Scarecrow may not be the last album we get from Garth Brooks .
The superstar, who presents the second of three CBS-TV specials Wednesday (Nov. 21), has held out the possibility that he might be persuaded to make an album or two in the future. Capitol Nashville apparently has enough leftover material from previous albums that the label could piece together one or two releases simply from pre-existing tracks.
Brooks estimated, during a press conference last Wednesday (Nov. 14) prior to the first edition of Garth Brooks: Coast to Coast Live, that 20 to 30 recordings have yet to see the light of day, and some could be released under the right circumstances. He cautioned, however, that it would not have the depth of Bruce Springsteen’s 1998 release, Tracks, a four-CD set featuring more than 60 unreleased songs and spanning the whole of the Boss’ recording career.
“Springsteen cuts more songs for one album than we have our whole career,” Brooks joked.
Pulling together old, unused cuts has a precedent in Brooks’ career. His 1998 release, The Limited Series, re-packaged his first six studio albums in a box set, with a previously unreleased song added to each album. Because he mined the first part of his career for that release, most of what remains is material from the sessions for Fresh Horses, Sevens and Scarecrow.
“Hopefully, the stuff we have in the can is comparable [in quality] to all Garth’s stuff, it just didn’t fit in the project,” Brooks said. “The president of the label [Mike Dungan] … has been eye-to-eye [with] me, and [was told] that ‘you have my trust in what you do with this now.’”
Some of the remaining tracks are re-makes of other people’s songs, recorded by Brooks in the early stages of making Scarecrow.
“We went in last winter to knock the rust off, and we did a covers project that was fun to do,” Brooks revealed.
“Don’t Cross the River,” a song first recorded by the pop group America, was re-made by Brooks during those sessions in a style inspired by bluegrass band Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. Brooks included that recording on Scarecrow.
Brooks harbors doubts, however, about some of the other covers. He did several George Strait originals, but isn’t sure of their viability.
“When you get in cutting them, you got everyone going, ‘Oh, cool, I like this,’” Brooks noted. “But then, as a fan, you’re going, ‘That’s not how George did this, and hearing Garth instead of George just doesn’t do it for me.’ I was looking very forward to it and then realized maybe the reason I loved those songs as much as I did was because George was singing on ‘em.”
He also recorded the theme from Midnight Cowboy, after performing it during the Oscars last year, but he was less than ecstatic about the studio take.
“When you get in there and cut it, all of a sudden you realize it’s got two verses and a bunch of ‘wah wah wahs’ in it,” he said. “You’re like, ‘That was great,’ ’cause the original version was very cool, but to hear Garth go ‘wah wah,’ it’s just — again, what you find out, these artists, you have more respect for them. It was a moment of time, it was a prefect time, and they blew these things out, and when you go in and try to do it, you either realize you’re not the artist you thought you were or it just doesn’t sound anywhere near as good.”
Of course, singing “wah wah wah” isn’t all that different, he was reminded, from singing “bah bah bah bah bah bah bah,” as he does in his current single, “Wrapped Up in You.”
“I’m hoping,” Garth laughed, “there’s some punk in there 40 years from now that goes ‘bah bah bah,’ and it doesn’t sound the same.”
Other news and notable observations from Garth’s sit-down with reporters:
The movie The Lamb, which was to feature the Chris Gaines character that spurred Brooks’ 1999 pop album, is still a possibility. Paramount has hired a screenwriter to take a stab at a second draft, and Brooks is still willing to make the movie, if a new version makes the grade. Brooks is hoping, during his retirement from touring, to pursue screenwriting, but said he is not yet ready to tackle that skill with The Lamb.
“It may be three years before I even present something,” he said. “I’m just gonna look into it, get very passionate about it, and do my homework instead of stomping in, thinking, ‘Well, just because I’ve done country music, now I can do this.’ It’s a crude statement to think that just because you’ve found success one way, you think you can go to another field right away without going through the teachings and the schools and paying [dues] that you did to your first [artistic] format.”
Brooks’ baseball spring training trips are likely to continue. “The baseball career will be heading into its fourth year in the spring with over $14 million raised for children, which every penny has gone to children,” he said. “To kill that career, all I’m doing is taking money away from children that could use it. Major League Baseball and its players have been very sweet to us. We were just on the phone with two teams in the National League out here, one a little further [from the coast] … and one on the West Coast. It costs the team a pretty good chunk of a donation to the foundation for me to go there, so that’s one hurdle to get over, and then the second hurdle is I’m gonna be 40 in February.”
Asked if his characterization of the National League teams meant the Dodgers and the World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks, he said, “It’s not them.” Which leaves the Colorado Rockies, the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres, with whom he has previously attended spring training. He would only say that the particular clubs are “nice people that I’ve had good dealings with in the past.”
Brooks suggested that the program will expand to the National Hockey League this next year. He offered no details, except that an announcement is forthcoming in early 2002.
Regarding his 40th birthday, on Feb. 7, 2002, he was philosophical. “The thing about time is that time isn’t really real. When you think about it, we created it to mark the days, so it shouldn’t be any different between [age] 20 and 40. It means a huge difference from you [reporters'] side, because, ‘My God, now he’s 40.’ With me, it’s just gonna be a bodily kind of thing. When I can’t get out and run with these guys and play ball, then I’m gonna get kinda sad and that’ll be somewhere around my 66th birthday.”
Brooks indicated that one of his biggest career regrets is that he did not record a duet with his mother, Colleen Carroll, who passed away in 1999. She recorded for Capitol in the 1950s. “I waited too long and never found the right song, and didn’t approach it the right way,” he lamented. “Even if there was some way that mechanically or computerized [I could] do a duet with my mother from her past recordings, it still wouldn’t be [the same].”
It remains unclear whether his divorce from the former Sandy Mahl has been finalized, but he told reporters he was not dating yet. “It’s way too soon for that. I live with three underage girls anyway.”
Finally, now that music is no longer his business seven days a week, he said he is beginning to listen as a fan again. “I used to not be able to listen to it without going, ‘Man, I think if they would’ve went to a five [chord] there instead of a four…’ I have [also] been able to not be so competitive anymore. At awards shows you [would] watch them, going, ‘He shoulda got that.’ And now [I can] be happy for other people’s successes. It’s nice. So all this weight has come off. I’ll be expecting the hair to turn back to black.”