Country superstar Garth Brooks refers to his wife, fellow power vocalist Trisha Yearwood, by the endearing term “The Queen.” Given that, it’s hard to argue that it’s certainly good to be the king. Brooks, who famously retired at the peak of his career to spend more than a decade devoted to raising his children, recently executed a seamless re-entry into the music world, effortlessly picking up his old fanbase and charming legions of new admirers as well.
At the beginning of November, he won the ultimate proof of his enduring legitimacy: the coveted Entertainer of the Year Award from the Country Music Association. He and Yearwood are in the middle of a three-year tour; he’s about to release both a new studio album and a Christmas album (the latter also with Yearwood); he’s making a guest appearance on hit reality series The Voice, and is about to see his historic summer 2016 performance at Yankee Stadium hit a nationwide broadcast tonight (Thursday, Nov. 10).
As one might imagine, considering his streak of fantastic fortune, Brooks is an affable guy. He’s got an infectious laugh and liberally uses such terms as “sweet” and “frickin’ great.” The legend sat down with Yahoo Music to discuss his televised concert, his kids, the CMA Awards, and hitting the stage every night with his Queen.
YAHOO MUSIC: What were your initial thoughts when you first saw your Yankee Stadium show broadcast onscreen?
GARTH BROOKS: It’s the 4K that really threw me for a loop — I got to see it on a 4K monitor and it was pretty wild. I was amazed at how clear it was, and the Queen was dreading it. She was like, “Oh no, 4K!” — and she looked fantastic. She stole the show for me.
It was also right after the July 4th weekend, and Dallas had just happened — the shootings — and I’m trying to think of what happened… it was Louisiana right before? And, so, there was a wonderful moment in there, this thing “People Loving People,” the one you never thought would steal the show. But it just struck that night. It was a great moment for love and tolerance, in New York of all places, where there are so many different lifestyles, so many different colors of skin, different agendas. They all came together for a beautiful moment there.
Are there any moments you’d like to flag for those who didn’t see the actual live show?
I can tell you this — I’m thinking there’s going to be more people seeing this show than there was in Yankee Stadium [laughs]. So I’m thinking that even the people that were in Yankee Stadium — you didn’t see the show ‘til you see it like this. It’s amazing! The crowd was fantastic. My thing is always, show the crowd more than the artist, because for me, that’s the whole joy of a Garth show — the crowd. The audience shots were the best yet. They were singing… it was a cool, cool night. I’m gonna say something that I shouldn’t: It looks cooler on TV than I remember it being!
So everyone should see it, even those who were there for the real thing?
Let’s switch gears — you recently won Entertainer of the Year at what was probably the most exciting CMA Awards to be held in years.
Me and you got the same comment on that. I thought the opening was the best ever, when they gave the mic to Randy Travis — I lost it. I was screaming and crying at the same time: “This is great!”
It makes a great statement that you won this award, after taking off so much time to raise your children. There are a lot of female artists who take time off to raise families, but it’s not so common for male artists to go the full-time dad route.
I wish I knew what to say. I think as you get older, you get into uncharted waters—the Entertainer of the Year award 25 years away from the first time you were lucky enough to get it — especially with everything that went on in between. You said guys vs. girls, but I think as a society… in my generation, if you were lucky enough, your mom got to stay at home. But I think anyone given that opportunity [to stay home] would have taken that opportunity. The fact that they let [me] back in, that was special.
You have won quite a lot of awards, to say the least. What made this one stand out for you?
You know, they say, “Do awards get old?” I gotta tell you, man, the older you get, the rarer they get. You know what I mean? So, if anything, they become more special or more precious.
You and your wife practically stole the entire CMA Awards with your duet medley. Did you get to choose which songs you sang, or did the producers have a say in that?
This was ours. I think we did eight; they gave us two more. I can’t tell you how many people have commented on that performance… for me, I didn’t think it was a big thing, because it wasn’t a big entertainment sparkle-and-shine thing.
But what I did love was — we’re talking the greatest music in history to pick from. It’s like here’s your shopping cart, go into the store, and pick the life-changing songs that changed an entire world. Johnny and June, Conway and Loretta, Wynette and Jones — and for a duet couple like Ms. Yearwood and myself, that’s like somebody in sports getting to be LeBron James or getting to be Michael Jordan. That was really frickin’ cool to do that!
Did you and Trisha have a particular favorite song in that medley?
I gotta say “Golden Ring.” The way those two did harmony to each other… and I gotta tell you, I’m the biggest Jones fan on the planet, but Tammy Wynette had more balls than most male artists, ever. She handled her part with strength, confidence — that’s tough going against Jones like that. So, you sit next to Ms. Yearwood, and watch her take that role over — it’s very fitting for her, she’s very comfortable in that role.
Speaking of the CMA Awards, there was some flak from country fans regarding Beyoncé’s appearance at the show. Did you enjoy her performance with the Dixie Chicks?
It reminded me very much of [Chris] Stapleton and J.T. [Justin Timberlake] the year before. Next to George Jones and Randy Travis, that might be the greatest duet I’ve ever seen at the CMAs. I like it when they mix those things in; it’s sweet of other artists to come in and share in country music’s biggest night. It’s very nice.
Your fans have been waiting and hoping for this tour with Trisha for years. How is it going so far?
In the ‘90s, we had America and the world’s biggest tour; we had 5 million tickets in three years, 100 cities. This one, we are right on the doorstop of 5 million, we’re at 52 cities — in two years. You look at those numbers and just shake your head and go, “That makes no sense whatsoever!” [laughs] It’s so sweet, man; people are showing up in record numbers, with these great attitudes, and you are a lucky person if you get to play for these crowds!
What’s the best thing about touring with your wife?
The best thing is we’re just together. With these two albums coming out, we’re gone — 24-7, I mean gone. And they’re worried about working you too much, right? I just said, “Look, man, as long as I’m with that woman, it’s not work.” As long as you’re breathing the same air, in the same dressing room hanging out, it doesn’t matter if it’s 4 in the morning or if you’ve been going 48 hours. As long as we’re together, I’ll do this as long as she wants.
So you never get tired of hitting the stage, night after night?
Oh hell, no. My retiring days are behind me — they’re going to have to throw me out now. I could do this twice a night, every night, for the rest of my life. You don’t want it to end. It’s that much fun.
It does seem like a lot of hard work… especially with everything you have going on this fall. The Voice, the new albums, etc.
[Laughs long and hard] This is easier than breathing. You want some work for your ass? Be a parent. There’s some work for your ass. That was 24-7 constant work: them going, you going. But playing music — it’s just breathing in and out for me. I love it.
Being a dad to three daughters certainly does entail a fair amount of work!
They said, “Describe your girls in one word.” I said, “That’s easy: drama!” That was it. They’re so much drama. But let me tell you, it just gets better every day. It’s the sweetest thing to be a parent of a daughter. When they hit their twenties, they become these lovebugs that come back. It’s just so sweet.
For lack of a better way to put it, you’ve won basically everything, hit every milestone imaginable as an artist. Which accolade over your career personally means the most to you?
I’m not sure I can do that. I thought you were going to ask me about a bucket list.
OK. That works too. Having done so much in your life already, do you have a bucket list?
Yes, I do, and it’s just one thing. It just says: ONE MORE DAY LIKE THIS. The music, thank God, has made the leap of time. There’s the love of your life every day. Your children are healthy, and they’re in their own lives so you don’t feel guilty about gone — just one more day of this. I’ll take it.