A conversation with country music star Chris Cagle ahead of Beaufort Water Festival

By now, everyone in country music star Chris Cagle's life knows that the inspiration for a good song could come from anywhere at any time and to be prepared.

"I could be having an intense conversation with my wife and I just have to say, 'Excuse me, I have to write this down," said Cagle, 44. "Songs always come from those conversations, and songs come from those moments. She's used to it by now. She'll say, 'Here's a pen. I'll hold my thought.'

"I just wrote a song called 'I Miss You to the Moon,' and it was based on a conversation I had with my daughter and she said, 'Daddy, I miss you so much' and I asked her how much she missed me and she said, 'I miss you to the moon,' and when she said that, I just heard the song," Cagle added. "The best songs come from those moments."

Similarly spontaneous sparks of creativity helped Cagle pen songs for his fifth studio album, "Back in the Saddle," which was released in June 2012.

Cagle called the album his "second coming," because it followed a turbulent four-year patch in which he released no new music and was diagnosed with multiple anomalies on his vocal cords, battled in court with his former manager, parted ways with his record label and, most notably, was arrested in May 2008 for domestic assault for allegedly striking his then-girlfriend in the face with her own purse. He was later found not guilty.

"Struggle helps shape who you are," Cagle said. "You change more from what you suffer than from when things are going great. It took me a long time to get to where I am, but I wake up every morning and I'm super happy with how far I've come. How I felt used to rest on how many records I sold or didn't sell, and it's not like that anymore. I feel liberated."

Cagle will headline the 58th annual Beaufort Water Festival's Concert in the Park on July 20 in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. The show's bill also features opening acts The Chuck Cortenay Band and Chris Jones.

Cagle talks about being tabloid fodder, Twitter and fatherhood.

Question. "Back in the Saddle" was your first studio album in more than four years. What were you hoping to accomplish with it?

Answer. For the most part, I try very hard to make sure every album is a snapshot of where I am personally when that album is being made and I really thought of "Back in the Saddle" as a second coming for me and kind of my sophomore effort in a lot of ways. It was a way to present myself to country music as myself and with zero influences other than my own heart. I wanted it to be a record that showed people that I'm not different than anybody else, even if the spotlight is on me and it seems that the spotlight tends to be a little harsher when things are going bad than when things are going good.

Q. Are there any songs on the record that really embody that spirit for you?

A. Gosh, there are several, but I'd say, "Now I Know What Momma Meant" is a big one. It's a song about understanding what real love means. My momma always told me that a woman would come into my life one day that would change everything and when I meant (Kay) that happened for me.

Q. You have more than 30,000 followers on Twitter and you seem pretty active on there, how has that helped you connect with your fans?

A. For me, social media isn't about business. I see artists nickel-and-diming their fans on Twitter and stuff and that really pisses me off, to be honest. I'll do the happy birthday's and the shout-outs and retweets and that kind of thing because I love interacting with the fans, but that gets hard sometimes. I had a guy the other day tweet me and be like "(Expletive) you, Cagle, you didn't sign this or sign that." And I shot right back, "(Expletive) you, dude. I did sign that." We kind of went back and forth, and I took a step back and thought about my kids reading that so I apologized and knew that I could have handled that better. I really like social media, but a lot of it can come back and bite you in the ass if you're not careful.

Q. You have eight Top 20 singles and nearly 20 years in the music business, when you look at your career, is there anything you'd do differently?

A. Most of the things I would change have to do with myself as a person and as a man, and I'm working on that stuff. My biggest regret is ever making anyone think that I could ever put my hands on a woman. I get asked about that arrest sometimes, and I'm always like, "Do you really want to know? Because it's all public record. You can go look it up and see exactly what happened." People like to play judge and jury over coffee and bagels in the morning with the headlines, but that's something I'll have to explain to my kids someday.

Q. What is your approach to your life performances?

A. My entire focus is making our shows sound as much like the record as I can. I remember, as a kid, saving up my money to go see Van Halen, and I couldn't tell what they were playing until they started singing the song. I get wanting to be artistic and jam around a little bit but ... if I went to see Billy Joel or something, I'd want to hear "Piano Man." I want to give the fans what they came for. If a fan waves at me during a show, I'll do my best to wave back because these people, man, they choke me up. They really warm my heart. You know how Nashville is, I mean people start talking about Chris Cagle's over or he's been gone too long, but then I play a show to 5,000 people, and they're singing every song back to me. And not just the singles but the other stuff, too. It's pretty humbling so when I get done with a show, I want to be dripping with sweat and I want the fans to know that I went out there, busted my ass and left everything I had on that stage.

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/IPBG_Patrick.

Chris Cagle explains the story behind "Now I Know What Momma Meant"


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