The waiting, as Tom Petty once sang, is sometimes the hardest part, and this long healing process he went through was as hard on his family, as it was on LeDoux.
"They were at the hospital for a couple of months," he recalls. "My wife was there, and Ned, our second son, stayed the whole time too. You could see, man, they were about to go nutty. I was doing everything I possible could to get well enough to get out of there. When we left, I was still pretty sick. But at least we were out of there, and we were home. And that really felt good."
Garth Brooks has been a champion of LeDoux's music for a long time, but he's more than just a big supporter of this man's music: He's also willing to give LeDoux greater gifts than just good career advice. He put his own health where his mouth was by offering to donate a portion of his own liver for the transplant.
"He just told me, "Look I'm your guy. You might as well just forget about asking anybody else," LeDoux recalls with amazement. "Let's go do this thing."
"He was bound and determined. He went through all the tests, which were pretty grueling. They poke you here and there and take little pieces of you to check things out. And he went through three days of that, but he just wasn't compatible."
Had Brooks had his way, this organ offer would have remained a public secret. But LeDoux just has too much love and respect for his friend to let such a loving act go unnoticed.
"He was ready to do it, but he just wanted to keep it quiet," LeDoux says of Brooks. "But I said bologna! He's been getting too much bad press. People have been bad about him, so I thought, 'You know, people need to know about the kind of guy he really is.' He also does so many other things that nobody ever hears about. So, it was like, get off his case everybody. He really is a great guy."
LeDoux is no cosmetic cowboy: he sings the life he lives. One gets the feeling, when listening to him talk, that he'd have trouble giving up either his music or his cowboy way of life. Both of aspects of his life are just so near and dear to him to ever surrender.
"I like all of it. They say variety is the spice of life, and it's really nice to have different variations in life, so you don't kinda get stuck in a rut. And you appreciate each part more when you've got two or more things to do. When you get away from one for a while, you really appreciate when you get back to it."
The buzz from a concert crowd is a strong stimulant, but LeDoux is a man who likes to keep himself busy, so the wait time in between performances can sometimes start to get to him and make him a little stir crazy.
"There's a lot of lag time, especially if you're in a big city somewhere. There's not a lot to do. Then you just gotta hang around, and walk the streets and go hang out under the underpass with the homeless guys. (Laughter) I'm just kidding."
One of LeDoux's favorite things to do is eat. And he's eating a lot better now than he did during some of his much leaner rodeo days.
"You couldn't really afford much. You'd kinda scrape through your riggin' bag and find quarters sometimes when you weren't winning. If you went in and bought a hamburger, you damn sure better eat everything. Because it might be a while before you eat again. But nowadays, I find myself leaving some on the plate and feeling kind of guilty about it."
"After The Storm" differs from many of LeDoux's previous albums, in that it is one of his softer sounding recordings. In fact, only a few of its more upbeat selections - like "Don't It Make You Want To Dance" and "I Don't Want To Mention Any Names" - have even found their way into his nonstop, action-packed live shows.
Behind the scenes, however, LeDoux has developed a newfound appreciation for his quieter better half, and his woman's soft heart truly inspired the creation of this reflective new album.
"After going through the operation and everything, I just looked at things a little differently - especially in (the album's) dedication to my wife. I knew she was solid, but man I didn't realize she is as solid as she is. She went through a lot. Hangin' in there with me through all this recuperation, and being scared that I might not be here anymore. Yeah, she just kept everything together. The album is kind of dedicated to her, and a lot of the songs I picked kind of reflect that."
It's the rough terrain of life that puts relationships to their ultimate tests. If a bond his shaky to begin with, trouble will only sever it further. But if the foundation is strong at the start, problems can sometimes reinforce an already formidable fortress.
"If you put people in a crises or some kind of an odd situation, the real personalities come out," LeDoux observes. Such is the case with our most serious relationships, such as our marriages, as well as with a few our less vital companionships.
"I used rodeo with some guys and we were, you know, pretty good friends," LeDoux remembers with a chuckle. "And then we got in like a cabin situation, and it was like, holy cow. It's like this beast is just exposed. I can also imagine how that can happen in a marriage situation. Either they rise to the challenge, or they just turn. I'm real fortunate (with my wife) in that I have one who arose to the occasion."
LeDoux has certainly risen to the occasion, like a bloodied fighter with enough strength to still stand and answer the bell, even though he wasn't close to being at his best. In addition to the recent completion of his latest studio album of new material, he's also re-recorded a few older songs for his second box set, “Chris LeDoux The Capitol Collection (1990-2000)" out in June.
Box sets are trophies of successful careers because flashes in the pan just don't get such lifetime retrospectives. And this new collection is a further reminder for LeDoux of his more than respectable musical longevity.
"Usually, if you've got a career that lasts two years, you're pretty lucky," he explains. "Yeah, it's pretty amazing how it's lasted like this."