Garth Brooks said Thursday that he will retire from the music industry after releasing an album next spring. "I'm here to announce my retirement," Brooks said at a Nashville press conference as his voice broke with emotion. "It's a thing I feel good about. I feel like what I am trading it for is more important at this point in my life. I never thought I'd find anything that would be as important, but the relationship with my children is. . . . I have asked my wife to be father and mother long enough. It's time for me to accept my responsibilities and accept the true rewards that come from being a father."
Brooks cited the discussions about the Time-Warner/EMI merger as the root of the delay for the unveiling of his plans. "Now, I think the time is right for me to go on with [a new album] then wrap things up from a music standpoint at the end of 2001. Today, we start a new life."
For Brooks, retirement means bringing an end to recording and touring. He will continue to write, especially screenplays, and still wants to record a duet album with Trisha Yearwood. In addition, he is considering a mid-summer replacement network TV series featuring six or seven concerts filmed at different locations. While he says he's not interested in acting, he would be willing to create a soundtrack for the movie The Lamb if given the go-ahead by Paramount.
"I have never wanted to look at music or touring as a weekend warrior thing," he said. "I want to bring you everything we've got, I want to bring you the best show we can. Can I bring you a show that I'm proud of with just me and a guitar? Yes, I can. But is it going to compare with the assault we put on people for three years? I don't think it will."
Wearing a black cowboy hat and a blue and yellow plaid shirt, Brooks held a press conference in Nashville before a black-tie party celebrating his milestone of reaching 100 million in record sales. Brooks will release his new record on either Mother's Day or Father's Day of next year, but doesn't want it cornered by the novelty of being a farewell. "I don't want it to be called the last record, the farewell record," he says. "It's one record that will hopefully stand with the other seven studio records."
Brooks has already scheduled studio time with members of the New Grass Revival next month and Nashville songwriters have offered to fly to his home north of Tulsa, Okla., to write with him. He doesn't know yet the musical direction the album will take, whether it will be traditional country or more pop-influenced. "The album will be the result of where the Nashville songwriters are," he says.
He says the search for the right songs will be vastly larger than the 3,500-song search that artists and producers typically conduct for an album. "This search will we go over the 10,000 mark because everybody that has dealt with age, dealt with a career that has been around for awhile knows that you have to work ten times harder the older you get to establish the par that has been set in the past," Brooks said. "We all grow older and formats change and I'm not sure that what we do fits. We will make a serious attempt with all of the love in our hearts to make the best record we possibly can."
On Nov. 20, Brooks will release his next single, "Wild Horses," which comes from the favorite of his albums, No Fences. Brooks is celebrating the tenth anniversary of No Fences by re-releasing the album, and he re-cut the vocals for this version.
The remaining five of Brooks' first six albums will also be re-released in November, making it the first time in three years that those albums have been available. His label, Capitol, stopped releasing those albums when they introduced his box set. Each album will contain an additional song that wasn't on the originally released version. "Of those additional songs, I'm especially proud of 'To Make You Feel My Love,' which can be found on the new version of Fresh Horses," he says. "In fact, this is the only place that the song is currently available, since the Hope Floats soundtrack is no longer in production."
Brooks also addressed the issue of music via digital download. Although he believes "what Napster is doing is wrong," he says it's made him realize that there is a huge market for music on the Internet, but he was puzzled that the industry has been offering Internet customers product that contains no CD or artwork at full retail price. "We are going to make good music available that is clean music, no viruses, to be downloaded at a discounted price," he said.
Brooks also took some time during the press conference to address his marriage. Contrary to what has been reported, Brooks said he and his wife Sandy have not agreed to divorce. He told Billboard, "We need to get a divorce, but the effect it will have on the children is weighing very heavily on our souls right now." Brooks said the rest of the press dropped the second half of the quote.
"Sandy and I have not agreed to a divorce," he said. "Could it happen tomorrow? Yes. Could it never happen? Yes. We're still in the same place we were and I'm very proud that her and I realize that it's her and my timeframe -- it's nobody else's, no influence from the outside world will change the decision that Sandy and I will eventually come to. I'm very proud of how she has held up."
The couple have been living separately on their property for two years.