Garth Brooks is adding “DJ” to his résumé. The country music legend is set to curate his own station, the Garth Channel, on SiriusXM.
The 24/7 satellite and online channel, with music chosen and presented by Brooks, launches September 8th and will feature music spanning his four-decade career, as well as songs from artists who influenced him and current acts he enjoys. He joins such artists as Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Chesney, Pearl Jam, Tom Petty and Jimmy Buffett, all of whom have branded stations on SiriusXM.
Brooks, who says his plans for the station are still developing, predicts 50 percent of the content will be his own music, with the remaining 50 percent “stuff that I love. It’s going to be everything from Haggard and Jones to Katy Perry and Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga and Strait,” he tells Rolling Stone Country. “I’m also big on songwriters and on undiscovered music too, like [his opening act] Karyn Rochelle.”
Catering to his die-hard fans, the Garth Channel will also air live recordings and other rarities from Brooks’ vault. “We record every night on this tour, so we’ll have our choice,” he says, adding that vintage live material, such as his 1996 episode of VH1’s Storytellers and appearances on PBS’s Austin City Limits are also likely to surface.
Regardless of the content, he wants to create a safe haven for his fans. “If you’ve had the best day, come celebrate with us. If you’ve had the worst day, come get in that dark place and just know that this is your place to come where love is the first and foremost thing,” he says. “It’s like [our] concerts: I want to take you for a roller coaster ride. I want you to laugh, I want you to cry, but most of all I want you to know that you’re in a world that’s kind and loving.”
Brooks will have a presence presenting music on the channel as will his wife, Trisha Yearwood— so much so that SiriusXM has provided them with the equipment they need to broadcast from their Nashville home with ease. “One of the great things is you get to hire two or three DJs. The first person I went to was Trisha because I thought this would work well for her world, as well,” he says. Brooks tapped former Big Machine Label Group promotion exec Mandy McCormack, who has worked with Brooks and Yearwood since 2015, to serve as the Garth Channel’s program director.
Though Brooks stresses he sees the station evolving over time as he grows more familiar with what works, he adds his involvement will also increase after his three-year tour concludes in 2017. “You’ll see the shift go over to the station more,” he reports. “As the tour winds down, you’ll see us start to play a bigger role.”
Brooks, who has scrubbed his music from YouTube because he feels the channel doesn’t fairly compensate artists and songwriters, is unsure if he’ll debut new material on the Garth Channel, “knowing the second you broadcast it, with the re-streaming services that you have, it becomes not special anymore.”
That uncertainty extends to premiering a new single on the Garth Channel from one of the two albums Brooks has coming in the fall: a Christmas duets album with Yearwood and a new studio album. “I don’t know if we are, but that is one of the great options that you have and it would make nine kinds of sense that you do.”
Though several songs are already completed, the recording of the new studio set, which was originally slated to come out last year, has been slowed by studio bassist Mike Chapman’s battle with cancer, which he lost in June. “It’s an honor to have gone through this with Mike and his family,” said Brooks of Chapman, who has played on all of Brooks’ albums. “With that said, this album has been pushed back because we’re having to re-look at how this thing sounds now that Chapman is no longer part of this process. You just keep going back to tracks you haven’t used that have his playing on them; you just so want to preserve his sound. So we’re just looking at all our options now. We don’t want to rush it, so we’re asking the people to be patient.”
The albums will be his first since Man Against Machine, which he released through Pearl/RCA Nashville in 2014, his first new studio set since 2001’s Scarecrow. His initial deal with RCA Nashville has ended and Brooks says he is “figuring out what we’re going to do. . . Right now we’re focusing on the music. I’m not sure what label, if any major label, it’s going to be on at this point,” adding that it will “probably be on our own [label].”
Brooks only co-wrote three songs for Man Against Machine, admitting that he didn’t trust his pen after his long hiatus. For the new album, he will have his hand in almost every song, “which is very odd for me,” he says. “Usually it’s half and half. This one, I just find my pen in everything we’re doing. I know there’s one song for sure on the album that I have nothing to do with, but it will be the most Garth thing we’ve done since [1997’s] Sevens.”
Before he returns to the studio, Brooks is looking forward to his two Yankee Stadium dates in New York, July 8th and 9th. The concerts, the only stadium stops on his tour, will use elements of the massive stage, including a huge ring that extends into the audience, that he originally constructed for his five sold out 2014 shows at Dublin’s Croke Park, which were cancelled after the city would only grant permits for three shows. “That ring was built because the Irish crowds were so large and their venue was so big that to get to people was hard. Now you’re sitting in center field in Yankee Stadium and the whole overall warmth and intention of it plays to wherever you’re playing, so this is nice,” he says. “The ring puts you right in the middle of the people who have given me my career and my life.”
Indeed, on a career built on striving for connection, Brooks sees the Garth Channel as one more way to reach out and touch his fans. “The cool thing I’ve always enjoyed is just talking with the people,” he says. “I’m hoping that’s the role this station is going to play, too.”
It could also serve as a harbinger of bigger things to come, hints Brooks, who has withheld his music from streaming on services such as Apple Music, Spotify or Tidal. “Sirius is the first step we’re taking in bringing our music more to the forefront. I think this is a natural progression between here and eventually signing a deal with one of the streaming companies.”