Smile Politely

Drew Cagle is building his rock reputation

Drew Cagle onstage playing a white guitar and looking off to his left. He's wearing a grey t-shirt and red pants.
Drew Cagle on Facebook

Rock music isn’t dead. It’s just hiding out while it plans its comeback. Part of that comeback involves young musicians like Drew Cagle who was raised on 60s, 70s, and 80s rock music growing up with a guitar-playing father. I got to see Cagle headline The Canopy Club a while ago, so I asked him for the opportunity to sit down and talk some rock.

SP: What music moves you nowadays?

Cagle: I’ve been listening to a lot of different music, not just rock. The Revivalists are fantastic. I like Matt Maeson. He’s a singer-songwriter guy. He’s really good.

SP: What do you think of the state of rock in general right now?

Cagle: I think the state of music, in general, is different than it’s ever been before. Back in the day, there were a few sub-genres, but there wasn’t the amount that there is now. Most of the time when bands get started, they immediately start a new sub-genre. There are still rock stars, but there is no top guy like Elvis or Axl Rose. Once the older generation [of rock bands] dies out, I’m afraid that we might not have big rock superstars again unless someone emerges who can unite all these genres together, which is how all great music gets done.

SP: Which vocalist has had the most impact on you or influenced your style the most?

Cagle: Axl Rose, obviously. Paul Rodgers, Jon Bon Jovi, Jay Buchanon from Rival Sons, and Vince Neil. I’d say Garth Brooks as well. Obviously, Appetite for Destruction was a huge influence. There’s no Drew Cagle and the Reputation without Guns and Roses. I was also exposed to music like Garth Brooks and Michael Jackson when I was young. I’m a huge Garth Brooks fan and saw him in Assembly Hall when he sold out those four nights. It was absolutely one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. His crowd work is the best. It was nothing short of a religious experience.

Drew Cagle onstage playing a white guitar and looking up. He's wearing a grey t-shirt and red pants.
Drew Cagle on Facebook

SP: What songwriters do you admire?

Cagle: Don Henley is one of the greatest songwriters ever. I think “The End of the Innocence” is an incredible song. And also, Brett [Emmons] of The Glorious Sons is incredible as well. As far as people like Brett, even if you didn’t care for the music for some reason, the words are still incredible to listen to.

Cagle spoke about the band’s name and how it reflects his strict management style. He demands that everyone in the band be serious about their music and wants to create music that moves and changes people’s lives. Cagle reveals that the band faced some initial rejection in the local music scene, but he leaned into it and decided to give his band its name. 

SP: Can you tell us about how you came up with the name of your band, “The Reputation”?

Cagle: I run a tight ship. I demand that everyone be serious about it. It’s not easy, especially in Central Illinois where there’s not an abundance of musicians. People join the band thinking they want to be musicians, but they don’t understand how hard it is. It wasn’t until people like Jay Goldberg and others who genuinely loved our music and recognized our talent, that we got a break. I didn’t feel we were getting the respect we deserved for some reason, but I just leaned into it and said, ‘Well, everyone says I have a reputation. Why don’t we admit it?’ I’ve never said that I’m the hero. I’m definitely the villain. So, I’ll take it.”

Recently, Cagle and his band got to open for legendary rockers, Head East. Another Head East fan, legendary A&R man Tom Zutaut [Guns and Roses, Motley Crue], a friend of Cagle’s, reached out to share his enthusiasm about the two bands playing together.

Cagle: I knew Tom Zutaut, who has a credit on our album, and we talked about Head East. We connected over that band, and he absolutely lit up when he heard that I knew them. We have a whole shrine of local Illinois legends, including Head East, in our basement. On the next record, we’re debating the idea of covering some local artists.

SP: Explain your writing process a little bit. Does your band contribute at all?

Cagle: I write the majority of parts on the songs. Lyrics, melody, structure, and chord progressions, then I bring it to my band to fine tune it with their own styles and ideas.

SP: What instruments do you use as writing tools?

Cagle: Normally, it’ll start with me on my piano. Most almost every song on the  Haunted record except for “Back to the Light” was written first on my piano and then on acoustic guitar. I’m not a good guitar player, but I use both instruments, the piano, and guitar as writing tools. For some songs, the lyrics come to me, and then I write the song around it. But more oftentimes I write the chords first and link it with other pieces.

Drew Cagle and the Reputation onstage playing under red lights. The lead singer is wearing a white leather rock and roll outfit.
Drew Cagle on Facebook

SP: What’s been your best gig so far?

Cagle: I’d have to say the top one for me was opening up for Puddle of Mudd at Corn Crib Stadium in Normal. At that point in time, I had no members of the band two weeks before the show. So I got offered the show last minute. I’m really good at pulling something together last minute and pulling it off in a spectacular fashion. We had no band members, and we had only two practices before the show. We even fired our guitarist because he didn’t rehearse, which was a ridiculous decision looking back, but I thought we were going to pull it off either way. 

SP: When was that?

Cagle: That was last year. We played second, and there were three or four openers in front of us. There was the feeling up until that point, that Drew Cagle and The Reputation were not respected the way we are now. We were just another band that nobody had heard of, but we got to that stage and blew everyone away. We felt like rock stars. The promoters loved us so much that they brought us back to open up for Lita Ford. It was a really, really cool experience, and it was the perfect storm.

For the record, Cagle and I talked for over two hours the night of the interview. It was refreshing to see someone so passionate about rock and roll. This young musician is talented, driven, and has all the tools to make his mark on rock music. If you doubt the future of the beloved genre, then I challenge you to catch a show from Drew Cagle and the Reputation and get your faith restored. 

Music Editor

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