It’s been a year since Garth Brooks wrapped up the highest-grossing country tour of all time. It was a mammoth undertaking, with 390 shows spread across the country and more than six million people in attendance. Nowhere near ready for a second retirement, Brooks aims to keep the momentum going with this week’s The Anthology Part III Live, a coffee-table book that doubles as a five-disc, 53-song box set of concert recordings.
Also due out this week: an appearance on iHeartRadio Presents’ Inside the Studio podcast. Talking with host (and Rolling Stone contributing editor) Joe Levy, Brooks speaks candidly about his recent World Tour, his concert for 85,000 people at Notre Dame Stadium and the similarities between Pirates of the Carribean and his own stage show. Here are six things we learned from the conversation.
With an 11-piece band and extensive crew, Brooks’ recent concerts have been supersized operations. Even so, Brooks prefers to keep everyone on their toes by changing the setlist nightly, calling audibles throughout.
“Ever seen Pirates of the Caribbean?” he asks Levy. “‘They’re not rules; they’re more like guidelines.'” [The setlist] is ever-changing. If you’re ever been to a Garth show, the one thing you’re gonna know more than anything is the guy whose name is on the marquee, he’s not the boss. It’s the people in the seats.” Accordingly, Brooks lets the crowd dictate the direction of the shows, making each concert unique.
Every ticket to a Brooks show — from the front rows to the rafters — all cost the same.
“We don’t ‘golden circle,'” he explains, referring to the standard practice of charging more for the closest seats. “You don’t pay more to be on the floor than you do at the very top of the stadium. It’s all luck of the draw. If you’re up high and you see somebody sitting on the second row, they just got the luck of the draw… No offense to people who do [the golden circle]. It’s just not our thing, because this makes the crowd a family.”
Each show is an investment.
“You’re never playing a gig for the gig itself,” Brooks says. “You’re always playing a gig for the next time you come back. You wanna be invited back.” That mentality served him well at Notre Dame, where Brooks left the stadium with an offer to return one year later.
Similarly, each person attending one of Brooks’ shows is a “voice.” The singer prefers not to call them anything else.
“I can’t call them ‘fans,'” he says, “and you sure as hell can’t call them ‘tickets.’ You can’t call them ‘customers.’ ‘Voices’… because I hear every one of them.”
He’s been covering Ashley McBryde’s “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” at his shows, comparing the song to Bob Seger’s classic tribute to the grind of touring, “Turn the Page.”
“It’s a road anthem,” he says of McBryde’s song, which he has amended slightly and, in doing so, retitled “Guy Going Nowhere.” “If you’ve done this for a living, you’ve lived ‘Turn the Page’ and you’ve lived ‘Guy Going Nowhere.’ She nailed it. I just took it to apply to me.”
His parents have historically kept him in check, pushing their son to keep honesty and hard work at the forefront of his business.
“My dad was always a realist,” Brooks says. “I remember telling him, ‘Dad, we just put on our first big outdoor concert.’ I said, ‘Dad, we sold 23,000 tickets to this thing.’ He said, ‘Congratulations, bud. But never forget, that’s 23,000 people you can disappoint.’ It was like, holy cow. I’d never seen the other side of the coin. I 100 percent believe what he was saying: do your homework, study, be ready for it. The victory did not come in the selling of 23,000 tickets. The victory comes with those people walking out of that stadium going, ‘If that guy comes back here, I’ll be here.’ And that’s what he taught me.”