Hey Hawkeye fans — if you’re ready to party, be sure to let Chris Cagle know. He’ll get as rowdy as you wanna be at Friday night’s FRY fest concert in Coralville.
The Texas native is a huge football fan and is thrilled to help kick off the University of Iowa’s home season – rockin’ the country in a family-friendly way the night before the Hawkeyes swoop down on the Northern Illinois Huskies in Kinnick Stadium.
“One thing I do want people to know, is they can bring their kids to the show and not have to worry about explaining anything on the way home that comes out of the mic,” Cagle, 44, says by phone from a recent tour stop in Rapid City, S.D. “It’s never been something that I’ve even thought about. Now, as a father, it’s pretty important to us.”
- FRY fest concert, featuring Chris Cagle with opening act Dustin Lynch
- 7 p.m. Friday (8/30); beverage garden opens at 5 p.m.
- Iowa River Landing, north of the Coralville Marriott, 300 E. Ninth St., Coralville
- Tickets: $20 gate
- Extras: Bring seating; no coolers or outside food and beverage
- Information: Fryfest.com
He has three little girls at home with his wife, Kay, in Marietta, Okla. — her fourth grader, whom he calls his “bonus daughter,” and the couple’s 2- and 3-year-old daughters. They live on an 80-acre “boutique ranch” near the Texas state line, sporting 16 or 17 horses, a barn under construction and a house in the early stages of development. In the meantime, they’re living in a double-wide trailer, which Cagle says is “the homiest place I’ve been in a long time.”
It’s taken him a long time to get there. He was uprooted a lot as a child, growing up in what he calls “a dysfunctional drug addict family” and moving around Texas. He picked up a guitar at age 6, then switched to piano, studying “quietly and privately,” so he wouldn’t get picked on. “Music was a no-no” in a state where sports ruled, he says.
“When I got in my mid-teens, I figured out that if I was going to do anything and be successful in life, I had to get away from the cycle and try to do my best to break it. I don’t know if I’ve done my best — I have my own demons,” he says. “I got away far enough that I could get my head right, at least enough to figure out what I wanted and chase it.”
He headed to Nashville on Wednesday morning, Aug. 3, 1994. “Some days in your life, you don’t forget,” he says.
Unlike other young musicians with stars in their eyes, he wasn’t trying to get noticed.
“I realized when I first got to Nashville that you only have one chance to make a first impression,” he says.
Instead, he would hang out with his “brat pack” of friends, including Big Kenny in his pre-Big & Rich days, Danni Leigh, other singing hopefuls and a couple of people who moved into video. Cagle ended up at little “guitar pool” parties in Nashville, where a guitar would get passed around and everyone would take turns performing. The savvy singer/songwriter, however, decided not to play until he knew he could beat every song in the room.
Then came the week when he had written “I Breathe In, I Breathe Out,” “Laredo” and “My Love Goes On and On.” It was time. Cagle was at a buddy’s birthday when he spied a couple of guys in the back with suits on, so when the guitar came to him, he played all three songs. The next thing he heard was “let’s talk,” followed by an invitation to play golf with some industry movers and shakers.
“That’s how it got started,” he says. “A couple years later, I wound up with a record deal.”
Other hits like “Chicks Dig It,” “What a Beautiful Day,” “Miss Me Baby” and “What Kinda Gone” followed, then he was gone.
Fed up with record label and management dictates, he says he “got tired of the fight and tired of being angry.”
He landed in Oklahoma in 2008, by accident more than design. “I loaned a buddy some money and wound up with the property,” he says.
He liked Marietta and met a girl who grew up about a quarter-mile from his ranch. She was eager to leave small-town life, but changed her tune when Cagle asked her what she thought about staying. They married three years ago and in 2010, Bigger Picture Music Group came calling. “Back in the Saddle” was born, and he was back, with the new hits “Got My Country On” and “Let There be Cowgirls.”
“It’s truly only the second record I’ve made without any outside influence,” he says.
“This record is simply, ‘Go be who you are as a person, as a father, as a farmer and as an American. Go tell that story in this snapshot of an album and this collection of work.’ And that’s all I tried to do. You can listen to that record, top to bottom, and there’s only one song that does not fit my life at time I sung it. The reason I sung it is because I thought it was just such an amazing song, and that was ‘Thank God She Left the Whiskey.’ This kid who wrote it, named Justin Wilson, never had a cut, so I thought it would be pretty cool to change his life a little bit.”
Cagle also hopes his music helps change his listeners a little bit.
“I bring hope to the average guy,” he says. “People see me and I’m not special — I’m just a regular guy who has a moderate talent level, (who) is passionate, and his desire and passion take him further than his talent does. I think people see me onstage and they see themselves in me and they can find hope in the fact that it’s never too late to dream.”
He also wants his concert crowds to get caught up in the music and the moment.
“When I go onstage, my hope is that whatever your problems are, I can replace them for an hour or an hour and a half or two hours — however long we play,” he says.
“I hope that in midst of our show, not only do we erase those problems on your mind for a little bit, but you may find the solution or you may find something in the song that inspires something, whether it’s forgiveness or passion or a new desire to go back out in life and work hard. That’s kinda my thing — that’s my hope.”
FRY fest related events: Blood drive, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; car show, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Hawkeye Tradeshow, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Hawkeye Collector’s Showcase, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m.; Small Fry Zone, 4 to 7 p.m.; pep rally, 6 p.m.