Chancie Neal Parlayed Rodeo Background into Country Music Career

By: Darci Miller

PUEBLO, Colo. – In 2004, 9-year-old Chancie Neal spent some time with her journal, writing down her barrel racing goals for that year.

“I’ve always been very goal-oriented, even when I was really little,” Neal said. “I wrote down my goals for the year, and I wrote down ‘become a world champion.’

“And I went and won a world championship!”

Indeed, at the end of the season, she became the youngest barrel racer ever to win a world title, winning the National Barrel Horse Association Youth World Championship.

“Being that young and writing that down, I still carry that with me to this day, writing my goals down, because I feel like it puts it into existence,” Neal said. “Every year, every few months, I’ll write more down. I keep an ongoing list and kind of keep up with it. It’s fun to look back and be like, ‘Oh! I did that!’ And playing the PBR World Finals is one of them.”

Neal will be a part of the PBR World Finals Concert Series on May 12-21 in Fort Worth, Texas. She will perform on Saturday, May 20, at the Tractor Supply Co. Stage at the Fort Worth Stockyards on Saturday, May 20, at 3 p.m., and at Simmons Bank Plaza at Dickies Arena at 6 p.m.

It’s a dream gig for a woman who grew up in a rodeo family. Her father, Tony, was a professional bull rider, and her mother, Kim, was a barrel racer, and they own a ranch on which they train horses.

“It’s a full-circle moment,” Neal said. “I say a lot that rodeo set me up to have a music career because there’s a lot of similarities. Late nights, traveling in bunk beds, sleeping where you’ve got to sleep, eating where you’ve got to eat. So for me, when music and rodeo and Western sports and stuff combine, it’s like, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. So it’s very special.”

While Neal’s rodeo family got her into that passion, her passion for music was entirely her own. When she was 12, on a family vacation, she was struck by a girl playing guitar and singing songs she wrote and admittedly “bugged the heck” out of her dad to get her a guitar.

He obliged, and Neal started lessons. What began as a desire to play the guitar but not sing turned into the desire to move to Nashville to pursue a country music career.

“I think just having that rodeo mindset of, ‘I won the world championship,’ and being raised to go for it, I didn’t know any different than to hit the ground running,” Neal said.

The Calhoun, Louisiana, native moved to Nashville at 15 and signed a publishing deal with Sony when she was 17. She toured with Luke Bryan for seven years, joining his Spring Break Tour in 2013 and 2014.

“Luke Bryan helped me get my start in Nashville, and he was just a champion of mine from day one,” Neal said. “Getting to play those shows with him was amazing. It was – oh my gosh. Just getting to get onstage and open for him and see that many people – they let us know after we played how many people were on the beach. The first year was over 100,000 people, and then the next year was almost 200,000 people on the beach. That was one of the coolest experiences.”

Since then, she has amassed nearly 400,000 Spotify streams. Her aptly named single Rodeo Money hit 50,000 streams in less than six weeks when it was released in 2019. In 2022, she checked off another bucket list item when she sang the national anthem at PBR Stampede Days in Bridgestone Arena.

But even as her success has grown, Neal is humble about her accomplishments and the idea of having “made it.”

“I’ve always said, with music and all of this, the destination is the journey,” she said. “So it’s hard, I think, from a musician standpoint. You’re always striving, and what is making it?”

The next chapter of her journey will be as a mom – Neal gave birth to daughter Suede Monroe Billadeau on July 4, 2022, and says motherhood has empowered her.

“I feel like in my industry, in country music, once you’re a mom, things kind of slow down, and that’s kind of the perception that the business has,” Neal said. “And I feel like my friends and my colleagues and everybody I work with have been so supportive of just knowing, look, I had a baby, but I’ve got a point to prove. I’m hitting the ground running. And I think, back to rodeo, it was nothing to see professional barrel racers have kids and get right back at it. And in country music, that’s not necessarily the same thing, and I don’t think that’s by choice all the time. Sometimes it is, and that’s okay. But I was just like, ‘No! This doesn’t change anything.’

“It does, of course, now that I’m actually in it,” she amended with a laugh. “But it’s kind of made me have faith in my friends and colleagues helping me climb the ladder still.”

Neal is currently working on releasing another single, which will be the last song off her EP. This weekend, she’s playing an event for NASCAR – “That’s on-brand with my redneck self,” she said with a laugh.

But even with everything else going on, she can’t wait to arrive in Fort Worth for the PBR World Finals with one very special guest.

“My dad is coming, so he’ll be able to see that,” Neal said. “I think he quit riding the year that PBR was created, so he didn’t get a chance to ride PBR, but we grew up watching it and everything. So he’s really excited, and he put in a lot of help through the years to help me get started, so now I’m like, ‘Here, dad, I’m giving back a little bit. Go to the PBR World Finals and watch me play some music.’”

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