Garth Brooks says his fans have "just seen the tip of the iceberg" in his alliance with Wal-Mart. Under an agreement activated in time for last year's Christmas buying season, the retail giant and its affiliate, Sam's Club, are the exclusive outlets for the superstar's albums and DVDs. Two more albums -- presumably re-packaged ones --- are already in the works, an associate of Brooks tells CMT.com.
Photo Credit: Marilu White
Brooks, who resides in Oklahoma, was in Nashville Thursday (March 16) to toast the writers of his latest hit single, "Good Ride Cowboy," at a luncheon held at Judge Bean's, a restaurant near Music Row. The writers are Bryan Kennedy, Bob Doyle, Richie Brown and Jerrod Niemann. Doyle is also Brooks' longtime manager.
Although the writers were nominally the focus of the event, Brooks still has such star power that he was clearly the man most people came to see and, with a little luck, talk to. His support team was out in force, including producer Allen Reynolds, recording engineer Mark Miller, attorney Rusty Jones, accountant Kerry O'Neil and a covey of songwriters whose material Brooks has recorded. Well-wishers packed the cavernous room wall to wall. Spotted among the gaggle of TV crews there to cover Brooks was Lonestar's drummer, Keech Rainwater, who was assisting his wife, Elissa Landell of CMT Canada.
Also in the crowd was Joe Mansfield, who was Capitol Records' vice president of sales and marketing when Brooks made his breakthrough. He's back consulting with the singer. Dale Turner, vice president of promotion at Lyric Street Records, came by to pay his respects as well. Lyric Street handles radio promotion for Brooks' label, Pearl Records.
Turner told CMT.com he expects at least one more single from Brooks' current album after his duet with Trisha Yearwood, "Love Will Always Win," runs its course on the charts.
Before the No. 1 plaques and trophies were handed out, Brooks and the songwriters met briefly with reporters. Doyle said the phrase, "Good ride, cowboy," caught his attention when he was reading a biography of Chris LeDoux, the late recording artist and rodeo star the song honors. "What a good metaphor for life," Doyle explained.
Brooks stirred up interest in LeDoux by mentioning him in his first single, "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)," in 1989. And he has taken every opportunity since to praise LeDoux as a performer and a moral example.
Explaining his attraction to "Good Ride Cowboy," Brooks noted, "It wasn't down. It was fun." Noting that Doyle routinely made useful suggestions to songwriters in his role as a music publisher, Brooks observed, "His name should probably be on a hundred songs because of what he did."
Alluding to his much-publicized deal with Wal-Mart, which has so far yielded two albums, Brooks asserted, "You've just seen the tip of the iceberg." When a reporter asked him if he would be recording any new music this year, he said no. This raised the question, of course, of what his upcoming albums might consist of. But neither Brooks nor Doyle would answer that question.
There could still be a few unreleased tracks that never made it into finished recordings for Brooks' early albums. He might also mine songs he's recorded with other artists, such as his pairings with LeDoux on "Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy" and "Five Dollar Fine." Or he could pick up some live tracks from his three Coast to Coast TV specials in 2001. Then there's his relatively untapped The Life of Chris Gaines rock album, which might be retrofitted with a country edge.
In a private conversation after the press conference, a Brooks associate, who asked to remain anonymous, told CMT.com there are two more albums in the pipeline. Last fall, Brooks and Wal-Mart released the five-CD, one DVD boxed set The Limited Series and followed it last month with an expanded version of The Lost Sessions.
ASCAP and BMI, the two major performance rights organizations, sponsored Thursday's party. Gary Overton, executive vice president and general manager of EMI Music Publishing, presented Brooks a plaque, remarking that he was grateful that "the most successful act in music chose to sing country music."
Brooks thanked Lyric Street Records and the industry in general for "treating me like I never went away." He joked about his new role as his own label chief. "It's kind of weird being the label," he said. "Now everything's my fault."