“This is 100 percent my fault,” Garth Brooks admits to Billboard of a barricade to his plans for a 25th anniversary reissue of his groundbreaking No Fences album. The project, which was tentatively set for release in November, was to include remixed and remastered versions of all 10 tracks, plus a collaborative version of the country icon’s colossal hit, “Friends in Low Places,” featuring guest vocals by George Strait, Keith Urban, Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line. But financial talks with two of the several publishers tied to various songs on the 1990 album hit a stalemate and don’t seem to have the potential to progress.
Brooks had already inked a substantial deal with a retailer he’s refusing to name for the No Fences reissue, but its terms were not amenable to Sony/ATV Music and Universal Music Publishing Group, two of the biggest publishers in the U.S. Under the plan, the unnamed retailer would buy at least one million copies of the anniversary album — but for discounted royalty rates. (Brooks is also keeping mum on the exact amount of the proposed discount.) All publishers would have to agree on those rates in order for the deal to work, and the two negating companies aren’t budging — for reasons Brooks himself completely understands.
“They said to protect the songwriters,” says the singer. “I respect that. That’s been my whole thing since day one; you have to protect the songwriters.”
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Brooks’ big comeback last year after a 13-year hiatus from the road and as many years since releasing an album of new material has had its fair share of ups — including sold-out shows in every city of his world tour with wife Trisha Yearwood — but hasn’t been without its downs. Long before the No Fences reissue stalemate was a breakdown in talks with Dublin, Ireland city officials over five shows that were to have preceded the superstar’s big tour. Tickets were already sold out when Brooks canceled those concerts. And while last November’s release of his Man Against Machine album proved an out-of-the-box chart success, its momentum slowed after the second single, largely due to an internal shakeup at partner label Sony Music Nashville, and a third single was never released.
But while Machine may have already run its course and No Fences is in danger of losing its silver anniversary celebration, there is new Garth Brooks music on the horizon. The singer-songwriter has confirmed he’s working on a holiday album with Yearwood.