Eleven years after he had a Country Radio
Seminar crowd whooping and hollering over
"Friends in Low Places," Garth Brooks returned to
the annual event Friday (March 2), this time
performing solo. Dressed casually
in jeans, a Chris
LeDoux ball cap and work boots, Brooks revisited
his old hits and played songs that influenced the
of his music. He also answered questions
from the large lunchtime gathering at the Nashville
made an ambiguous announcement of his
retirement in October, though he is at work on a
new album. "It's been a year,
a year and a half, of
taking care of responsibilities that I ran from for
years," he said, apparently referring to his
role as father to his daughters.
Brooks referred only briefly to future work. His new album, he predicted, will show
Seger's influence. "For me, where Bob Seger was in the '70s is where I want
to be right now as an artist, singing what
I call 'blue-collar cool stuff," he said.
"When I see the album, I see thunderstorms, wheat fields, that kind of cowboy
thing, for me."
He also said his estrangement from his wife Sandy -- they filed for divorce in
November -- has colored
the new project. "Everything that I write ... sounds like
Edgar Allan Poe on downers. Dark would be bright for this stuff
... I should be
drinking to write this kind of stuff."
Of the 4,000 songs he has heard for the new project, Brooks
said he has put a
hold on one for himself and one for a duet with Trisha Yearwood. His producer,
Allen Reynolds, has
listened to more than 10,000 songs without bringing one to
The CRS luncheon was hosted by the American
of Composers, Authors and Publishers
(ASCAP), the performing rights organization that
collects royalties for the performance
of Brooks' songs.
"I know the ASCAP luncheon is to come and to
show you guys stuff you haven't seen," he said,
you guys pretty much know me inside and
out, so what I thought we'd do [for the 11-year
anniversary] is ... just talk
to each other."
Brooks began with Cat Stevens' 1971 pop hit,
"Wild World," a song he said he played at Willie's
in Stillwater, Okla., before becoming a
He recalled meeting Bob Dylan at the Grammys in 1992 --
"I could never
understand a damn word he ever said," Brooks joked before performing Dylan's
"To Make You Feel My Love."
waxed wistful for the country music of the '70s. "It will never be what it
was when it was Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Conway
Twitty, Charley Pride,
Loretta Lynn," he said. He proclaimed "He Stopped Loving Her Today" the
country song there is," but said his personal favorite is Cal
Smith's 1974 hit, "Country Bumpkin."
From his own
repertoire, Brooks did parts of "Beaches of Cheyenne" (a request
from an audience member), "The River," "Unanswered Prayers,"
Woman" and "We Shall Be Free."
He brazenly demonstrated his debt to Seger and James Taylor, playing
that suggested striking similarities between Seger's "Turn the Page" and Brooks'
"The Thunder Rolls," and acknowledging
Taylor as a key influence on his
arrangement of Victoria Shaw's "She's Every Woman."
Fielding questions from the
audience, Brooks said he would most like to ask a question of Jesus Christ, though he does not know what that question might
be. He admitted he "got the living s--- kicked out of me" for undertaking the Chris Gaines project. "I don't think people
really dug me playing a character that was so opposite of me." He invited one audience member, Gina Notrica, to join him onstage
to harmonize on a chorus of "The River." And to Johnny Cash's sister, he admitted that while he admires the Man in Black "one
few smart decisions I made was not to try and copy Johnny Cash."
Brooks nodded to his CRS appearance 11 years
ago with a performance of
"Pains," a parody of "Friends in Low Places," and he finished his informal
session with "The