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Exclusive Interview: Gary & Cassie Chapman (Part One)

19 Mins
Exclusive Interview: Gary & Cassie Chapman (Part One)

Read part two of the interview here.

Bob Hutchins: This is Bob Hutchins with BIPRI and welcome to another show. Sitting across the table from me I have a dear friend Gary Chapman and his wife Cassie Chapman. Welcome to the podcast.

Gary Chapman: Thanks, good to be here.

Cassie Chapman: Thank you.

Bob Hutchins: So you guys have been married for a while. You have a little girl, Eva Rose, and you live here in Franklin, Tennessee. For those of you who are just listening and for those of our listeners who have just tuned in who don't know Gary, first of all, let's talk about your background and history in the music business, entertainment, Christian music, country music, television. Can you just give a brief overview and kind of set the stage for our conversation today?

Gary Chapman: That was, that was it. You kind of pretty much did it! No, it's a long story and I'll try to summarize. I don't toot my own horn that well, but in this moment I don't have any options. I moved here when I was 19 years old to be a musician. I pretty quickly decided that I wanted to try songwriting. First song I ever got cut went number one and I liked it. So I kept doing that for a while.

Bob Hutchins: And what was that song?

Gary Chapman: A song called “Father's Eyes.” Songwriting is just one of the giant bittersweet stories of my life and many others because I, you know, I did it for many, many years and loved it and still do it, but now you can't do it for money anymore because the streaming model coupled with illegal downloads has made the revenue stream drop off roughly 95%.

Bob Hutchins: And you aren't about to get back on the road again.

Gary Chapman: You know, I love it, but I don't know that anybody wants me to, you know? I still love to play, but I get my jollies around town for the most part.

Bob Hutchins: There you go.

Gary Chapman: So I did music for many, many years. Back in ‘94 there was a cable network called TNN, The Nashville Network and before cable, you know, did what it did and splintered out. They were actually ... they were a beast. They had NASCAR, they had tons of great outdoor shows and then all the country music stuff and their flagship nightly show was basically kind of a country Tonight Show-ish thing. And it had had a storied history. A fellow named Ralph Emory did it since the earth cooled and then another couple, Crook and Chase, did that for a couple of years. And that didn't go as well as anybody hoped.

Gary Chapman: And it was in some disarray. And I got approached to do it. I had been hosting a show in the Ryman auditorium on and off for six years. And that process, being in front of a crowd, is really natural for me. It's like breathing. And they asked me to give it a shot and it fell under the heading of I wonder what would've happened had I done that thing. And I want that list to be very, very short when I get to the end of life. So I tried it and I loved it. And as a result of that, I stopped being so focused on people's ears and I got engaged with their eyes. So that took me into to, you know, television and some film production.

Bob Hutchins: And that show did really well from what I remember.

Gary Chapman: It did very, very well. It did. We wound up having, you know, good grief, we had numbers that in today's cable world we'd be at the top. If we had an A level beast artist on, you know, if Willie Nelson was on, we'd have two and a half, 3 million people.

Bob Hutchins: What was the best interview in your opinion that you did while you were on that show?

Gary Chapman: That's impossible. That's impossible.

Bob Hutchins: Most memorable?

Gary Chapman: That's impossible as well. But there are highlights. For me, because I'd been in the business as long as I had, my contemporaries, I already knew them all and we were friends. And not that I wasn't impressed with their talent, but I wasn't starstruck. But when I started occasionally having my heroes on, you know, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings and Tammy Wynette and you know, my high school band played every Johnny Rodriguez song in Texas that he ever recorded. And when I would interview those people, it would mess with my head a bit. Dolly is a huge one.

Bob Hutchins: That's a big personality.

Gary Chapman: No pun intended. She and I had some timeless moments that you can find on YouTube. She called me a horny little toad one night. Yeah, Tammy Wynette's last interview that she did before she died, I did. During that interview, I stopped absolutely midstream conversation and told her how amazing her legs looked because they did. Just great, great moments. Waylon Jennings was, I don't know why he decided he liked me, but he did. And he was, you know, he was historically pretty crusty unless he really knew you and filter free. That dude would say anything. And we had some great interactions.

Cassie Chapman: Porter Wager. What about that one? That's your favorite story to tell.

Gary Chapman: Oh, I can't really tell the Porter Wagner story. Yeah. I literally can't. I think I've got to save something. I got to save something for the book. But there is a legend about Porter, so he surprised me one night.

Bob Hutchins: So moving on from television, you know, that you had a good run there and I know that you've done a lot of different things in your life. Before we get to kind of what you're doing now and a little bit more about your life, I'd love to hear from Cassie because Cassie, I've just gotten to know you better. Your backgrounds were super interesting and as we start to talk more about brain health in a few minutes, you got a pretty interesting story there, but love to hear a little bit about your background and how you guys connected.

Cassie Chapman: Well, yeah, that's another story. That's for the book as well. We met in 2007, right?

Gary Chapman: Yep.

Cassie Chapman: And then we got married in 2008. I was living in Louisville at the time and I'll make it short.

Gary Chapman: You can't.

Cassie Chapman: We met in The Bahamas. I didn't have cell service, I didn't have Google. You know, you got to Google somebody, right? And we had a week of great fun.

Gary Chapman: Well you got to set that up a little bit. My production company got hired to capture the making of the Hooters calendar.

Bob Hutchins: Ah, okay.

Gary Chapman: It was a good gig. So we're on this tiny little island in the middle of the Exuma chain in The Bahamas. And yeah, I made a rule with myself to not be distracted by the talent because they were bringing in, you know, 20 or 30 I don't know, shockingly gorgeous women and every three or four days there was a new crop and I was just like, yeah, no, I'm not going there. Nothing good can happen here, right? Stay focused on your job. And that worked so well until I saw her. She literally came I think skipping down the dock when her group got there. And it was like, okay, well we should talk. And that's what we did. We literally just talked and laughed for a week.

Bob Hutchins: That's awesome.

Cassie Chapman: So I arrived back in Miami, get on my computer and I was like, nope. Nope. I didn't realize he was 23 years older than me.

Gary Chapman: Yeah.

Cassie Chapman: And I was like, what’s my dad going to say about this? And so I kind of just shut it down. And he persisted for four months. He did. Only the rest is history. But prior to meeting Gary, I grew up in West Virginia. I was in 4H and then-

Bob Hutchins: So you were a farm girl?

Cassie Chapman: Yeah, absolutely.

Bob Hutchins: What was that like?

Cassie Chapman: Awesome.

Bob Hutchins: You loved it?

Cassie Chapman: I would not trade my childhood for the world. It was-

Gary Chapman: She's a serious horse person.

Cassie Chapman: Yep. So I showed horses, I raised hogs and steer. Yeah, I did it all. It was so much fun.

Bob Hutchins: And then you got into, was it cheerleading?

Cassie Chapman: Yes-

Bob Hutchins: Cheering or?

Cassie Chapman: Of course when you go into junior high, you know you're in complete identity crisis. And I decided 4H was not cool.

Bob Hutchins: Right.

Cassie Chapman: And cheerleading was, and here I am, you know, a farm girl going into the city schools. I looked really out of place but became a cheerleader.

Bob Hutchins: Now qualify that cheerleading meeting, high school football game cheerleader or competitive cheer?

Cassie Chapman: So in my time there wasn't competitive cheer until my junior year in high school. So this was just middle school cheerleading. And then I went to high school and that was like the biggest thing I could have ever done. I was so proud of myself for being a Big Red cheerleader. And then I was approached to do all stars and so they made me make a decision between all stars or high school.

Bob Hutchins: And all stars is?

Cassie Chapman: It's competitive. Yeah.

Bob Hutchins: Competitive cheer, okay. And for those people who don't know, explain competitive cheer in a nutshell.

Cassie Chapman: So you can join groups ... well you have to try out obviously, but you can join these groups and you compete all over. In my time it was just Disney World or like a regional competition or statewide competition. But all the different competition squads get together and it's a big deal. So I started doing that competitive cheer in my junior year. I had to quit high school, which was kind of sad, but I got a full ride scholarship to Morehead State University, which they're national champions. I don't even know what they're up to now. Like 30 some national championship titles?

Gary Chapman: A lot. That's what they do.

Bob Hutchins: Interesting.

Cassie Chapman: So did that. My third year there, they did away with my program. So I transferred to University of Louisville, also national champions. They're just in a different organization. Morehead was UCA. U of L was NCA. So NCA is like a circus. You can do all the things that you're not allowed to do in UCA. So you get to fly all over the place. It was just, it was amazing.

Bob Hutchins: Were you a flier?

Cassie Chapman: I was, yes.

Bob Hutchins: So you're the one that they throw.

Cassie Chapman: Absolutely.

Bob Hutchins: Like 25 feet in the air.

Cassie Chapman: I would say 30.

Gary Chapman: The videos are amazing. Yeah.

Cassie Chapman: So much fun. And somehow I survived horseback riding and I used to do hunter jumpers, so I was, you know, falling a lot but never got hurt. Survived cheerleading. And I did that for what, 16 years?

Gary Chapman: Yeah. Yeah.

Cassie Chapman: And yeah, just so happened on a sunny summer day, we went to the lake and the guys were pulling us behind the boat on an inner tube and they decided that it would be hilarious to see us flip off going over a wave, which we've done a million times and nothing happened. Right?

Bob Hutchins: Go flying in the air.

Cassie Chapman: Yup. And I just remember waking up, thank God I had my life jacket on, but it knocked me out. My neck snapped. I had a stress fracture and C3 now and I'm like all the extreme sports I did and this is what happens.

Bob Hutchins: Did you go out like unconscious?

Cassie Chapman: Oh yeah. Yes, Yup.

Bob Hutchins: So do you remember a crack or do you remember anything? You just went flying, goes dark and what happens? You wake up-

Cassie Chapman: I did wake up before people were out there swimming after and then I, you know, I woke up but I was not going to pretend like I was hurt.

Bob Hutchins: Did you have a life jacket on?

Cassie Chapman: Oh yeah, absolutely. So after that I was in pain. A lot.

Bob Hutchins: So you woke up. You didn't wake up in a hospital?

Cassie Chapman: No, no, no, no, nope.

Bob Hutchins: Did you know something was wrong?

Cassie Chapman: Yeah.

Bob Hutchins: Okay.

Cassie Chapman: Yep. And then when I would go to work, I couldn't turn my neck left to right at all. And if you touched, I mean, just lightly touched the top of my head it just sent lightning bolts.

Bob Hutchins: Oh that hurts just thinking about it. Yeah.

Cassie Chapman: It was, it was rough. So of course at that time I visited chiropractors and you know, all the things, nothing was working.

Bob Hutchins: Did they not know it was broken that you-

Cassie Chapman: Oh yeah, they did the X-ray. Yep.

Bob Hutchins: Okay.

Cassie Chapman: There's just nothing that you can do about it except try to help the pain. And that was in between meeting him, right before I met [Gary]. And so when I moved here, he's like, I really think you should try my acupuncturist. And I was like, I'm-

Bob Hutchins: So tell me, before you get to that, tell me what your day-to-day looked like. Was it neck pain, was it headaches? Was it all of the above? How did it affect your normal life?

Cassie Chapman: So day-to-day it was awful because anytime I needed to look in the mirror, if I was driving, it was just painful.

Bob Hutchins: So you couldn't turn your head?

Cassie Chapman: Nope. Nope. And so it just became like a shoulder turn instead of, you know, turning your head. The migraines started coming very often. I mean, it was, what, one every week?

Gary Chapman: Yeah. At least. And it's like say goodbye to at least one day. Gone.

Cassie Chapman: Yeah.

Bob Hutchins: So how did that affect your relationship?

Gary Chapman: It's hard.

Cassie Chapman: Especially with a child. Yeah, it was-

Bob Hutchins: A very young child, right?

Gary Chapman: Yeah.

Bob Hutchins: Because she was a baby at the time?

Cassie Chapman: I had been suffering with this for, what'd you say, 17 years? Is that right? 17 or so it's, you know, it's just been an ongoing thing.

Gary Chapman: And we were doing a reality show together at the time. Our part was based on Eva Rose because we're big proponents of adoption, in particular private sector adoption. And we decided to become a part of that show. It's a series on TNT because of our passion for the adoption thing. So she was, she was the focus. Eva Rose and Cassie really were the focus. I was just, you know, the husband in the background mostly. But so she was trying to do that. Be a mom too.

Cassie Chapman: Our first day of filming was bringing Eva home from the hospital.

Gary Chapman: Yeah.

Bob Hutchins: Wow.

Gary Chapman: Yeah.

Bob Hutchins: So they documented that.

Gary Chapman: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.

Bob Hutchins: Okay. So, so you're going through that, Gary says you've got to try acupuncture. So is that the first step into natural methods?

Cassie Chapman: Yes. So we did that and it honestly worked great. Like you could touch me now, I could turn my head, but the migraines were still there. So barometric pressure change, anything like that.

Bob Hutchins: So it helps some of the time.

Cassie Chapman: Yeah, it did. It truly did. I got ... I at least have range of motion back. Next was that I couldn't take 24 hours to be sick. So we needed to seek some doctor help. Right? Get there, decided to put me on Somas for the, you know, to relax because like ... well it starts right here on my left shoulder and it creeps up the back of my neck.

Gary Chapman: And down sometimes.

Cassie Chapman: Yeah.

Gary Chapman: It's tight. It really gets really tight.

Cassie Chapman: Yep. So they prescribed me Somas for that and then hydrocodone to take daily and then Xanax for anxiety cause, yeah.

Bob Hutchins: And are you doing filming during this time, too?

Cassie Chapman: OH yeah, absolutely. So that just became the normal life for me.

Bob Hutchins: Did that cocktail change your personality or?

Cassie Chapman: I don't know.

Gary Chapman: Yes.

Cassie Chapman: That's funny. No, I felt like super woman though. That's why I stayed on it for six months or six years.

Bob Hutchins: So it allowed you to get through it.

Cassie Chapman: Yeah, absolutely.

Bob Hutchins: But there was other side effects obviously.

Cassie Chapman: Sure, sure, sure.

Gary Chapman: Well, any addiction, and I've certainly had my history there as well a lot more years ago. But yeah, any addiction is going to take a toll on all your personal relationships.

Cassie Chapman: And the saddest thing for me was my hometown is the number one town in America for opiate overdoses.

Bob Hutchins: West Virginia.

Cassie Chapman: It's horrible. So I started seeing people that I grew up with die from this, and I was just like, okay. It started pinging around in my head. I'm like, yeah, I probably should stop this and find a different route. And then the doctor was like we've got to get you off of this. And he told me-

Bob Hutchins: Why did the doctor want to get you off of it?

Cassie Chapman: Because it was six years and this whole opiate crisis is, you know, it's a problem.

Bob Hutchins: Yeah. So he knew the problem. He didn't want to be responsible and he knew what's going on with you. Okay. Good for him.

Cassie Chapman: Yeah, absolutely. He's wonderful and he's totally down for the holistic approach.

Bob Hutchins: Sure. That's great. We need more doctors like that.

Cassie Chapman: Yes.

Bob Hutchins: So you went cold Turkey?

Cassie Chapman: I did.

Bob Hutchins: What was that like?

Cassie Chapman: It was awful. I don't recommend it, it was awful.

Bob Hutchins: I mean I've never been on opioids, but is it like what you see on the movies, are there withdrawals? Cold sweats and-

Cassie Chapman: Oh yeah and that can go on because I was on it for so long. And again, these were prescribed. It wasn't like a, you know, buying them off the street. But yeah, when you go off cold turkey, you sweat, you can't sleep, you have restless leg syndrome.

Gary Chapman: It was tough.

Cassie Chapman: It's horrible. And you feel like you're on planet Mars.

Gary Chapman: I was just so proud of her for doing it. It's just like just hang in there, keep at it.

Bob Hutchins: And it was around this time that ... let's kind of transition to say you found another solution for this, CBD oil. CBD oil, everyone's talking about it, you know, it's become like a big craze, but there's a lot of cool science behind it. And I know Gary, you have obviously a personal affinity to it for several reasons. So CBD helped you with the opioids.

Cassie Chapman: It did. I was able to sleep. Restless leg syndrome went away. It was, it was great.

Bob Hutchins: That's amazing. That's amazing. Talk to me about where you started with that and how you found that and just a little bit of that story.

Gary Chapman: Right? Yeah, I didn't find it, it kinda found me. My son, Matt, and a couple of his friends, started a company called LabCanna. They sell CBD oil under the brand TenneeCBD. They grow, they process, they whitelabel for a bunch of companies. It's a great business. And he asked me to just come in and help a few years ago. And there's, you know, there's value in a lifetime of mistakes and I know we're, you know, most of the bigger holes that you can fall into in a startup, in a particularly successful one because you know, there's a, the old thing, there's, there's two things that'll kill you: not having enough money and having too much money.

Bob Hutchins: Exactly.

Gary Chapman: And we've danced on both of those pieces, you know, at times in this process. And we still do because it grows so fast and we put everything back into the company to keep up with the pace of growth. And those things don't always balance. So it's, you know, it can be an amazing, fabulous, fun business. And it's not just my son. One of my daughters, Sarah, is the operations human in that world. She's kept the trains running on time in our family forever. And it's just a blast. I work with my son and one of my daughters.

Cassie Chapman: And her fiance.

Gary Chapman: That's true. Her fiance's our CFO.

Bob Hutchins: That's great.

Gary Chapman: And then my oldest daughter, Millie, who just got married four or five weeks ago. She works for a company and I... have I shown you the merch-

Cassie Chapman: Yes, it's great.

Gary Chapman: Yeah. One thing that we've kind of overlooked in many ways is the merchandise side. And she just said here and she had just created this whole ridiculously beautiful line of merch based on our branding. And so I guess I'll be working with all of them now.

Bob Hutchins: That's great. That's great. So you started experimenting yourself with CBD at the time?

Gary Chapman: Yes. I mean I wanted to. It's difficult for me to sell period because I've always hated it. I hate pressure. I hate ... I'm the guy that goes to a car dealership and just says, leave me alone. Just leave me alone. I'll let you know when I want to talk to you. Because I just hate that.

Bob Hutchins: I'm the same thing.

Gary Chapman: And I've always kind of prided myself and in sucking at sales, like it was somehow-

Bob Hutchins: Like a bad thing.

Gary Chapman: Like I was above it.

Bob Hutchins: Yes. Salesman? No.

Gary Chapman: But I tried this stuff and I quickly figured out that I don't. If I believe in it, I can actually sell it.

Bob Hutchins: Absolutely.

Gary Chapman: So I've lived in town now for 42 years. I haven't pissed off anybody that didn't have it coming. So I have a lot of good relationships that I have exploited to the company's benefit, I think. That and being the old guy in the room, that's kind of my job.

Bob Hutchins: There's a real value in that. Yeah, there definitely is.

Read part two of the interview here.

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