Q&A with Garth Brooks
Monday, October 5, 1998
Minneapolis Star Tribune. Story by Jon Bream
Q: How did you feel when you heard that you had sold out nine shows in Minneapolis?
A:It felt really nice. We had nine on hold, and nine was the number it was looking like the whole day. We thought it was fate, so we went ahead and did nine straight. The most we've done ever done straight was 11 in a row, [but] that was three cities back to back, multiple nights in each one. We'll have 17 shows in 21 days; we need to focus one by one.
Q: What do you do physically to keep up with that kind of schedule?
A: I truly feel that this is a gift from God. [It'll last] as long as it's supposed to last, and the day it's over there's nothing I can do about it.
So [I drink] water a lot, get a lot of sleep. Truth is, you just go out there and say your prayers a lot. There's nights when you're sicker than a dog, and you don't have a voice, and it's kind of enough for the people to hopefully have a good time. Those are the times when I'm thankful that I don't have a voice like a Vince Gill, this gorgeous piece of china that you have to take care of. People allow me to be more the fun kind of guy.
Q: What are you going to do when you're in one town for so many days?
A: Eating. We're a real sports-activity bunch, so hockey is big on our list to play. A lot of baseball, stuff like that. We're looking for anything we can do together. We've rented amusement parks. The two hours out [onstage], that's what we were born to do. It's the other 22 hours that are hard to negotiate.
Q: Most big names charge $40 and upward for concert tickets. Your tickets cost half that. How do you keep your ticket price so low?
A: We don't pay Trisha. [Laughs.] We get asked that, and we're kind of confused, too. All my crew makes a pretty good living, my band makes a pretty good living, and I make a pretty good living. Maybe it's the Wal Mart theory -- you can sell that many more tickets at smaller prices.
One of your biggest bills is local labor. Instead of nine load-ins and nine load-outs, you've got one load-in and one load-out and nine shows. All that money you save is hopefully passed on to the consumer.
Q: And do you do the multiple nights to cut into the scalpers' business? How do you feel about scalping?
A: I think it's probably the one good reason for the death penalty that I see. I don't like it. I think they've got a gun to your head. . . .
Q: What happened to the idea of making an IMAX movie at your shows at Target Center?
A: That was the thing we were going to do in St. Paul-Minneapolis -- to tour [via movie theaters] while we're not here [on the road next year]. St. Paul-Minneapolis is one of the greatest markets for us, and it was originally the last city on the tour. We decided that they should see the show that we've worked on for the last three years, and then find another city we've played in during the [last] three years and film the IMAX thing. We're not sure what city that's going to be. It's something I want to pursue. But the tour manager doesn't get it, which also throws a wrench into it.
It would be a new show. A new show for us is always the worst show for us. The worst show on this tour was the very first show. So we'll take some time off and do some closet rehearsal. And if we decide to do this, it'll either be IMAX or a way to bring it on the [movie] screen with our sound system.
Q: You have big cross-over appeal. Do you consider yourself country, or just a musician, period?
A: Country. Miss Yearwood and I were talking, and she made me feel so good at the start of this tour because it's no secret that I have a hard time with some of the bigger magazines. And Trisha was laughing at me about it. She said, "You know why they're mad at you is because you're playing country, and you're not trying to cross over. You're not trying to kiss somebody's ass on the other side." That made me feel better. . . .
When I see the plaque says "16 million" [for sales of "No Fences"], I know what format gave me that. I don't want to go anywhere else. So country is my thing. We're not as traditional as the guys that are country music, George Jones, Johnny Cash, I understand that. I can only be who I am. There's already one George Strait; otherwise I'd have tried like hell to be like him.
Q: Speaking of country, your appearances at Fan Fair in Nashville have been legendary. How did you manage to meet fans for 23 consecutive hours without even going to the restroom?
A: We should have gone to the bathroom, so people wouldn't have talked. My only thing was that if I took five minutes away, I'd have to be there five minutes longer. I don't know how we'd be able to make it. Me and Mick [a roadie] were trying to come up with good enough lies, and we never came up with anything that we'd buy. So we kept signing [autographs]. Mick was smart enough to cut the line off at 5 o'clock that evening.
We'd started at 11 [a.m.]. A storm came in later, and we thought "great." And these people broke out rain ponchos. The sun started to come up, and they ordered breakfast. Me and Mick were praying when the 23rd hour started. I don't remember hardly anything.
That was during a time in our career when we were getting beat up pretty bad press-wise, so we decided that we were going to Fan Fair and let the people tell us.
Q: You're so beloved by the public, but you've been given this left-handed slam by people in the music business because you're so adamant about controlling your own destiny. Does it bother you that you get criticized for trying to be in control of your career?
A: It's the same answer for all these awards. Between you and me without all these cameras here, it means nothing. I don't want my girls in 10 years to pull out these articles slamming the hell out of their dad.
Q: Have your daughters been to any of your concerts? How do they react to your fame?
A: They don't really know what Dad does. The stage out here is where they come play. The drum pod is, they think, their slide. And they run around the stage.
They came to one show, it was Calgary or Edmonton. We had the luxury of doing three or four nights in the city. So on the final night, the box that the arena owns was empty. So this was going to be their one shot to see Dad. I was scared to death. I was as nervous as I could be. I come out of the hole [onstage], and I look up and see these three little silhouettes just jumping up and down, real fired up. And I get through the first song, and I look over, and all three of them are [snoring sound].
Q: You've been on tour for three years now. How have you changed during the tour?
A: I'm not sure I've changed. Being on tour this much, I see physical changes. I see pictures of the tour when we kicked it off, and I was 25 pounds heavier. I'll put 20 to 25 pounds back on after the tour.
One of the things coming that we all know is that we're going from the '90s to the '00s. When the '00s come and the new millennium, I'm afraid it's going to be out with the old and in with the new stuff.
Q: Tell us about the "Double Live" album coming out Nov. 17. I thought it was going to come out in DVD.
A: Philips is a great company for DVD. The whole project was supposed to be 74 minutes. . . . So Philips said they could make it. I guess I was the stupid one who didn't ask 'How many can you make a day?' They said 12,000 a day. The initial order would take 2½ years to make; we're shipping 6 million. So we're hoping in the future that you can get this in DVD.
Q: Where did the material for the live album come from?
A: The Canadian tour is very heavy in the live album. The live album is something I've always wanted to do but never found the right way to do it. With every million issued, the whole cover package changes. You go to Central Park, or the fire and rain of Texas Stadium. . . .
We will not tell you where each cut is made because some cuts are like four cities melted into one. Some cuts are a city's crowd with some other show's music. The cuts were made from '91 to '98, but primarily during this three-year tour.
Q: You seem to be a very driven, goal-oriented person. What are your current goals?
A: Your first goal is to hear your song on the radio. Your next goal is to have a gold album to hang on your wall; they're so cool. Things change, and so you set goals. I set a goal eight years ago because I thought I needed it to reach 100 million units.
I lived my life without goals for a while. In '92, it was the most depressed time of my career because I didn't know where I was going. Unfortunately, I did the Barbara Walters interview at that time, and I came off as a very depressed guy, which is not me. So I learned very much that you have to have goals. I found a goal that is forever unattainable -- to be the best act in the world. I've fallen way behind on that.
Q: In your video for "Thunder Rolls," you actually did some acting. Do you want to pursue acting?
A: The acting thing, I don't know. I love directing. I did my first video, which should be out in the next six weeks. It's called "I Don't Have to Wonder" from "Sevens." It's just a video, not a single. It was a real hard piece to do. This guy committed suicide; he did it twice in this film. It was hard to do this and get a message across to the kids.
"The Lamb" [a feature film] with Babyface is coming up; so we're working on a soundtrack. Plus a television event for CBS called "Colors of Christmas '99." It'll have its own Christmas album. So we've got a lot of things to do.
Q: What's the hardest thing you've ever had to do?
A: The hardest thing ever for anybody that's got children is to walk away from them. You've got that bus out there, and you hear them screaming. They've got something planned, and you've got something planned.
I think the proudest I've ever been was yesterday, out of all days. My mom came home from UCLA. It was her third bout with cancer. This time they had to cut out her voice box. My mom is a singer. And the day before her surgery, she had to sign for her voice box to be taken out. She cried the whole time. And when they opened her up, they found the cancer hadn't turned down but had gone up to her brain. The scary thing was that if she waited another week, it would have been her brain, but the great thing was that they got it.
The greatest thing was holding my mom's hand, and the nurse comes and tells her that they didn't have to take her voice box. My mom's eyes popped, and she was crying; she couldn't talk because part of her tongue was gone. But yesterday, she came home after deciding to have that surgery. A month ago, her thing was six months to live. I'm so proud of her for making the choice.
When she got home yesterday, it was the most proud I've ever been of any accomplishment of anybody in my family -- my children, myself, my brothers, who were athletic. She's barely 100 pounds, 5 foot 3. And at this point she took on something like cancer; she's tough. I'm going to be proud to announce soon that she'll be on tour with us again, hopefully in St. Paul-Minneapolis.