Chris Cagle Cops No. 1 Songwriting Award

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Tuesday (May 14) was a good day for Capitol recording artist Chris Cagle . First came the news that he had been nominated for two CMT Flameworthy Video Music Awards. After that, it was off to the Nashville headquarters of ASCAP, the performance rights society, to join his co-writer, Jon Robbin, in accepting several trophies for their first No. 1 single, Cagle’s own record, “I Breathe In, I Breathe Out.”

Before the awards were handed out, Cagle met with reporters to discuss his burgeoning career, which currently includes an opening slot on Brooks & Dunn’s “Neon Circus” tour. Originally signed to Virgin Records, which released the first version of his Play It Loud album, Cagle saw his prospects teeter when Virgin closed its Nashville operations. Fortunately for him, Capitol Records picked up the album, reissued it with two new cuts and applied the promotional muscle to keep it going.

Cagle admitted he has been wounded more than once by the cavalier way artists are treated. He told of visiting a radio station at which new records were visibly categorized under the labels “Playing,” “Think About Playing” and “Sucks.” He said he found his single, “My Love Goes On and On,” filed in the last category. He noted, however, that the station eventually did play his record. Cagle also said he found a review of one of his shows in Canada particularly galling. Another sore point: songwriters who wouldn’t co-write with him when he was getting started but who want to now that he’s had some hits.

Connie Bradley, ASCAP’s senior vice president, presented Cagle and Robbin their trophies and welcomed them into “ASCAP’s No. 1 Club.” Cagle momentarily donned the ornamented jacket that comes with club membership. Bradley pointed out that “I Breathe In, I Breathe Out” had reached No. 1 in both the Billboard and Radio & Records charts.

Woody Bomar, representing Cagle’s publisher, Sony/ATV Cross Keys, and Jewel Coburn, of Ten Ten Music, Robbin’s publisher, handed out plaques to the writers, producer Chris Lindsey and Bill Catino, Capitol Records’ head of promotion. “Behind every great artist is a greater promotional staff,” Bradley observed.

Ticking off Cagle’s mounting list of honors — among them a gold album, Flameworthy nominations for breakthrough video and hottest video of the year and an Academy of Country Music nomination for best new male vocalist — Bradley formally introduced the singer to the throng of well-wishers. Cagle seemed near tears as he acknowledged the applause. “I’ve been wandering through this place a long time and seen a couple of these [No. 1 parties] going on. And it’s a nice feeling.”

Catino said that the first time the Capitol staff saw Cagle perform was at a Country Radio Seminar show. “He came off the stage sweating, and the first thing he said was, ‘I can do better than this.” I said, ‘Don’t worry. You’ve got the gig.’” He recalled when Cagle and “12 to 15″ other new artists performed in the round at the KSON charity golf tournament in San Diego. Catino said that during Cagle’s performance, “You could have heard a pin drop.” After Cagle finished singing, Catino continued, KSON’s program director told him, “Have his record on my desk tomorrow, and I’ll add it in heavy rotation.”

Lindsey said Cagle lobbied hard for “I Breathe In, I Breathe Out” as they listened to songs from which to select the two additions to the album. “He really believed in it — and he was right.”

Coburn told CMT.com that “I Breathe In, I Breathe Out” had been around for “four or five years” before Cagle recorded it. Curb Records’ David Kersh cut it for his 1998 album, If I Never Stop Loving You, but it wasn’t released as a single.

Among those on hand to applaud Cagle and Robbin were WE Records’ Sherrie Austin and former Mercury recording artist Butch Baker.

Looking over the crowd that stretched from one entrance of the ASCAP lobby to the other, Bradley concluded, “I don’t remember having a party this big in a long, long time.”

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.