Photo Diva: It’s All About The Climb

Michael Cagle performs at Hot August Nights at Town Square.
Photo by Linda Evans.

Las Vegas is full of singers who grab a mic, turn on a backing track and belt out a song that speaks to them on some level on whatever stage that will accept them in an attempt to feed their hungry artists’ soul. Most will become discouraged by a lackluster response after their heartfelt performance or become disillusioned by the fact that some record label rep isn’t at their door begging for their signature on a contract the next day. Many do it to achieve fame and fortune simply because they crave the attention. I have been fortunate to be able to continually find those talented artists who, like me, understand that it isn’t about the praise and accolades (although those are nice) it is all about feeding the fire that fuels our souls.

I recently met such an artist. Michael Cagle is a very talented vocal performer living here in the Las Vegas valley. Having moved here in 2001 from Washington State — with roots in New York — Michael has had “the pleasure of singing and performing for almost as long” as he has been here, starting with a Cabaret show called “KEYS.” Believe me…that is an amazing accomplishment in itself.

I discovered Michael through Facebook (gee…surprise surprise) and something about him and the video performances on his MySpace page resonated with me but I wasn’t sure why. Sure, he’s an exceptionally fabulous balladeer and his choices of popular songs are spot-on for his tone and vocal range but there was something more to it than that. So I went to see him perform at the inaugural Hot August Nights in Las Vegas event at Town Square on the South end of the Strip.

It was a miserably hot Sunday afternoon with the sun beating down and I almost stayed home. When I finally got my sweaty self over to the stage area in the back parking lot of Town Square he was well into his set. There were maybe a dozen people within earshot of the stage — all of which were seeking shelter under pop-up coverings. Well, all except for one woman at the foot of the stage swooning not from the sweltering heat but from Michael’s hand in hers and his smooth and sensual voice. “It is much more fun and exciting to have crowds in the thousands, obviously,” said Michael. “My philosophy is that anyone who comes out to see me is entitled to have me give my all.”

Away from that hot parking lot we had a little chat…

Michael Cagle performs.
Photo by Linda Evans.

PD: You have the reputation of being a balladeer…do you ever sing other types of music?

MC: I am really drawn to emotional songs. I love feeling like I leave a part of me in the room every time I sing. Because of this, I get labeled a “Ballad Singer” a lot. I am, without a doubt, a belter! I guess I don’t sing many laid back songs or things that are in the background. I am not background material.

PD: I have seen your videos on ReverbNation and other social media outlets but the first time I saw you live was at the Hot August Nights event and even though it was a very hot Sunday afternoon and not a big audience you came out and performed very difficult ballads with full force and with an obvious love for the music. Who are your influences and do you have any that are “out of the box”? Names that would make people pause and say “what the…”?

MC: If I am on-stage, for one song or a whole “show”… If there are 50 people or 18,000 (like when I opened for Reba), I give my all! My biggest influence is Patti LaBelle. I am not saying I am in her “league” but the way she approaches her concerts, the way she takes a song and makes it her own is a lot like me. The best compliment I ever had was when FOX TV said “Patti LaBelle meets Nathan Lane.”

I am very drawn to “big” singers — whatever the genre. Aside from obvious staples like Celine or Whitney, I also love Steve Perry, Dennis DeYoung, Linda Eder, Sam Harris, Billy Porter and Adam Lambert. I also am a big Lady Gaga fan. I love people who put on a show when they perform. We need more Michael Jacksons, Freddie Mercurys and Judy Garlands!

PD: With so many tribute and cover bands in Vegas vying for fewer and fewer venues willing to book live music why do you suppose you have such staying power?

MC:

PD: I saw you perform to tracks. Do you ever perform with a live band and, if so, what are the differences and do you approach it in a different way?

MC: I LOVE performing with a band! But it’s very hard to find one that plays all the styles I cover in my shows and performances. I do a lot of Broadway, but also do a lot of other styles. I love singing with a band and my style ends up being more dramatic and a bit more “soul.”

Michael Cagle.
Photo by Linda Evans.

PD: What’s the weirdest request you’ve ever gotten?

MC: To sing at a “Chippendale’s” type of event that was a benefit. Then I found out they wanted me to do a “Chippendale’s” type of routine also! Really? They would have been yelling at me to “Put it on! Put it on.”

PD: What’s the weirdest thing that has ever happened at a gig?

MC: I had an obviously drunk lady repeatedly interrupt a show by saying I was sexy and that she wanted me. Oh my God, I am dying thinking of it! She jumped up in the middle of the show and said, “Take me.” I wanted to die!

PD: Any upcoming gigs in Las Vegas?

MC: I am recording original music and have been signed to Universal Records! So that is going to take up some time. I do a lot of out-of-town gigs — theaters, showrooms and festivals. I will be performing Thursday, September 23rd at the newly renovated SunCoast Showroom. It will be the return of their afternoon show and I am thrilled to have been the first one booked! I will be hosting the show as well.

PD: What is the professional philosophy you try to live by?

MC: I try to be honest, be sincere. I can say that I am never more alive than when I am on stage! It is my World, my Home. I also believe that if someone pays to see you, they are entitled to 100%. I don’t step on stage unless I am ready to lay it all out! I also know that there are a lot of talented people out there. When someone decides they want to be a fan, you need to let them know how special they are, and how important they are to you as an artist.

Michael Cagle.
Photo by Linda Evans.

PD: Anybody in particular that you want to thank?

MC: There are so many people who have helped support me and encouraged me. All my incredible and faithful friends who write me or show up to my gigs. My manger Lynn, who really has ALWAYS believed in me. My Mom is probably one of my biggest, if not biggest fan — her approval is so rewarding. And finally, and most importantly, my partner of 11 years, Jason. Jason has sacrificed a lot. He has even denied things for himself to see all our dreams come to fruition. He is without a doubt, The Wind Beneath My Wings. And this year, his dreams are coming true — he was signed to a record label as a Country Artist.

PD: Any last words of encouragement or advice?

MC: I hate cliches but, NEVER GIVE UP! NEVER! Dreams can and will come true. Be nice! There are a lot of singers out there — great ones — and everyone wants to be a star. Unless you want to be your only fan, show some humbleness! Fame can be fleeting, enjoy it, savor it. You are not the best thing out there — your fans are!

Be prepared and face every opportunity as “this could be the time when it all falls into place!”

So back to the hot parking lot…

Once he started singing Miley Cyrus’ hit song “The Climb” I finally understood why I was drawn to him.

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb.

When he finished the song, he fell down onto the stage and jokingly said, “I have to find easier songs to sing.”

No, Michael, you don’t. “Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side, it’s the climb.” The real reward is in the journey, not the destination. I could see that you embrace that and that you get it.

So do I.

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