Arts & Entertainment

True country man

WALLA WALLA -- Billboard Magazine calls Chris Cagle a "talented Nashville hunk."

That might have something to do with his dreamy brown eyes, trimmed goatee and a voice that could melt any woman's heart.

Cagle, who headlines the main stage entertainment Aug. 27 at Walla Walla's Frontier Days, might be pushing 40, but there's a more youthful air in his looks as well as his manner.

Like many successful entertainers, he's had his share of troubles struggling to make a name for himself in the music industry. His private life has seen some heartache as well.

And those hard times seem to be what his music is all about. That's especially true with his latest album, My Life's Been A Country Song, which earned the No. 1 spot on Billboard's country album charts earlier this year.

Cagle took time out from his whirlwind touring schedule, as well as a bout with strep throat, to chat with the Herald on the phone recently about his music, his songwriting and his life.

Besides being a rockin' country boy, this cowboy loves to cook almost as much as he loves horses and music.

"I don't know if I'm any good, but some of what I cook people seem to like," he said.

Cagle dropped into the music scene in 1994 after dropping out of Northwest Missouri State University. He moved to Nashville with hopes of nabbing a recording contract. His opportunity came five years later.

In the meantime, he worked odd jobs while sowing his wild oats.

"I grew up pretty sheltered all through high school," he said. "My dad wouldn't let me date or anything, so by the time I got to college, I decided I was going to make up for lost time."

He was married for a short time and went through a troubled relationship with a girlfriend in recent years, but these days he admits to putting his wild days behind him.

"There was a time back then when I was a maniac," Cagle confessed. "But I'm not a kid anymore. I gave up drinking and smoking at the same time and still lost 50 pounds.

"These days, my life is pretty much taken up with horses and music," he said, but added, "Oh I can still have fun. I just learned how to do it without abusing myself."

Cagle talks candidly and doesn't hold back much about his life, his thoughts, his opinions, his hurts.

His biggest heartache came two years ago when he found out he was not the biological father of his then-girlfriend's child and the news went public.

"That was hard," he said. "But it was worse because there wasn't a lot of grace within the music industry about it. I heard a lot of 'ha-has.' I could never understand how people could laugh at someone else's calamity and shame. But I've moved past that now too."

Cagle said he still would like to have children some day, but he isn't thinking about any kind of relationship now. Instead, he's working on his next album.

"The music industry is a painful process sometimes," he said. "There are times I might have to listen to someone tell me that I should sing someone else's songs instead of my own (which was the case on My Life's A Country Song album)."

But that doesn't mean he won't record his own songs again, he added. In fact, he's already got a title for his next album, To Be or Not To Be Yourself.

"That's important to me," Cagle said. "Maybe my life is like a country song most of the time, but I feel blessed to be doing what I'm doing and that's because of the fans, not the record companies."

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514;