If there was one face for country music in the 1990s, it was Garth Brooks. His albums were massive hits, he sold out concerts in New York City’s Central Park and he was constant feature on television with a string of successful TV specials. He’s sold more than 80 million albums, making him the second-best selling solo artists in the U.S. (behind Elvis Presley). And yet the past few years have been a bit of a second act for Brooks.
He had a few career missteps, including a non-country album released under the name “Chris Gaines.” By 2000 he announced he was retiring from touring and he released his last major album, Scarecrow, in 2001. In the past decade Brooks has kept a slightly lower profile, releasing a set of CDs exclusively to Walmart customers and in 2009 he signed a deal to perform every weekend at casino in Las Vegas. His personal life also underwent some changes, as he divorced his first wife and later married fellow country singer Trisha Yearwood, whose marriage also had recently ended. In his infrequent interviews, Brooks said that he wanted to concentrate on his children and marriage and was happy with his professional life.
But now that his children have grown (his youngest daughter will soon be headed to college), Brooks is entering the third chapter of his career and hoping to recapture some of the magic of his early years. He recently wrapped a live concert special for CBS and released another CD box set exclusively to Walmart that included classic hits as well as cover versions of tunes he performed during his Vegas run. It’s not the collection of new tunes fans might have been hoping for, but it’s another indication Brooks is getting serious about his career again.
More importantly, Brooks also announced plans for a new concert tour, his first in nearly 15 years. Details of the tour as well as opening acts have yet to be announced, but in a session with the press announcing the deal, the singer promised the tour would be “loud.” “We actually have a new sound system that’s never been used that’s coming — a new technology — so everyone in the room can feel the ‘thump,’” Brooks revealed.
So will he be successful in this newest incarnation? He has a huge fan base of older fans and they’ve shown they’re willing to follow the singer wherever he goes. The new tour will get a lot of attention and Brooks has shown he’s a master of wringing as much attention from the press as he needs. The question is how he will be received by younger fans. He technically doesn’t have a new album out of original tracks out, though are there are unconfirmed rumors he’ll release a new set closer to the concert tour dates. He is also one of the few musical artists who still refuses to release his music in a digital format through iTunes or through the various streaming services. A decision which also limits his ability to capture a younger audience.
But his older music still gets plenty of radio airplay and he’s likely to sell out the concert tour. The question is whether that’s enough to return him to current superstar status.