10 Questions with ... Garth Brooks
April 24, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Garth Brooks rose to super-stardom as part of Country music's infamous "Class Of '89." Taking the world by storm throughout the 90s, Brooks' progressive blend of Pop and Rock intertwined with Country to change and define the format's landscape during its biggest boom. As one of the best-selling artists of all time, Brooks has earned RIAA Diamond status for sales totaling over one hundred million. His live stage show was the stuff of legend throughout his early career, always building on itself and expanding as Brooks toured the globe. A family man first and foremost, Brooks stepped away from the spotlight in 2001 to spend time raising his three daughters in suburban Oklahoma. Though he did the occasional benefit show, performed in residency at Wynn Las Vegas, and released compilation projects during his retirement, it was not until 2014 that Brooks returned to the business full-time, following his youngest daughter's high school graduation. A member of the Country Music Hall Of Fame, Brooks returned to touring in 2014, bringing his wife Trisha on the road for his "Garth Brooks World Tour With Trisha Yearwood." Brooks also released a new studio album in 2014, "Man Against Machine," and is said to be at work on another studio album currently. In the year and a half since his return, Brooks has been nominated for CMA and ACM Entertainer Of The Year Awards as his "World Tour" breaks records in arenas all across the continent. It was in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday, April 8th that Brooks invited All Access Editor RJ Curtis, Assistant Editor Monta Vaden, and Editorial Assistant Briana Galluccio to his sold-out tour stop to discuss his music, time on the road, and his hopes for the future.
1. Garth, thank you for giving us some time today during your Louisville tour stop. You're doing a lot of shows - multiple shows in one day - so have you had any voice issues at all? Ever? And don't you get tired? I get tired just watching you up there!
Yeah, you have voice issues. But the truth is, I've got to tell you, people go, "Well, what's the difference between touring now and touring in the 90s?" The Queen is the difference - Ms. Yearwood makes all the difference. What's the difference in the shows out here? The people and how much they sing. I'm not sure they wouldn't much rather my voice be gone. Because, man, they just love to sing! We had this thing down in Dallas. I can't remember how many shows we had, but I think it was our fifth or sixth or seventh one - and you just woke up in the morning, and you go, "Oh my God. This ain't here, and it ain't gonna get here by show time." So we were thinking about canceling, or moving back. We went ahead and tried to muscle through it, and halfway through the first song, you just realize, it's gone. They didn't care! My ego was crushed! They didn't care. I think if they came to hear a singer, they'd come to hear somebody else. They came here to have fun, and they just need somebody to kind of start the song, and they'll finish it. So, that's kind of what I do. Easiest gig on the planet, man. I kind of reference it to Tom Sawyer painting the fence. Halfway through the show, I'll be over laying under a shade tree, and everybody else will be working. It'll be great, man! I love these kind of gigs, and that's why you can do two in a night or four in a 24 to 30-hour period. Because, they're just fun. It's crazy, you know. I'm 54. So, you would think you'd get tired. Ms. Yearwood just did this thing called "The Passion." I went down there, and it's a two-hour event. You stand there and watch her, and that's it. You're the band wife. I was worn out standing there! Playing? No. So, I don't see how you guys do it! Because some of these crowds - probably 99% of the cities we play in - the building doesn't sit down the whole show. How do you stand for two hours? But you can play for two hours all day long! It's fantastic! And then, if you're lucky, you'll get shows like tonight where you get to do them - they'll turn the house, and you get to do them again - because those are the best learning curves. Because, all the notes you take, you don't have to wait until the next day. You go in the band room and say, "This is what happened, this is what didn't happen, and we're going to fix this." And you turn it around right there. So, these are actually good days for a band and an artist. What's the most difficult to sing? It just depends on the gig. "The Fever" is always difficult, because you're everywhere. And the belts. The belts scare me, but you've just got to keep concentrating on them. It was Lexington, right down the road, they had one of them go the opposite way - one of the four - Jimmy [Mattingly, fiddle player] was the first one, and I saw his feet just come out. And I thought, "Oh, that's weird." Because he never falls. I thought, "Oh, let the old man show ya!" It was going the other way, and I never saw it - BAM! Next thing I know, I'm on my hat. They're a blast. And Jimmy's just your guy - he's money in the bank. Same band, same crew, so the truth is, the pressure isn't on us at all. It's on the people. Because we're expecting the kind of crowds we played to the last time we were here, and the time before that, and the time before that. The drummer [Mike Palmer] is the only guy working. He's the guy that works his butt off. He'll be working probably five hours tonight, and he'll do the same thing tomorrow for two shows. He's my guys, and we've been together for a hundred years, since day one. He's an athlete, and thank God for him, and just have him stay healthy. He's the root of everything. You'll see. Everybody loves Mike; he has his own following. Sweetest guy in the world, and he deserves everything good.
2. As you just reminded us, you're older now than when you began touring. So let's compare the audiences. Do you feel a difference when you're out there performing? Is it different for you standing up on that stage? What has changed?
For a little tip, if you really want to write this down, it is harder to tour at 54 than it is at 30. I've just gotta tell ya. And the reason why is, I don't think the crowds have changed. If anything, I think the crowds have gotten more - the expectation of coming here and having fun, because word has gotten out. So, let's take the numbers. Let's take Ticketmaster's numbers of 48% of people buying tickets were either 10 years old or not born yet last time we toured. So, half the arena. So, you've got the faces that you hope you remember seeing, and then the other half of the arena are these kids - they know every syllable to every word to every verse. They're so sweet. And they bring this energy with them, and they bring this expectation with them. So, you go out there, and you just have fun and do your thing. And the whole rule in getting older in entertainment is never to chase. Always be who you are, own who you are - flaws and all - and those that like that will stay with you, and those who don't will find other artists. So, I think that's the main thing. Just try not to be somebody you're not. You'll see, it's the same thing. Again, you're not old enough to remember the tours in the past, but the music kind of makes you that way. It makes you a five-year-old boy. And guys don't mature, anyway, we just get bigger - we always do, from the age of five to 105. You know that. So, it's like George Strait said, you feel like every time you pick up a guitar, you feel like the first time you picked it up. And that's a wonderful feeling, and these people kind of bring that with you. Another hero of mine, James Taylor, said "You can do 'Fire and Rain' in sound check and your eyes will roll, because you've done it a million times. But when you do it live, it's like some of those people's first time to hear it - ever - live. Which brings back the first time you ever played it live." Our first single, "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)," we would book a club in Dallas and have three shows that night. You'd play it probably three or four times each set. You know, because it was the only song you had. But people treated it like it was the first time they heard it every time, so that was nice. What are the differences? A lot of differences. Let's talk about the arenas. The arenas used to not have the suites in them. Ribbon board, any of that stuff. Now, that ribbon board plays as much as our lighting system does. So that's really nice. The suites are nice. The backstage is really nice now, you know! I'm sure the athletes, that's why they like doing it, because the locker rooms are unbelievable compared to what they used to be. They've actually started to ask consultants how to build the arena for music instead of just building it for hockey then trying to figure out what you're going to do. They build it for all the venues, so music is now starting to get represented, which is why all these auditoriums are starting to look a lot better. Let's talk about technology, as far as the gear you bring in. Half the trucks, because the new LED stuff all runs - you don't have to take a jenny truck, because you can run ten times more LED stuff on half the power it used to take to run this stuff. Let's talk about some of the things we've lost. The Forum in Los Angeles. You could hit a guitar note, and that son of a bitch would bounce for ten minutes! And you're like, "Oh, that's horrible, but it sounds really good!" It was like an accident you can't look away from - just fantastic. And so, we kind of lost the old style of stuff with the new acoustics. Which is cool, because everything sounds a lot better. The old style, kind of frantic, stuff is not in there as much now, because the sound is awesome. And then probably the biggest change for me, I'm going to say, is the front row. Because, used to, when you'd come out of the hole, it was crazy - it's there, they're right there. Now? When you come to a front row, the first thing they're going to do is turn their back to you with their phone. It's the craziest thing I've ever seen! I knew the whole front row in Chicago by the backs of their heads! It's crazy. Somewhere around song three or four, it gets back to the old. But that very first thing, you're just going, "This is absolutely wild." So that has been something to kind of get used to. And the truth is, again, you don't want to chase it, and you don't want to change it. You want to play in it. So, now it's a new kind of world. Now you get to play with their photos with their phones on those first three or four songs, and then it gets back to old school kinds of concerts. We've mentioned the Chicago show and the Lexington show. You're getting ready to see the 2.0 version. We took it all in and raised the hood on it in August of last year after Lexington, so now we have what we call The Jerry Jones Screens instead of the cube. That goes all the way around the stage. There are wings now on the stage. A lot more lights; a lot more cheese. I'm a cheese guy. I love entertainment.
3. Speaking of the crowds, have you been surprised by the demand in each of the cities you've visited so far on the "World Tour," as you've been having to add shows in upwards of six, eight, ten, or more shows per city? When you decided to come out of retirement, was there ever a moment that you were nervous that your fan base wouldn't go gung-ho? And now that you're out there - every night, singing to thousands - how to you scale the show down and pick which songs to include when you have such a deep catalog?
Hell yes! Scared to death. Scared all the way up to that phone call from Chicago. I think getting to tour at this level this late, I think your gratefulness is through the roof. I never thought I was an ass about it in the 90s; I thought I was very grateful. But there's a level of gratefulness now that I can't explain to you. So, you get the call from Chicago - the on-sale had been going for three minutes, maybe four minutes - you get the call from Chicago, and you're thinking, "This early? This isn't good." And they said they were in to show four, and they thought they could sell nine. And we ended up selling eleven. So, that right there was the thing that just said - it was like that thing in "Rocky" when his wife wakes up out of the coma and goes, "Win." It's that whole - the bell goes off - and you go, "You know what? This might be a hell of a lot of fun." And it's been a thousand times more fun than I ever could have thought it'd be. Because people are showing up. And they're showing up with great attitudes, and that makes what you do for a living really sweet. We introduced Chicago as the opening city. One show turned in to eleven. Then the same thing happened in St. Paul-Minneapolis. One show turned to eleven, also. And we started to realize that the tour was not going to go as planned, because instead of three years, it would have been five or six. So, you throw out all the cities, and they look at you and go, "Okay, this is how we're going to pick 'em. Where did you have the most fun last time?" So, if we're in a city, it's because we had a guaranteed good time last time. And we're expecting that this time! So, again, like I said when I started, I think the pressure is more on these people come in tonight than it is on the band or the artist. We're looking forward to it with a lot of anticipation. With the songs, there's the "If I don't sing this one..." Every artist has that list of, if you don't sing this one, they're waiting for you at the bus, you know? So, "Friends In Low Places," "The Thunder Rolls." I can't imagine doing a show without "Unanswered Prayers," "The River," some of these songs. "Shameless," "The Dance." It's cool. And what I like about them is they're the old stuff. Those are the ones you make sure of. We'll talk about this tonight, too. What I love about - if there was something I could pick about Garth that I love why I'm in this industry, is the reason why I'm in this industry is because I came out of this industry. I am the guy that never could afford to go to a show, so the one I got to go to, or the two I got to go to, I ate them up and loved them. But if I'm going to see somebody I love - let's take [George] Strait, for example, he's my guy. If I go - and thank God he never does this - but if George would come out and dump an entire new album on me, that I don't know yet - I've got the album, but you know - and he doesn't do "Amarillo By Morning," "The Fireman," "You Look So Good In Love," "Check Yes Or No," then I'm gonna walk out of there going "What just happened?" So you know that when you come out. So you bring all of your old stuff, and you invite them to bring signs. Because if they want the new stuff, it'll be on a sign. So we do "Mom" a lot from people that bring signs. We did "People Loving People" in Calgary and Ottawa and Hamilton a lot, because people brought signs. So, that's a good way for new music to kind of get in, because then it's somebody else's choice and not the artist's. So people seem to accept it more.
4. So, you said you dumped the cities you were originally planning on playing once you saw the demand and realized that you'd have to realign things. But, I've got to be honest - the cities on this tour thus far haven't seemed to have a pattern. No one seems to be able to guess where you'll go next, because you skip around all over the country. How are you planning the routes and picking the cities, and how have you handled the logistics of this seemingly pattern-less tour?
When my children were going to school, my time that I was lucky enough to be at home raising my babies, I said, "What am I going to do for myself?" Because after the first three or four years, the routine is such theirs that you have a lot of time. So, I went back and got my MBA, and in it - there was a guy in Dallas that said, "Has your MBA helped your touring this year with the business end of it?" And I said, "No, but my four years at Steve Wynn University in Las Vegas - there's the guy." He showed you how to fly. He showed you how to make each city its own destination, and therefore flying - we played Portland one weekend and Boston the next. Therefore, each city kind of made its own destination. That, I think, is the big key why a lot of excitement is going around. Because, "Oh, he's in Louisville, which means he's going to be in Columbus, because of the trucks and everything." It just happened to work out with building avails that way, but after Columbus, I think we're in Fargo. So, just back and forth. And that kind of makes each city its own entity. And word gets around that, "Hey, if you don't catch these guys here...?" So they come here, and they come with high anticipation, and I love that. It's all to that boiling point of fun. I'm also very lucky to be in an industry where what's good for me is good for the people that see the artist. Even better, what's best for those people that see the artist is best for the artist. So that's neat, and those make your decisions very easy.
5. You're exactly right. No one knows when you'll be close to them, or if you'll be in their city, so when you get close enough for them to travel, they're making it out to the show. Maybe because of that, you've broken approximately 30 attendance records so far on the "World Tour." Are there any records that stand out to you, or are there records out there that you'd still like to break?
I was stunned. It's crazy. We've had thirty attendance records broken on this thing. Which is, for an old man, that's pretty good. We feel very lucky that people are showing up in the numbers they're showing up. But like I said before, it's the attitude with which they're showing up. That's what makes you feel great. It's a love-fest. It's almost like they've done exactly what you want them to do, which is to forget whatever is going on outside this building - for these two hours, there's nothing you can do about it. So let's come in, love one another, have some fun, and turn it up. It's not about breaking them, but it's cool when it happens. You know? Because, if you do anything based on numbers, I'm not sure you're doing it for the right reason. But it's cool to get to brag about 'em, you know? But, let's take Worcester, for example. Worcester is about 45 minutes or an hour north of Boston. Boston is its own market, man. Boston is loud - it's everything you want it to be. Worcester? You better wear your helmet and your cup when you go up there, cause it's gonna get wild! And those people - it's like playing Brisbane compared to Sydney in Australia. It's gonna get nuts. So, Worcester - as we all know - it's kinda like one of my favorite places. It's like Louisville or Lexington; if you go in there, you better be ready. So, we played Worcester first in the 90s and then the Fleet Center in Boston. So, Worcester, we set the record there, but in Boston, we didn't. Because we had just been to Worcester. This year, this tour, we decided to play Boston first. Crushed the record there. Worcester, we didn't break the record there. The guy who still has that record, though, I know very well... [editor's note: Garth still holds the record in Worcester.] So, that's pretty cool when you get both worlds like that, you know? But I think sometimes, that's why records are like that, you know? It's just the situation that comes around. I don't think it means the artist is great or not, I just think the situation that comes around them is what sets a lot of records. So, the fact that we have some - and the fact that we don't have some - yeah, that kind of weighs on you. If you come from athletics like I did, you're competitive, anyway. But the truth is, if you come out and do it for the right reasons, the numbers seem to take care of themselves, if that makes sense.
6. That makes perfect sense. And you are definitely crushing it in each market you hit. You're so busy, in fact, that we actually missed you in Las Vegas for the ACM Awards. You were actually on stage in Canada that night. You were up for Entertainer Of The Year, and you were actually up there, on stage, entertaining that night. I'm just curious how it came to be that you were on stage in Ottawa instead of in Vegas.
I was lucky to be working. What happened in Ottawa is, coming off of Hamilton the week before... Well, let's go back to the 90s. The last tour we were talking about, we got to do the Skydome. Then we went to Hamilton, and we were lucky enough to set records in the Skydome and Hamilton. This time, we decided to start in Hamilton. And, the Skydome and Hamilton combined last time, that record was knocked out from this stay. So, word got around really well. Well, Ottawa is two or three hours away from there, so Ottawa was hell-bent and determined to show Hamilton what they could do. And one show went to two, three, four...and it took our ACM [trip] away from us. But I'm going to tell you this, and no offense - I love Rac Clark and all those guys up there, we talk on the phone all the time - you ask any entertainer where they'd rather be: on stage or in a suit in a crowd? Awards shows are fun, but man, they're not half as fun as getting to play! So, I felt very lucky to get to do both. They let me do both. I got to satellite in on the Awards show [to present Album Of The Year], and I still - man, I was where I wanted to be. I told the Ottawa crowd that was probably one of the most fun Awards shows I had ever attended.
7. And, of course, Trisha was there with you in Ottawa. She is out there on stage with you every night - except for tonight, because she is sick. What has it been like touring with Ms. Yearwood, as you lovingly call her?
Working with my wife is the greatest thing on the planet, because she's my best friend. So, she can complete my sentences - which, she has to dumb herself down to complete my sentences. I wish she was here, because she's so - she's so smart, and she's so beautiful, but she is so nice. You would love her. And it would make you think more highly of me if she were here, if that makes sense. Because, she's that way. If you're associated with her, you're a lucky person. So, she's a doll and makes it easy. And then, you know, on a regular show, Garth will be out there, and everything is loose and swinging. And then, when The Queen shows up, even the band kinds of stands up a little straighter. Because, get ready - the horse has shown up, and her voice - she's going to remind you what a female vocalist is. And she's going to tear it up. The thing she did on "The Passion," I can't stop talking about it, because that whole thing was billed as live, and she was pretty much 90% live, out there in 55-degree weather with the wind coming off that water. She didn't miss a note. I could never do that, so I was very proud of her. She's just a stud - she's a female who's a stud. What I like about these things, though, is that it forces you to do new things. You find out, "Oh, well this will work great when she gets back, because now I can do this and that."
8. Speaking of trying new things, it had been thirteen years since your last studio album. As you went in to the studio to work on "Man Against Machine" - and as you go in to the studio now to work on another album - does it feel different now than it did thirteen years ago? What has changed, and what have you brought to the table this time around?
It feels a lot different. The writing is the big thing, for me. I wrote an open letter to people who follow us on Facebook and social media, and in that open letter, I explained that I was scared to death that the writing muscle wouldn't come back. So, I didn't write much on this comeback album. The crazy thing was, a lot of writers were very much - you look about as old as my youngest daughter - so, all of the writers were very young, but they had been raised on Garth stuff. So there were a lot of phrases in there that felt very familiar for me to sing. But now, being out a year and a half on this tour, the one question I keep getting most is, "Hey, where's the Garth stuff?" So, we kind of went in to the basement starting in probably November, and I've just been writing and writing and writing. I'm probably writing as much as I did when I moved [to Nashville], which was the most I had ever written. So, the new album is coming out. Right now, the working title is just "Fun." That's the name of it, and that's kind of what it has been. It has just been a blast. Whether it's any good or not? The people will decide. But this will be the most Garth-penned thing, I think, if the songs transfer from page to what use to be tape - but page to getting it recorded. If they transfer, I think there's going to be a lot of Garth stuff on this.
9. So, it's safe to say a lot has changed in your life since coming out of retirement. But, let's go back even further. Back in "the day," as we say, before it all hit big and before the sell-out crowds, what was touring like for you then? What struggles came along with those early days, and do you miss any of that at all? And do you ever see yourself ditching the plane for a weekend and going back out on the tour bus, just for nostalgia sake?
You know what? It's funny. I don't know if you guys are like this, but sometimes, when you think about - the weird thing is, what you're going to see is you're going to see the same guys. So, same original lighting guys, same original sound guys, same original drummer, piano, bass player - all the original guys. The rookie tonight will be introduced - he's 22 years in - that's the rookie! So, this is a good gig. So, when you think about those, though, when you crammed all seven guys in a five-passenger van with the gear and drove to Kansas City from Nashville all night long to get there in time to play - that was the best! When you see the other guys that belonged to record labels when you were just starting, and they had buses, and they'd let you come on just to smell them and sit on them, and you go, "Wow, so this is what a bus is like." And you dream of getting one someday. And when you finally get one, it wreaks so bad of diesel and it didn't have a reverse. If we had to go back, we had to get out and push it! Those were the best days ever! Isn't it crazy? They spoil you with planes and stuff, but those memories don't hit you half as hard as fighting your way out of a club, because a club owner's not happy and he's said something to the drummer so now all five of you are going at it. Those are the best days on the planet, right there. I love those days! I think that's what we try and bring here. When the flag drops and the show starts, it's old school. That's just what it is; it's just fun. With a lot of technology and a lot of cool stuff. What's spoiling is getting to be in your own bed all the time. And, what I loved about the Wynn gig was, I had babies. My oldest baby hadn't graduated high school yet - and I wasn't about to come out of retirement! Because, hell, why?! I had been in retirement for twelve years, enjoying myself, and never had to miss anything with my babies. Wynn showed me how to never miss anything with your babies and never change your life. And it was from flying; that's how it happened. Reba had told me, [actor John] Travolta had told me, everybody had said, "Man, it gives you your life back." I didn't know what that meant until you realize, you don't miss anything with your children, you don't miss any important dates, and it's pretty cool. Truth is, though, does our bedroom have a box fan in it solely for the noise of the engine on the bus? It's not even on us; it's faced against the wall. But you turn it on just for that sound, because that's how you kind of grew up as a young artist, so you still need that every night to sleep, even if you're in your own home.
10. Let's go back even farther. Reaching way back in "the day," did you ever think there was something you were going to do with your life other than music? When did you decide music is a lifetime career, and did you know what you wanted to be doing at this point in your life?
I wanted to be a professional athlete. The only thing that kept me from it was my athletic ability. That was it - I was that close! People go, "Well, what else would you be doing?" I truthfully think I would be infamous and not famous. I think I'd probably end up in jail somewhere. That's the truth. I'm one of those guys, if you don't keep me extremely busy, I go to the dark side quick. So, I like being busy; I like this. But I didn't know I was going to do this. I graduated from Oklahoma State University, got a letter from the - I had already been through commencement - got a letter from the University saying I was one hour short. I couldn't take electives, because I had worn that path out being an athlete, you know? And so, I had to go back up for one semester of school for one three-hour credit class with no scholarship, no nothing - no government money - and I didn't know how to pay for it. Because I couldn't work while I was going to school, but I could work nights. So, I had never done this before, but I took my guitar down to a place called Willie's Saloon. I said, "Hey, man, what could you pay me?" And she said, "Well, let's see how you do the first night." The first night went unbelievably well. The next thing I know, I'm making a lot more money, and it's all cash! No taxes, as a college kid. And then I'm going, "Hey, stupid! Maybe this is what you're supposed to be doing." Because it came so easy, and it was so much fun. And that's where my music career started. So it's funny when you said, "Did you know what you were doing?" Because I didn't have a clue what I was doing. And people always ask, "Did you think this would happen or this would happen?" I didn't think Central Park would happen until the night I walked out there. I never thought those people would show up. I didn't think this tour would happen until I got that call from Chicago saying, "They're here." So, it's funny. Every day is a surprise, thank God. One more thing I'll leave you with that we're going to teach at camp - Paul Goldschmidt, first base for the [Major League Baseball] Arizona Diamondbacks, he was closing the camp out in Phoenix. He said this to these kids, and it stuck with me - it'll stick with me the rest of my life - he said, "If I go four-for-four at the plate, that does not define my character. If I go oh-for-four at the plate, that does not define my character. How I handle the result is what defines me." So in these days when you don't know what's coming - some days you win, some days you lose - it's how you handle the result that defines you. I love that, and that's kind of what I live by.
1. If you have a few minutes for a couple of bonus questions, we want to touch on a few other topics. You're wearing a Haggard & Jones hoodie, and this will be the first group of shows since one of your heroes, Merle Haggard, passed away. Can we take a moment to talk about Merle and what he meant to you? And how will you acknowledge his passing during this run of shows?
Yeah. The greatest line in the world comes from "Shawshank Redemption." When the two guys are sitting there talking, and he says, "And a good thing never dies." There's Haggard, right there. A good thing never dies, man. So, this is going to be good. We're going to pay tribute in the way - kind of exactly opposite of the way you think you should, I guess, tonight. But entertainers kind of know entertainers. So I think this is going to be very appropriate. It's how we're going to kick the show off, because it'd be sacrilegious if we didn't. If we don't kick the show off with it, it's because I'm so damn scared that I've panicked and forgotten to do it. But, I'll hopefully remember. But this is going to be a good night. It's not going to be sorrow. It's going to be a party; it's going to be a celebration of - for me, George Jones is the greatest singer that ever lived, and Merle Haggard was the greatest Country artist to ever live. So, this was an honorable day. Word has it, he told his son about a week out, "I think I'm gonna make it to my birthday and go on out." And reportedly, his son said that last week was probably one of the greatest of their lives, because they just kind of knew it was coming and enjoyed the time they had left. I think that was the kind of man he was - he set his mind to something, and he was like my dad - sometimes, that stubbornness pays off, actually. "Mama Tried" is what I opened every show in Vegas with. We're gonna - probably at the end of this next show, people are gonna be walking out - because, I think we're just going to sit down and just do everything. "Misery and Gin," that's where we're gonna start. The one that I always did was "I Wear My Own Kind Of Hat." I love that tune. "Mama's Hungry Eyes," "Farmer's Daughter," "Sing Me Back Home," "Silver Wings," "Roots Of My Raising." He would have six or seven singles a year out. That's how you build an artist.
2. Outside of George Jones and Merle Haggard, we know you are a fan of many kinds of music, and you count Queen and KISS among your favorite bands. Did you get the chance to see any of those guys in concert when you were growing up, and did you take anything from those shows to use in your own stage shows?
Queen. Saw 'em at The Myriad. My high school girlfriend, Tammy Sherman - I could never afford tickets - she surprised me and said, "We're going to Queen." I said, "You've gotta be kidding me." Thirteenth row. I remember, I was standing - they'd let you stand in your seat - I relive this every day, man. I was standing in my seat, and I've got my hands out, and I'm screaming as loud as I can - and I can't hear me. It's that loud. That is fantastic. And, oddly enough, Brian May comes out to do this guitar solo, and the light rig comes down and fights him. Well, there's the opening of our show. I've been waiting thirty years to use it. I saw KISS. And I bounced - I was a bouncer at a place called Tumbleweeds, a dance hall in Stillwater [Oklahoma] for four years - saw [George] Strait there. It was the first time I ever saw him. The "You Look So Good In Love Tour." I still have the t-shirt. Doesn't fit me anymore, but I've still got it. He's the Sinatra of Country music.
3. So, you've won some of the most prestigious awards in our industry. Accolades and trophies have been highlights of your career, I'm sure. But, there's no such thing in America as a karaoke night where "Friends In Low Places" is not performed. Does that rate up there, maybe, with a CMA Award as an accomplishment?
Yeah, I've gotta tell ya, man, if I could show you my Twitter feed or Facebook - or just my personal texts - if I don't get two or three a night from some drunk friend of mine somewhere saying, "Listen to these dips!" It's fantastic! I feel very fortunate. We were talking about, we did the [National Hockey League Nashville] Predators - we have this foundation called Teammates For Kids, and the Predators signed their entire team up. So, two nights ago, I was with the entire Predators and their spouses, and here we are, singing together. "Friends In Low Places" is the one, and "The River." I've been very fortunate that I'm lucky enough to be associated with a lot of songs that karaoke does. I truthfully think that's the difference between touring now and touring in the 90s, is karaoke has turned everyone in to - their inhibitions to sing have kind of gone away - which makes the concerts fantastic now. Used to be Ireland kind of had the hold on it; Ireland was going to be the place that you - once you start, they're going to take it from you, and no other place was like that. Now every place sings at the top of their lungs, and "Friends In Low Places," I can't imagine my career without that song. And that's actually one of the highlights. You know, when people guess, "Oh, what's that one song that you just go, 'Oh, if I play this one more time...' it's gotta be 'Friends In Low Places.'" They're totally wrong. That song is new every time, because you make it new. You'll see. Tonight, I'm gonna laugh my butt off all night long, man, because people just love to sing, and I'm so glad I get to be a part of that.
4. So, lastly, for all of the people out there who haven't seen you on this tour yet - or maybe they have, but they might hit another show in a different city - what do you want them to take away from the experience?
When they leave the arena, I hope they're kinder to each other when they leave. I hope they love one another more when they leave this arena. Because that's the most important thing. We'll do these [Teammates For Kids] kid camps tomorrow, and they're going to be talking about technique, and they'll be talking about skills - sports, teaching all these kids. And they'll be teaching these five words of wisdom: Respect, Attitude, Discipline... - there are five words, but they all come under one bigger word, and that's Love. That's what it's all about. We're going to be teaching that at that camp tomorrow, and that's what we're going to be preaching tonight. Love. Love one another. You know the great mystery of "Why are we down here?" Easiest question I ever have. We're down here for each other! That's why we're down here. So, that's what I want. When people leave, I want them to be happy, I want them to love one another. And if I want something selfishly for me, when they look down at that ticket, I want them to go, "You know what? If this cat comes back, I'll be here."