UPS & DOWNS

Chris Cagle takes a nasty spill, but continues to deal with the triumphs and trials of his career and personal life

There are things in life that some guys just aren't ever gonna outgrow. As Chris Cagle relaxes and applies ice to the damaged knee he hopes won't need surgery, he talks with authority about one of them – the adrenaline rush of jumping from high places to low places. It's a topic he first explored in his native Texas – a long time ago.

"When I was 12 or 13," he recalls with a smile, "I jumped off the train trestle bridge and cracked my head open. And then, when I was a senior in high school, I tried jumping off the big flat rock at the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels. I thought I was gonna pass out 'cause I almost did a backbuster. It was probably a three-story fall!"

So Chris learned his lesson from those mishaps, right? Not exactly.

Fast forward to February this year, a show at the Beaumont Club in Kansas City and the reason for Chris' throbbing knee.

"We were singing 'Country By The Grace Of God' near the end of the show," he declares. "I had jumped up on a speaker stack to kinda tell a story, and when I came down I wasn't lookin' and I just landed wrong. Soon as I heard this little pop, it felt like it filled with liquid fire – from right below my knee to right above my knee. Man, the pain was excruciating!"

Amazingly, Chris had safely made similar leaps hundreds of times before. "I did it three other times in that show!" he admits "I've always done that kind of stuff and never had a problem."

Unless, of course, you count the train trestle … the Guadalupe River … and so on.

So, this time he's surely learned his lesson. Isn't that right, Chris? … Chris?

"I don't think so," he grins. "That's just stuff I do that I don't even realize I do when I'm doin' it."

That's an answer that shouldn't surprise anybody who's ever met Chris. This is not a guy who's known for holding back – onstage or off.

In the past year or so, in addition to touring, writing and recording the new Chris Cagle CD set for release April 1, he's flown with the world-renowned Blue Angels, squeezed in time to earn his scuba-diving certification and made an appearance in Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie with buddies Bill Engvall, Jeff Foxworthy, Bill White and Larry the Cable Guy.

"It was great making the movie," proclaims Chris. "I don't really know how much I contributed. I just went in and sang a song and played me. But the coolest thing about that project was meeting Bill. We hit it off and became really good friends. Bill even crashed my show in Vegas one night after he'd played across town.

"I'm onstage singing, and he's standing behind me with two shots of Crown and two beers! Everybody was laughing – and I'm singing 'Who Needs The Whiskey' thinking what the heck's going on? Everybody loved it!"

Now Chris is singing a new tune. "What A Beautiful Day," the first single from the new Chris Cagle CD, is climbing the charts. And Chris worked had to make the new album a worthy successor to his Play It Loud debut CD that featured the hits "Laredo," "My Love Goes On And On" and "I Breathe In, I Breathe Out." The new collection includes a large helping of love and love-lost songs, as well as kickin' tnes like "Night On The Country" and "Chicks Dig It," an ode to the crazy things guys will do right after saying, "Hey, y'all … watch this!"

But while Chris has made great strides professionally in the past couple of years, he candidly admits that time away from home has taken a toll on his personal life. He and wife Elizabeth were married Sept. 10, 2001, after they'd had an earlier relationship that ended more than a dozen years ago. In that period of time she married someone else and had two children, son Cagan, now 4, and daughter Fahlan, 12, and Chris carried on with his life.

When fate brought them back together, both Chris and Elizabeth understood there'd be separations and though they'd be able to handle them. But the impact of time apart might have been underestimated.

Chris sums it up in two powerful lines from one of his new songs, "It Takes Two." Sometimes my work and the world get the best of me, he sings, then I come home and try to give you what's left of me.

"It's the truth," he quietly confesses. "For the last year and a half, she's had nothing but leftovers."

But he's quick to add that with all the strains, he and Eizabeth have had some great times – particularly those shared with the kids. "Those kids are the best thing I've ever found when I wasn't looking for anything," explains Chris. "After we'd been apart for 12 years, I knew pretty much in my heart I was going back to find Elizabeth. Luckily she was in a position and in a state where she could be courted.

"But I wasn't looking for children. I wasn't sure about that. But those babies are precious. They're just as precious as their mother."

Although … they can also be a handful! Especially little Cagan, who recently had a "Chicks Dig It" moment of his own.

"We were at the Black Eyed Pea restaurant in Texas," recalls Chris with a grin. "And he's sittin' there when this little girl comes and sits in front of him in the front booth. While sittin' next to me, Cagan puts his feet on the table, crosses his arms behind his head, looks at me and says, 'What's up, man?'

"I said, 'What are you doin'?' He said, 'Shhhh – she's lookin' '"

Better watch out, Chris. Sounds like there just might be a little trestle jumpin' in that boy's future!

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