A Country Chat With Garth Brooks

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On March 27, the first part of my two-part blog on Garth Brooks appeared here. Today, I’d like to give you a behind-the-scenes look into the questions and answers that occurred at this “pep rally” to dedicate a new teen area at a Denver hospital. What follows comes from two different interviews—one where I had a chance to talk with Brooks one-on-one, and another as part of a group press conference. (If I didn’t actually ask a question, I’ve indicated that by labeling it with the word “press.”)

Being a part of Plugged In for as long as I have, I’m always interested to hear how media influences people. And one of the first questions I asked was how media and music influenced his behavior. He took the question in an entirely different direction, but the answer was pretty interesting. Here’s what he had to say about that—along with a host of other subjects.

Bob Waliszewski: Can you name a song from your teenage years or your childhood that encouraged you or inspired you in some way? What was that song and how did it encourage you?

Garth Brooks: [When I heard] George Strait for the first time, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. What got me to want to do music was the voice of Steve Perry with Journey. I believe the voice of Freddy Mercury with Queen. … [Merle] Haggard, [George] Jones are the reason why country music exists for me. Those are my dad’s favorite two guys. My mom was an R&B fan. Mahalia Jackson or Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding—all that stuff was in our house. And then being the last of six kids here comes all the classic ‘70s records that my brothers and sisters listened to.  Everything from Free to the Eagles to the individual writers like Billy Joel, Elton John, Dan Fogelberg. But once you hear George Strait followed by Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley—those guys right there, that’s the real deal. So, that was kind of where I wanted to end up.

Waliszewski: Let’s talk about your songs.  Can you think of an e-mail or letter you received in which a song of yours has had a positive impact? Let’s say a song like “Long Neck Bottle” that helped someone kick their alcoholism or “Face to Face” where someone stood up against an abuser?

Brooks: “The Dance” gets a lot of people. “The River” gets a lot of people through. There’s a song on this new album called, “Send ‘Em on Down the Road” that has gotten parents through, [taught] them how to let kids go off and do their thing. So, that’s always nice when the music relates.

Garth-Brooks-blog-middleWaliszewski: One of my favorite songs of yours is “Unanswered Prayer.” Can you think of an unanswered prayer in your own life that you are so glad God did not answer it the way you prayed it?

Brooks: Yeah, I wanted to be an athlete for a living. I’m so glad this is what I get to do for a living. For one, you can do it longer than you can athletics, and it brings so much more joy. I wanted a boy. I’m so glad I didn’t get a boy…I got all girls. It’s the greatest thing. If you’re a dad and you got girls, you’re a lucky man.

Waliszewski:  What’s on the bucket list for you, professionally or personally? What are some things that you can’t wait to do?

Brooks: My bucket list got fulfilled when I got to marry Ms. [Trisha] Yearwood. When I married that woman [in 2005], I got nothing left to do. I just enjoy it now. I want for nothing. She’s that cool.

Press: What do your daughters [22-year-old Taylor, 20-year-old August and 18-year-old Allie] think about you being back on the road?

Brooks: They wish I would have gone back on the road a lot sooner. It’s a wonderful joy to know that [as their father, I] went to every rehearsal, every practice. Never missed anything. Thank God and the people for that chance to do that. … so they were ready for me to go on. I really didn’t discuss it with them that much. It was Ms. Yearwood that kind of let the cat out of the bag when Allie was a junior. If you guys lose children to college each time you know that it gets a little more progressive. Down to a morgue pretty much. A house that was crazy and wild now just gets quiet when you got one baby left. And she [Yearwood] said, What are we going to do? I said, I don’t know. You got any ideas? She said, We could go play music again. We truthfully didn’t know if anybody was [interested]. So, this is very sweet. It’s very nice.

Press: What is one of the biggest lessons you learned being a stay-at-home dad or raising your kids?

Brooks: It’s said in a Don Williams song, that sometimes “you have to live it” in his song called, “Little Boys Like Me.”  The line is, I guess we’re all going to be what we’re going to be. So laying there at night and you just had a problem with one of your children because they’ve done something they weren’t supposed to do. You’re going, Oh, my gosh, where did I go wrong? You’re lying there and the truth is this, you can lead your children to the Lord and teach them manners. You can let them pursue whatever and support them in their pursuit of whatever, but the bottom line is, they’re going to be who they are going to be, not who you want them to be necessarily. My [goal] for my children: I want my children to be happy.

At the same time I would like them to do something that supports them well and stuff. But like my brothers, there were six of us kids and the most important work in our family wasn’t by me. It was done by the guys that were policemen and two that were teachers, two of the lowest paying jobs, public servant and teachers. So if that is what they want to go into, good, but I just want them to be happy and that’s good.  They’re going to be who they’re going to be. So that’s something you’re going to have to accept as a parent. The sooner you get around to that, I think the sooner you’re going to enjoy your children.

Press: Do you still consider yourself an outsider in music?

Brooks: I consider myself a guy that somehow looks at things differently, but you gotta remember [I have the luxury to do that]. People go, Why does this artist do this or why does this artist do that? Ten-to-one the artist has no control. We all belong to record labels, and record labels own our stuff. We don’t. I’m one of the fortunate few who owns their stuff. So, I don’t have to take being treated the way you would be treated if you didn’t have control. So because of that I find myself in a lot of disputes in the industry simply because I am not trying to get to the end of the month. I’m hopefully trying to do something that last longer than me. Truthfully, I don’t care if you ever remember this guy (pointing to himself), but if you remember “The Change.” If you remember “People Loving People, We Shall Be Free.” If you remember those songs than I feel like I’ve done what I’m trying to do.

Who wrote this?

Bob Waliszewski is the director of the Plugged In department. His syndicated "Plugged In Movie Review" feature is heard by approximately 9 million people each week on more than 1,500 radio stations and other outlets and has been nominated for a National Religious Broadcaster's award. Waliszewski is the author of the book Plugged-In Parenting: How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids With Love, Not War. You can follow him on Twitter @PluggedInBob.

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