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Garth Brooks Interview: Superstar Entertainer Remembers a Special Friend

Dan Chadwick

Garth Brooks traveled to Nashville from his home in Oklahoma last month for a joyous occasion, the announcement that he was being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Last week, he returned to the Hall of Fame’s Ford Theater to attend a memorial service, a celebration of the life of the late Patsi Bale Cox, one of Nashville’s most respected music journalists and authors, who died last November after battling emphysema.

Patsi, whose last completed work was a best-selling biography called ‘The Garth Factor,’ was an integral part of the superstar’s entire career. She wrote bios and press releases for him as each new Garth album was unleashed on voracious music fans worldwide. While she had, in fact, compiled so much biographical material on him that a book was the next natural step, Patsi’s role in Garth’s life was more significant than merely chronicling his meteoric, unprecedented career path. She was a close friend, a trusted confidant and someone on whom he could count not to sugar-coat any situation.

Garth spoke exclusively to The Boot just days after the memorial, in a conversation that also turned to the state of music business — and what needs to happen before we can expect to buy new Garth Brooks music. He also shared his own experience with one thing everyone’s been talking about lately, the MegaMillions lottery.

Why was it important for you to attend Patsi’s memorial service?

She died a thousand deaths for me. I’ve always said I have three women in my life I could turn loose on any nation and I could win any world war. It would be Miss Patsi, Virginia [Team, noted Nashville album-art designer] and [music journalist/CMT personality] Hazel Smith. I could put those three on anybody and win anything. They absolutely have shown their love for me and their allegiance to me. If I’ve done my job, hopefully they feel it back.

What was your first impression of Patsi?

My first impression of her came in the [Jimmy] Bowen [then-head of Capitol Nashville, the label that first signed Garth] years, where anybody around him, no offense to Jimmy, they just didn’t speak up. And Patsi, she could not not speak up. This gal just says what’s on her mind and she says what she believes is the truth, which is all you can ask of somebody. So, I wanted to hang with her because knowing where you stand anywhere, especially in an entertainment industry, that’s rare to see people declaring sides, instead of just sitting on the fence waiting to see which side things fall on. Patsi declared sides always, and stuck with it.

When you found out she was writing your biography, did you feel like your life was in good hands?

Whatever she prints, she believes to be true. She’s all heart, all love and no nonsense. So if she put something in there that I disagree with, I first go, “Hey, this is Patsi; read it twice and see. She’s not trying to win points with anybody, so you need to look into this.” Even though Patsi recorded what went on in the music business, she created so much of what went on in the music business by her strengths, her beliefs and her influence on people.

Jemal Countess, Getty Images

Patsi had said at one time that you told her you were getting sick of seeing yourself on magazine covers and that if you were getting sick of it, others must be, too.

If we see too much of one person, even though we like that person we start to kind of pull for other people. I found myself pulling for other people. I remember in the ’80s, Randy Travis was my guy. He’s the reason I moved to Nashville, and I just loved him. But at some point when he was winning everything, you find yourself pulling for other people. I remember talking to Patsi about that. I found myself pulling for other people against me. As much as I’ve enjoyed what we’ve gone through … I heard a term at the memorial service, “the Garth era.” My greatest pride and my greatest joy is just being a part of it. I love being a part of country music. I love going out and … doing things for the first time for country music. I always enjoy that. And Patsi got that.

What do you remember about the last time you saw her?

She stayed out here at the house. She was doing a book signing in Tulsa. The thing with Patsi is the first time you meet her and the last time you see her, they’re the same conversation. Whatever was wrong right now, Patsi knew how to fix it, and I never knew her to be wrong. She gave you reason with an attitude. She gave you reason with drive. You felt like you could go out and slay a nation after talking with her because she laid it down. The great thing was the readiness of the conversation. When an artist is in full gear, your life runs very fast and your windows are very few. All of a sudden, something will pop up and your whole world will change. You immediately get to the people that mean something to you and start talking about what you’re facing. With Patsi, I could always call her and if she didn’t answer herself, she would call back within two minutes. She would clear her schedule and we would be talking about what I need to do to keep my career from dying at this very moment, what I need to do make the right decision — because there are heads that are rolling. With the biggest struggles of my career in the ’90s, that was the phone call I would make. Patsi was very knowledgeable, I would put her knowledge of country music history and what was going on with country music at the time against anybody. There’s a difference between knowing what’s on the page in a history book and actually feeling that page have curves and valleys. She knew people very, very well. So she could breathe life into people … and thought about how they thought. She was great at that.

Do you have one special memory of her that will always stay with you?

Patsi and my mom got along fantastically, because my mom was one of those people that could put up with people’s bulls— but she wouldn’t very long. Patsi just never tried to B.S. my mom. Whenever they were together in the same room, they would end up being together all night. They both smoked. And as long as my mom was with Patsi, I didn’t worry about my mom. I’ve got to tell you, that statement just hit me because my mom was everything to me but if Patsi was with her I knew she was OK.

Your Las Vegas shows are continuing and obviously you’re still sticking to staying off the road until all your daughters graduate from high school, but is there anything else you’re working on these days?

Our youngest is a sophomore, so we’ve got two more years here. I spend all my time right now trying to combat music retail and copyright. Because if I’m going to enter back into this race when the girls go off to college, right now there’s no reason to make new music other than the fact that you want to make new music. The way the system is set up, it’s impossible. I unfortunately have been working on that. I can’t wait to get that behind me. Hopefully, between digital spaces like iTunes and YouTube, we’ll get our end figured out, because they’re not going to do it for us. No offense to anybody. We just need to get our collective stuff together and if we do that, I can enjoy a possible shot at a second half of a run. But until that happens, I’ve got nothing planned.

Does that mean you’ve got people working on these issues for you?

Unfortunately, it’s out of my hands, so what I’m doing is a lot of crawling on my hands and knees, begging, pleading, crying to our government, to all of music, to band together. Because if this continues, I don’t know how many fewer labels we can get to. If we’re not waking up yet, then I’m not sure we ever will.

On the subject of government, do you talk to your daughters about politics and the presidential race?

They’re very aware. They’re very sharp on those kinds of things. In our house, everyone’s opinion is welcome. I grew up in a house where everything wasn’t when it came to politics or religion.

One last question: Did you buy a MegaMillions lottery ticket?

[laughs] No, but the only reason was I didn’t know how! I was so busy but when it was going, I was wondering, “Damn, I wonder how I can get hold of one of those!”


Watch Garth Brooks’ Bio


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Garth Brooks Biography

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