Garth Brooks Continues to Make Milestones With New Album
Retired country superstar Garth Brooks may be concentrating on being a soccer-dad these days, but that doesn't stop him from continuing to make career milestones. Officially named the best-selling solo artist of all time, Brooks will surely strengthen that status with a new venture that packages something old with something new.
The superstar entertainer releases 'The Ultimate Hits' on Tuesday, a three-disc collection of some of his biggest songs and their accompanying music videos, plus four new tunes. And if the first of the new material is any indication of how well this project will do, we can expect a typical Brooks blockbuster. The first single, 'More Than a Memory,' is the first country song in history to debut at No.1 on the charts, and hasn't dropped out of the Top Ten in more than two months.
We spoke with the living legend about coming back into the limelight with this new project, and in our candid conversation, Brooks sets the record straight about his retirement status and tells us how his proudest career moment is pretty in pink.
When you announced the new album, you were very vocal about your nerves coming back into the spotlight. Has the success of 'More Than a Memory' eased those fears?
It sure is a lot more fun than if no one would have accepted it. [laughs] I've gotta tell you, the thing I love about it the most is the relationship with country radio. Every artist grows up with country radio being your guide to what you love as a kid. Someday your dream is to hear Randy Travis, George Strait, Keith Whitley and yourself ... and just hear you inside these great artists. They give you that dream and then all of a sudden, they become the window for your music out to the people. So country radio is very important for that reason for me as an artist. Business wise, there's gonna be a time when my stuff isn't there anymore or isn't demanded anymore, and they're gonna move on. So being something to country radio means something to me. And having this reaction to the first song out in quite some time was more than impressive -- it was very heartwarming.
Given your vast catalog of hits, was the song selection difficult for 'The Ultimate Hits'?
The toughest thing about the song selection was the ballads. You don't want it to get too ballad-heavy. It's the same way in the live show. Songs like 'Somewhere Other Than the Night' or 'She's Every Woman' -- those were wonderful ballads for us and No. 1's for us. But they didn't make the song list for the reason that it's hard for them to compete, coming so late in the career, with things like 'The River,' 'The Dance' and 'If Tomorrow Never Comes.' Also, you must represent every record in your career. So you try to be as fair to 'Scarecrow,' even though it's five years old, as you are to something like 'No Fences,' which is 15 or 16 years old.
How did you decide to use this alum to help the Susan G. Komen foundation in the fight against breast cancer?
The Komen project is the proudest moment of my career. Never have I been more proud of anything I've been associated with than this project here. This is so cool, and I feel so lucky to get to do this. At www.komen.org, you can get your pink version of 'The Ultimate Hits.' It'll be $15, and $10 from every sale is going to go to Susan G. Komen. We're hoping to raise millions of dollars for this foundation because it's not just a female disease, men die from breast cancer as well. It's a non-discriminatory killer and it needs to be stopped. These people at Susan G. Komen are not only fighting it, they're going to end it.
And your wife, Trisha Yearwood, was instrumental in facilitating this relationship.
The whole way the Susan G. Komen pink package came together was because of my wife. Trisha signed up for one of those three-day breast cancer walks. She and her friends trained over 600 miles for this thing. And for three days straight, they walked over 22 or 23 miles a day. And they go everwhere together -- thousands of men and women, walking for survivors, walking for people who didn't survive, walking for people who are fighting now. And I just wanted to be as cool as my wife and figure out how I could do my part in this fight against such a huge beast.
A lot of your fans are wishing they lived in Kansas City right now. You're doing nine sold-out arena shows there this month -- all of which sold out in a matter of minutes. How did you decide on Kansas City?
In the fall of 2006, we made a statement -- Wal Mart has been so good to us on this deal, so I wanted to give them a thank you concert. So we're gonna pull out the stage, the lighting and the rigs -- probably for the first time since '98 -- and go do a concert for Wal Mart. And at about the same time, a woman named Brenda Tennan from Kansas City called and they were about to open the Sprint Center. And she was sweet enough to say the one person she'd love to open the Sprint Center would be Garth Brooks. So my manager replied to that with the same response as always: "Garth's retired. We don't do arenas anymore, but thank you for your interest." Well those two started corresponding and started thinking, gosh, maybe there was a way that we could open the Sprint Center, do the Wal Mart party and do it all in one shot. So it came to pass. But they put the tickets on sale and were hoping to fill that big room that they have there at the Sprint Center, and we got a little luckier than that. [laughs]
What aspect of your live stage show are you most excited about?
I'm most excited about seeing the band members again and seeing the people again. I have a feeling that a lot of the faces out there will be faces we saw out on the road. And that's what I miss. If anybody looks at me and says, "Come on, man, admit it. You miss it," I've got to tell them, business wise -- I don't miss anything. I miss getting to write, getting to create. But the thing I miss the most -- that kills me -- is getting to go into these cities and see these faces and hear these stories about how the music has affected their lives in good times and bad. That's what it's all about. That's what I miss and what I'm hoping to get filled up on in Kansas City.
But you're not technically coming out of retirement as far as touring goes. You are very diligent about putting your family first. What do your daughters think of you coming back into the spotlight?
We do 'Honesty Club' every night, and for the past year, I've been telling them, "This is coming, and we're going to be pretty busy for the last few months of the year. I'm going to need you to hang in there with me." And Kansas City was a gift b
ecause, by plane, it's no more than 45 minutes away from the house. We're just going to bring them with us, and they'll do their homework on the bus during the show. And then we'll take them back home and put them in bed. So hopefully this isn't going to change their lives that much, and hopefully it might even be something a little fun for them.
So the question on every fan's mind is, will there be more touring soon?
No, and I don't want to mislead anybody. Everyone's gotta know that about three years ago, Wal Mart found me in Oklahoma in retirement and wanted 'The Ultimate Hits' then. But there were a couple of things I wanted to do before that, and they were sweet enough to let me. And now I must give them what they came to me for two-and-a-half, three years ago. So this is the last of the Wal Mart deal. And it's a general release, so you can find it everywhere that sells music. Then it's back to just being at home. We'll probably disappear like we did at the end of the '90s. Our youngest [daughter] is 11. In ten years or so, we'll see if our children are on their own and doing great. And then I'll see if Mrs. Yearwood isn't burned out and would like to go back out. I won't go back out without her, for sure. If we get a chance to go out and light it up one more time, then I gotta tell you, that would be a fantastic opportunity.
Looking back over the life of your amazing career, what have been the biggest highlights?
I have two moments that I would say have been the highlights of my career: Getting to play the 100th anniversary of Cheyenne's Frontier Days -- the daddy of them all -- with Chris LeDoux ,and getting to be let into the Grand Ole Opry. Being a member of the Opry is a gift that they cannot take away from you. You get a number and that number fluctuates with people who are on the list who pass away, because you're dealing with tradition here. And I was lucky enough to be number 65 on the 65th anniversary. And with Cheyenne Frontier Days, Sandy was pregnant with Allie Colleen, the last of my three children, and she was right at her due date. So, Chris LeDoux, unbeknownst to me, they had called him and he had driven his band and crew up to be "on hold" in case we couldn't do the show. When I found out, I found him backstage and I said, "Pal, you've got to let me pay for all your expenses up here." It looked like we were going to go ahead and do the show. And he said, "Not on your life, man. This was my treat." And I said, "No, no, you don't understand. I need to pay for this." And it was the only time I'd seen this look on his face, and he said as calm as he could be, "I'd let it go if I was you." And that look on his face -- wow, you talk about a man's man. [laughs] So, I couldn't thank him enough. I went out and played the show, and we did a duet together of 'Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy.' And I gotta tell ya, I thought I had that crowd worked up and I thought I was the man until LeDoux walked on stage. That place went to another level. I loved that man; I miss that man. He was just the greatest.
Of all of the awards you've won, is there one that means the most to you?
Jiminy Christmas, probably not. All of them are very, very special in their own way, because they all represent so many different things. There are so many different fingers that go into being an artist: entertaining, songwriting, singing ... and so many events that I get to do. This 'Ultimate Hits' has several events on it -- with the King of Country Music -- George Jones -- with the queen of my life, Trisha Yearwood, with probably one of the best friends I've ever had in my life, Steve Wariner, and with a rock icon, Huey Lewis. And if you're a fan of him, trust me, he's everything you want him to be -- a nice man, great player, great guy. So those kind of things are what make up an artist. I don't see how one [award] can be more important than the other.
But the greatest award that I've received, when you think about memorable career moments, is the fact that at the end of the day, we could raise the flag for country music and say, "It's country music that has the home for the record sales. It's country music that has the home of the concert ticket sales." I'm so proud that at the end of the day, it's the country music format and the country music fans that gets to enjoy this. And that, I think, is the greatest award that I love to be a part of.