A version of this story appears in Friday’s The Oklahoman.
Garth Brooks begins comeback
The Oklahoma country music superstar announces new record deal and album, along with plans for a world tour and a long-awaited foray into digital music.
The comeback is officially on for Oklahoma country music superstar Garth Brooks.
Certified by the Recording Industry Association of America in 2000 as the No. 1-selling solo artist in U.S. history, the Tulsa native announced at a Thursday press conference that he has inked a new record deal with Sony Music’s RCA Records and is working on his first album of new material since 2001’s “Scarecrow.”
“Hopefully, if we do our job right and everything, somewhere around Black Friday is usually when we do our thing,” the Yukon-bred singer/songwriter said during his press conference in Nashville, Tenn.
“I’m kind of all pent-up, if that’s the right word, because it’s been awhile since you’ve got to express yourself. So, the new record I think is going to be what we traditionally would know as a double album just because there’s a lot to say.”
The Country Music Hall of Famer also confirmed his plans to embark on a world tour, even after he canceled five shows planned for later this month in Dublin, Ireland, amid fierce controversy.
“It’s a day of joy. I’m not gonna be lying to you, with everything that’s been going on the past 10 days, it’s also under a cloud right now. But we’re hoping that joy will eventually shine for anybody that’s interested in Garth Brooks music,” Brooks, 52, said during the press conference, which streamed live on GarthBrooks.com.
Plus, the longtime holdout revealed that he will soon make his musically available digitally exclusively on his soon-to-be-relaunched website.
“People are going to mistake for giving it away. But I’m not. There’s gonna be a window coming with this digital era for anyone who’s waited for Garth Brooks to go digital to get it all — and at a stupid price,” he said, adding he wanted to reward fans who have waited patiently for him to embrace the digital wave.
“It’s a pretty big step. It’s pretty scary. It’s a cool form, and when it’s used right, it can do wonders for the artist. And even better, it can do wonders for the songwriters. When you do it right, we’ll all succeed. So we will be doing our digital the best that we can, the only way that we know how, because we’re the only ones that kind of play our own way.”
Return from retirement
In 2001, Brooks retired from touring and recording, saying he wanted to devote himself to raising his three daughters. His youngest, Allie, graduated high school in May.
Along with performing at events like President Obama’s 2008 inauguration and charity concerts like last year’s OK Twister Relief, the Oklahoma State University graduate accepted an offer from hotel magnate Steve Wynn to appear periodically at his Wynn Encore Theatre in Las Vegas for a four-year solo residency because he was able to schedule those performances around his daughters’ school activities.
He became emotional as he thanked fans for allowing him the time to raise his family.
“What happened to me in the last 14 years – greatest gift you could ever give somebody. I found my purpose,” he said in a choked voice.
Now that his is back to making music, the longtime Owasso resident said he intends to make it his way.
“Scared? Yeah. Old? Yes. We’ll see what the second half is. First of all, I want to thank God and everybody that’s giving me the chance to actually look at a second half of a career. I don’t know too many artists that get this chance,” he said. “The world has changed, we know that, but all we can be is ourselves.”
He said he doesn’t plan to follow the “bro-country” or “hick-hop” trends burning up the country charts, but hopes to cut more songs like “Friends in Low Places,” “Callin’ Baton Rouge” and “The Thunder Rolls” that stand the test of time.
Sony Music Entertainment CEO Doug Morris said he was thrilled to add Brooks to his roster of artists, which includes Checotah native Carrie Underwood, Tishomingo resident Miranda Lambert, Muskogee’s Swon Brothers, Brad Paisley, Chris Young and Kenny Chesney.
“When you have the opportunity to add one of the best-selling record artists of all times to your roster, you just jump at it,” Morris. “He’s sold over 134 million albums – with more to come. He is the only solo artist to have six albums sell more than 10 million copies. He has spent more weeks at No. 1 on the album chart than any other artist in history; now think of all the artists that have put out records – it’s incredible.”
Back on the road
Although he didn’t reveal the dates for his comeback tour, Brooks expressed awareness that his shows will have to live up to the now-legendary spectacle of his 1990s concerts.
“The mere possibility or sheer possibility that there might be people waiting when we came back is very humbling, very flattering. And for those who show up, I hope we give you a show that makes you forget the ones that were in the ‘90s. That is the goal,” he said.
Brooks expressed disappointment that he wouldn’t be keeping his promise to play in Dublin’s now-finished Croke Park, which was under construction when he performed there in 1997.
“Up to 10 days ago, two weeks ago, it was nothing but love. And then came the thing where ‘Hey, Garth, we’re OK in three of them. You’re gonna have to figure out what to do with the other two.’ I wish I knew where that came from,” he said.
“Ireland should never be embarrassed. Its people should never be embarrassed. Most loving people on the planet. … The system? The system should be looking at itself, saying ‘we have flaws.’”
In January, Brooks announced he would play a “Comeback Special” of two shows, but when three more concerts were added to cope with demand, some nearby residents complained. Last week, Dublin City Council granted outdoor event licenses for Brooks’ July 25, 26 and 27 shows but denied them for the July 28 and 29 concerts. Brooks said he would perform all five shows or none, and the whole series was canceled Monday, leaving 400,000 ticketholders disappointed.
“At no time in there ever did anybody go ‘whoa, whoa, wait.’ At no time when the 400,000 tickets were announced that they sold through did anybody go, ‘whoa, whoa, wait.’ At no time in these monthly meetings that you go to have to get your stuff done to get to the next meeting to let the shows go on did anybody say ‘whoa, whoa, whoa,’” Brooks said. “If I think of Ireland, I think of love. For me, it’s not Ireland to say ‘160,000 people, screw you.’ That’s just not you guys. So trust me, I’m shocked.”
He said he plans to announce the launch city for his tour in the coming days — as soon as he tells Andy from Atlanta. It seems back at a January Las Vegas show, Brooks promised the persistent fan he would be the first to know the first stop on the comeback trek, so on Monday, he said he intends to call him with the news.
“And what Andy chooses to do with that information is up to Andy. We’ll make our announcement shortly after,” he said. “We made a deal that night in front of the Vegas crowd, so I’m gonna hold up my end.”