At 44, country music artist Darryl Worley finally seems to have found some peace.
He just celebrated his first anniversary with his wife, Kimberly, and they have a 9-month-old daughter, Savannah, named after the west Tennessee town where they live. Over the phone from Tennessee, Worley pulls away a few times to speak lovingly to the baby.
"I've landed in a soft spot, finally," he says.
Even though Worley's got two Billboard No. 1 country albums and three No. 1 country singles to his name, fans know it's been a rough road. In 2005, he lost his record deal with DreamWorks when the company shut down its music operations. In 2006, his first marriage ended in divorce. And in 2007, his second label, Neal McCoy's 903 Music, declared bankruptcy.
Fans might also remember it was later in 2007 when Worley stripped down for Playgirl magazine. What was widely seen as a stunt to get him into the news and help him find a new label makes Worley laugh now.
"I don't think it helped me get this record deal [in 2008 with Stroudavarious Records] ... but here we are a year later, still talking about it," he says. While there was some negative backlash, Worley figures that "gig" raked in close to a million dollars of free publicity. He was in a bit of a professional lull at the time, but he knew his body was in great shape and says people told him, "If you look good, it ain't gonna be no bad thing."
Of course, while it's easy to explain to adult fans, it might be harder when the questions come from a different direction.
"I think about it now with my little girl ... oh, boy," he says.
Luckily, Worley made one decision about the shoot back then.
"I didn't unveil all the goods," he says. "My mother would freak out and come after me with a gun."
Worley's world is looking up in many ways. He has a new single, "Tequila on Ice," and his next album, Sounds Like Life, should drop sometime in early 2009.
Worley says he wrote a lot of the songs, as he always does, but adds that this album is different in two major ways. Sure, there'll be those signature raw Darryl Worley songs, but also some growth in subject matter and an "element of sincerity and realness that will speak to people."
"There's no filler on the record," he says.
In addition, Worley's regular band, not hired outside musicians, cut the basic tracks. It's "a little bit of a sonic deviation from what we've been doing," he says. "It's gonna be what you hear when you come out to the show."
Speaking of his Cowboys gig, Worley says the reason he's coming through Colorado Springs at the Christmas season is to say thanks to our military men and women.
"I grew up in a military family," he says. "I know what kind of dedication it takes."
If you'd like to honor our service members, Worley says it's quite easy: "Walk up to a dude in a uniform, shake his hand and tell him how much you appreciate his service. ... I try to tell them I know my way of life would not be the way it is without their sacrifice."