Back in 2008, Chris Cagle was done with the music business.
After enduring label shake-ups, tabloid scrutiny and other unpleasantries, the country-rock singer-songwriter walked away from an eight-year recording career that had produced several hits, including his debut single “My Love Goes On and On,” “I Breathe In, I Breathe Out,” and “Chicks Dig It.”
He bought land in Marietta, settled in Oklahoma and took a hands-on role in building his Big Horse Ranch from the red dirt up. At an Ardmore charity event, he fell hard for his future wife, Kay, married her in December 2010, and became a stepfather to her daughter, Chloe, now 8. The couple soon welcomed two more daughters, Stella, 2, and Piper, 1.
So Cagle's life was already plenty full when the music business came calling again.
“We raise cutting horses, and I've spent the last couple years building the ranch. And then Bigger Picture (Music Group) called and we got to do the record with them. Now we're out on the road doing it all over again, so it's kind of cool,” Cagle said last week from his tour bus en route to a show in Cadott, Wis.
“The couple years I was off, I still worked about 30 to 50 shows a year, but since September when we released our first single, man, it's been nuts.”
The self-proclaimed “redneck rock 'n' roller” released Tuesday “Back in the Saddle,” his first album of new material in four years. Cagle, 43, will celebrate the new album Thursday with CD signings at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill in Bricktown and Walmart Supercenter in Del City.
He likens “Back in the Saddle” to a musical journal chronicling the past few years of his life.
“My whole deal was I was gonna do it my way or I wasn't gonna do it. And Bigger Picture was like, ‘We'll do it how you wanna do it,'” he said.
“This is a record I can live and die with. If it's successful and it sells a bunch, cool, and if it doesn't, that's OK too because I gave everything I had. ... I'm just very proud of it.”
The Texas-bred singer-songwriter moved to Nashville, Tenn., on Aug. 3, 1994, and waited tables and tended bar for five years until Oklahoma native Scott Hendricks signed him to Virgin Records. He released his debut “Play It Loud” in 2000. About six months later, EMI shuttered Virgin's Nashville division and shifted him to sister label Capitol, where he released three more albums but never felt he had adequate backing.
“So I just finally said, ‘Look, I'm done' and started building my ranch. I still toured a little bit, and my manager called me up and said ‘There's this label named Bigger Picture that wants to talk to you about a record deal.' And I was like, ‘What are you talking about?'” he said.
The research Bigger Picture had done about his career, including the tabloid headlines he made, impressed Cagle.
“They were like, ‘Look, you couldn't control the baby story; you were out on the road, her (his then-girlfriend's) baby wasn't yours, it wasn't like you cheated. ... I told them, ‘I knocked the p- - - out of the guy in Tucson, and tomorrow night I'd do the same thing. But the girl that said I hit her, I never touched her. I threw her purse at her.' They were like, ‘We know; we got the public records.' So for them to actually care enough to go and find out what went down, it just meant the world to me.”
The first single from his Bigger Picture debut, “Got My Country On,” ascended to No. 12 on the Billboard country songs chart when it was released last September. Even better, his loyal fans, called “Cagleheads,” have eagerly turned out to his shows.
“It's an amazing, amazing feeling,” he said. “There's only two things better than that: One of 'em is seeing my children born and the other is kissing my woman.”
His family has become a quartet of muses Cagle didn't have during the first part of his career. Of the five songs he wrote for “Back in the Saddle,” “Southern Girl,” “Now I Know What Momma Meant” and new single “Let There Be Cowgirls” are tributes to his wife, while “Dance Baby Dance” is for their girls. He said his bride has adjusted to him touring again with “extreme grace.”
“She's like ‘I love you. I'm in,'” he said. “My wife, she's an Oklahoma girl ... and she's a big inspiration.”
IF YOU GO
When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday.
Where: Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill, 310 Johnny Bench Drive.
When: 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
Where: Walmart Supercenter, 5401 Tinker Diagonal Street, Del City.