Garth Brooks is a liar.
Hold on. Hear me out.
When Brooks sings his oft-quoted lyric, “I’m not big on social graces,” from “Friends in Low Places,” one of the shortlist mandatory standards on karaoke machines and bars across the county, he is completely full of hogwash. A fibber. A liar.
Because he is big on social graces — or whatever you’d like to call to his ability to interact with other human beings who aren’t the top-selling solo artist in U.S. history, haven’t sold 136 million records and don’t make more money in five minutes than most households do in a year. Sure, he backs the Brinks truck up to every gig — he’s earned it. But he wouldn’t have the ability to do so if he didn’t have that one key quality: grace. Brooks’ ability to make a connection with people is uncanny, and the people return the favor by buying his music and going to his concerts by the tens of thousands at every tour stop nearly 30 years since he began gracing (there’s that word again) county fair stages around the country. If there’s anyone who is entitled to blow smoke up his own rear end, it’s him. But he doesn’t, and people love him for it.
Like his music or not, there’s no arguing that Brooks and wife Trisha Yearwood are genuine people who have no interest in presenting false personas. What you see is what you get, 24/7.
When Brooks speaks of being humbled to the point of tears when people show up to hear him play, he’s being 100 percent sincere. When Yearwood describes her recent role as Mary, the Mother of Jesus in the “The Passion,” as one of the most satisfying things she has ever done, you can tell within her voice and the look in her eye that it’s being said with profound sincerity. It’s real.
Their social graces are second-to-none.
So, yes, Mr. Brooks, you are a liar — but a damn good one.
Darren Tromblay spoke to Brooks and Yearwood briefly following their April 29 press conference and prior to that night’s performance, the first of six sold-out shows at Wells Fargo Arena.
Why now? Why come back and go out on the road again?
We had three girls. When three went to two when one went to college, the house wasn’t that different. When it went from two to one, it was a freakin’ war. (laughs) My mom had a problem with an empty nest, and I told her (points to Trisha), I said, ‘I’m going to go nuts.’ She said, ‘Would you ever think about touring again?’ I thought, ‘Hell yeah,’ but what will the people think about it? And then when they showed up in Chicago like they did, I cried like a baby and said, ‘You know what? This might actually work.’
Help me understand how someone who is considered an icon by many could have that train of thought?
Maybe other guys view themselves as icons, but I don’t. We try to stay busy, because if we don’t, we get nervous. My problem is, I don’t know why they (the fans) show up. So, if you don’t know why they show up, you don’t know IF they’re going to show up. But they do. There’s a lot of truth in humor that hides things, and I jokingly ask, ‘Is this the first time God has made a mistake?’
What is your opinion on people who stand and watch concerts through their cell phones? Aren’t they missing out on a true concert experience?
It used to be the front row was this (holds hands in the air). Now the front row turns their back to you (to take a selfie with the artist in the photo, too). It’s just different. I wish I could explain it. You could sit here and go, ‘Hey, I’m the guy, what are you doing?’ Or you can join in and have fun with it. If I had one guy to pick out there to be, it would be Tony Bennett. Tony Bennett is the coolest guy on the planet. He just loves everything, and instead of doing what old guys like me do, and that’s fight, fight, fight, he brings it in and makes it part of him and makes it cool. Billy Joel did a thing called “The Last Play at Shea” at Shea Stadium before they tore it down. I was lucky enough to get a call to be a part of this thing. There were Friday and Saturday night shows, and I was flying out, reading the review for Friday night, and there it was: ‘Tony Bennett steals the show. The crowd got as loud as it got all night for Tony and was never that loud again.’ So I go into the lockerroom at Shea, and there’s Tony. I said, ‘Tony, I’m reading where you killed it last night.’ I’m expecting Tony to look at me and go, ‘Oh, no.’ But he looks at me and goes, ‘Well, he shouldn’t have invited me.’ (laughs)
Are you working on new music at this point?
We were supposed to deliver an album last Christmas, but the tour actually just swallowed us. I wrote an open letter about a month ago to anyone who was interested in hearing Garth music, and I said, ‘Today, I want to explain where the music is right now.’ The one thing I keep hearing on tour is, ‘Hey, where’s the Garth stuff?’ I didn’t think the muscle would work again, so I didn’t write very much on (the latest album). But for this one, I just holed up and got in there and started writing every extra second I had. And it’s fun. This will be the most ‘Garth’ thing I’ve brought to the table.
Looking back, to quote your own song, are there any regrets?
The only regret is that I should have taken off sooner to raise my kids, because my oldest girl was 8. So there’s eight years of her life that I kind of zipped in and zipped out of. That would be it, because the thing you want once you find the love of your life and have children is one more day. And that’s the only thing you want — just one more day.
How has life on the road been?
It’s good. I feel like after a year and a half that I’ve finally started to settle in. I said that in front of Garth the other day and he said, ‘Oh, I better start switching things up.’ I’m like, ‘no, no, no no.’ He likes chaos, I like order, so it’s been chaos for the first year, and now I’ve finally figured out the new norm.
What would you tell the 1991, “She’s In Love With the Boy,” version of you if you could talk to her now? What have you learned over the years in this industry?
I would tell her not to get perms. (laughs) When you see the Throwback Thursday stuff, there’s just a lot of hair. I was 26 years old then. I’m 51 now, so there’s a lot of water under the bridge. I wouldn’t want to go back. I wish my body didn’t feel 51. My brain I like a lot better, and I just don’t stress about the things that don’t matter. I enjoy my life, and I don’t do things anymore if they’re not going to make my life better. I’d just tell that 26-year-old to hang on, everything’s going to be all right.”
Your music and other forms of art seem to all revolve around a theme of “home.”
I’m definitely a homebody.
So why did you make the decision to branch out beyond music and do more things such as acting, your own TV show, etc., things that would inevitably pull you away from music and your center, which is home?
The first thing that happened was I got a call about doing my autobiography, and I went and met with some publishers in New York, but I wasn’t interested in doing that. I’m not 80 yet, and even then, I probably won’t do it. So in the meeting they asked me what I like to do, and I said, ‘Cook.’ It wasn’t a planned situation, and by the time I walked out of the meeting I had an offer to write the (cook)book. I never dreamed it would turn into three books and a cooking show. And then what happens is, people go, ‘Well, what pans are you cooking in, and what pans do you like?’ And that turned into my own line of cookware. Then I took the meeting with the furniture people, just to be nice. I didn’t think I had anything to offer, but I fell in love with them. It’s been a natural progression.
Your role as Mary, the mother of Jesus (in the recent-released musical, “The Passion”), had to be a great experience.
I was never more terrified, but it was one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done and incredible to be a part of.