist’s continuing frustrations with his record label were loud and clear with the title of his third album, “Anywhere But Here,” which is inspired by his desire for a change of scenery on the business side of things. The album came after a forced move from Virgin to Capitol Records — which he said gave him very little support — and a period of self-destructive behavior in other aspects of his life. A fourth album titled “My Life’s Been A Country Song” served as a reflection of misplaced trust in people and poor decisions at that point in the Texas native’s life. His most recent album is the positively titled project “Back in the Saddle,” released in 2010.
“That’s how it felt when I made it,” Cagle said. “I was back in the saddle of life — not music, but life. I was enjoying how I lived and who I was becoming as a human being and still aspiring to grow more.”
The joyful tone his music takes these days is heavily influenced by the love he shares with his wife, who had one strange thing in common with him at the start of their relationship: They were both scared of each other. Chris was afraid Kay would break his heart, and she feared Chris would be the karma for men she’d left heartbroken in the past.
Chris describes his wife as his “home” and he sings of her on fifth-album tracks including “Now I Know What Mama Meant,” “Something That Wild” and “Let There Be Cowgirls.”
“We don’t have to be lovey-dovey, we don’t have to touch, I can just look across the room, and she’ll be in the kitchen, she’ll look at me and I’ll look at her and then that’s enough — we’re home,” he said. “She’s my girl.”
In addition to his current tour, Chris plans to release a single in the spring with an album to follow in the summer, though the direction for the project is still a work in progress, as most of the music has yet to be written.
“I don’t know what it’ll be,” he said of the potential theme for his sixth album, “but it’s definitely going to be a happy one.”
If you go
What: Chris Cagle live in concert
Where: Boomers’ Garden, 0301 2nd St., Lewiston
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 14
Cost: Tickets range from $25-35 and can be purchased at ticketfly.com
Michael-Shawn can be reached at Mdugar@dnews.com or by phone at 208-883-4628. You can follow him on twitter at @Mikedelaphante