Garth Brooks Gets Ready for Game Day

Superstar's Competitive Streak Will Come Through in Promoting New Music

Garth Brooks will come out of retirement long enough to devote at least four months to promoting his new single and CD/DVD set, but he volunteered few specific details during a Saturday (Aug. 18) press conference in Nashville.

Brooks was not present Friday (Aug. 17) when executives from Big Machine Records played the single, “More Than a Memory,” to a select group of country radio programmers from throughout the nation. Although his new three-disc set, The Ultimate Hits, will be released on his own Pearl Records label, Brooks has partnered with Big Machine to secure radio airplay. The Ultimate Hits will include “More Than a Memory” and three other songs, along with 30 of Brooks’ biggest hits. After a two-year exclusive agreement with Wal-Mart, Brooks’ CD/DVD package will be available at all retailers on Nov. 6.

Meeting with the radio programmers and other media at the press conference, Brooks insisted he has no plans to tour until his youngest daughter is grown. However, he did make a vague reference to planning something special to offer country radio stations to promote his new projects.

“If you can’t eat it, live it and breathe it, it’s just not what I want to do,” Brooks said when asked about touring. “Will I tell you that from October, November … maybe as late as February … you’re gonna see us everywhere? Yes, you will. It’s going to be my job to do that because Wal-Mart and the other retailers have bought in big to this. So it’s my job to let people know it’s out there. Not to force them to go get it, but to let them know.

“And the way we do that is the way we’ve always done it. We’ll be taping programs for different people throughout that four months that might be seen for the next year. … After February, I’m going to go back to whatever it was I was doing before Wal-Mart found me. I’m just finishing this promise I made to them and made to myself, and then we’ll sit on our butts for a while. Our youngest [daughter] is 11, so you can see we’ve got a stretch of about 10 years out in front of us where we’re just going to be raising children and doing our thing.”

Regarding his plans for working with radio stations, he said, “The fans are the reason why we get to do what we do. So if we’re going to do something … with technology, we’re going to find a way to bring it locally into your town. That’s all I can say about it because the deals aren’t done yet. The fan is the No. 1 thing because this is their record. … So we’re going to find a way to share that with people on that big mass scale. But we’re going to do it locally for the individual radio stations and make them as personal as we can.”

The Ultimate Hits includes a DVD containing music videos for all but one of the 34 songs featured on the two audio CDs. In addition to existing clips, Brooks said music videos for several songs were shot recently in Nashville. He’s still working on a new video to call attention to the 15th anniversary of the video for “We Shall Be Free.” Directed by Timothy Miller, the original video featured guest appearances by Mother Teresa, Harry Belafonte, Jay Leno, Reba McEntire, Eddie Murphy, Colin Powell and others.

“We went back to Tim Miller … and we have put the call out to celebrities and sports figures to do what they did 15 years ago,” Brooks said. “I saw the first rough cut of it two days ago and just cried like a baby. I just love us as a people. Right now, finding something good is hard … but it’s still there. You’ve just got to dig a little deeper to find it, and that’s what this new video hopefully is going to tell us all.”

Brooks said one of the challenges he now faces is finding the right songs to record and material that matches the quality of his previous hits, including “The Thunder Rolls” and “Friends in Low Places.”

“One of the biggest battles that you have as an artist is growing older,” he said. “What you find is that older artists will do older-sounding music. It’s really tough for an older artist to do music that sounds like the new kids are doing. So there’s the wire you walk — where you do that thing [that represents] who you are, but at the same time, there might be a newer side of who you are — a side we haven’t seen yet. So there’s a balance on this record.”

Brooks acknowledged having trepidation about returning to the spotlight.

“I’ve got a lot of apprehension,” he said. “I’m scared to death. If you ever stood outside a racetrack and tried to figure out how in the world you get to that speed without getting run over, that’s where I’m at. … I’m seeing the young guys that are out there slamming it every day and [I'm] thinking I know what that speed is. Am I ready to run at that speed? I don’t know.

“The thing is that whether it be athletics or whatever, I’m a competitor. So when it’s game day, you start competing. So you’ll do what you can to go out there and represent your format. … And the more success country radio has with your stuff, the more success you have. So it only behooves me to take care of country radio and take care of the fans who listen to that. That’s hopefully what we’re going to do.”

Calvin Gilbert has served as CMT.com’s managing editor since 2002. His background includes stints at the Nashville Banner, Radio & Records and Westwood One.