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“I didn’t think I liked country music. Then I got into Garth Brooks.” That’s what Zac Brown told me last week. Not that he was only into Brooks, just that Brooks was his first introduction to country after a childhood spent listening to the music his older siblings loved. “My brother’s 21 years older than me, so I grew up doing more adult things. Like listening to old music. All my siblings being all different ages meant I got exposed to music that was 20-30 years older than me. And that was a big influence,” he said. Brown told me one sister was really into Cat Stevens, and one brother loved bluegrass. It was that brother who showed Brown the Garth Brooks light. “I remember the first time I heard ‘The Thunder Rolls.’ It was dark and we were driving to the beach. There was the thunder outside and the thunder in the song. It was eerie,” he recalled. “That was the first time I really started listening to the lyrics, understanding the story and getting country music. Then I started listing to more country, and that’s really where the great lyrics are. If you break down most rock songs and look at the lyrics on a piece of paper, it’s all about melody. It’s all about presentation. And a lot of bands are really great, but you can’t understand a word of what they say.” I couldn’t agree more. Brown went on to tell me, “The lyrics are so important to me. And that there is something going on in the lyrics. That the song actually has something to say.” So thank you, Garth Brooks, for kind of passing the baton and inspiring one of country’s best songwriters today.