Garth Brooks performed four of his hits, reflected on his past and dispensed some advice to record producers during his Wednesday morning (March 5) appearance at Country Radio Seminar in Nashville.
Brooks’ Q&A session with Nashville radio personality Gerry House was one of the highlights of the 39th annual CRS, a three-day conference of country radio’s decision-makers. However, the crowd attending the 10 a.m. session at the Nashville Convention Center was not expecting Brooks to perform with his full band.
Although Brooks continues to promote his latest boxed set, The Ultimate Hits, he told House he’s working on some screenplays for possible films. “I haven’t got anything green-lit yet,” he said.
Discussing the creative process of writing and recording songs, Brooks says the country music industry needs to remember to keep the focus on the artists.
“It seems like a lot of records today are not the artist’s, they’re the producer’s,” Brooks said. “[Some producers say] ‘Artists, give me four five passes and get the hell out of here so I can go to work.’ My God, as much as your ego wants it to be, those people out there [in the public] aren’t going to love you as much. … They’re going to love the artists — and they should. Artists are people we should believe in. Artists are people we should listen to.”
Brooks cited the late Dan Fogleberg as an artist who proved to be a major influence.
“I made a lot of my decisions solely off his music,” he said. “That was probably wrong to do, but he was still my guy. … Little lyrics from those big albums … that would fold out. They were pinned up on my wall. Every day before I’d go to class, I’d read through some of them — almost like you should with the Bible. I probably put too much weight on it as a philosopher, but still, that was my guy. I thought James Taylor was my guy. And every day when I went to class, I dressed like George Strait.”
During the interview, Brooks accompanied himself on acoustic guitar to sing segments from several songs, including “The Beaches of Cheyenne.” As part of his CRS appearance, attendees submitted their business cards for a raffle to sing a song with Brooks. The winner was Steve Ferguson, music director and morning show host at WTHO-FM in Thomson, Ga. Ferguson used his cell phone to call the station, only to be told that he and Brooks would have to wait 50 seconds to get on the air while the station finished playing a Kenny Chesney single.
With Brooks on acoustic guitar, Ferguson kicked off the opening lyrics of “Friends in Low Places.” When the chorus arrived, a curtain opened to reveal Brooks’ full band accompanying them in an electric performance. Brooks continued with a brief set that included “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” and “The Dance.”
During his performance, Brooks reminisced about his first CRS visit in 1989 and recalled the names of several programmers who took a chance on him when he was still a brand new artist. Leaving the stage, he thanked country radio for its continued support and told the attendees, “You are the window between the music and the people.”