Dressed in a sea-gray sweatshirt, jeans, and baseball hat, Garth Brooks looks more ready to chill on a sofa than prep for a massive stadium concert. Minutes before soundcheck for his wildly anticipated NRG Stadium concert on Saturday, August 6, the country icon stops by to chat with media about the Houston show that closes his (once-again) record-breaking tour. (Tickets are still available here.)
“Try to remember it’s the last show of the tour,” he tells CultureMap on a gray afternoon on Friday, August 5. “So, no holds barred, no rules you have to pay attention to — so if we go past curfew, if they fine us, whatever, we’re gonna raise the bill up.”
And why not? The highest-selling solo artist of all time (157 millions albums sold) has been selling out every stop on his nationwide stadium tour this year, so clearly, Brooks can afford a hefty fine.
Houston loves Brooks, and Brooks loves Houston; in his most recent trip to H-Town, he opened and closed RodeoHouston in 2018 (read our review here) with a more than 140,000 head count for both record-breaking nights. Questions at the press gathering mostly center around the NRG show; he promises another barn burner for his devoted fans in a show that will span his decades of hits like the ultimate singalong “Friends in Low Places,” “The Dance,” and “Shameless.”
Brooks, the man America needs now
Brooks, who turned 60 this year, looks a little surprised when we ask about his performance at President Joe Biden’s inauguration, and if he was aware that it was a touchstone moment for the country. He balks at the suggestion that he’s arguably country music’s biggest symbol of unity at a moment of deep division across the nation.
“I don’t know if I agree with that — that’s sweet that you would say that,” he says. “For me, I think the music is above red and blue. I think the music is above skin color, religious choice. I think the music is a unifier and a healer. And you kinda just tell that story. I don’t think it has as much to do with the artist as it does with the music.”
He chuckles when he recalls being the sole elephant in a sea of donkeys that day. “Yeah, I was the only Republican at the inauguration,” he laughs, “but what’s great is that it doesn't matter who the person is who’s going in — I’m an American citizen. Three of my brothers served and my dad served in the military. I never did. So, this was my chance to serve. Any time, no matter if it’s red or blue, if it calls for us, it’s an honor to serve.”
Garth for president?
If Brooks isn’t country music’s top unifier, he certainly sounds like it when it’s noted that country music — with its emphasis on God, family, patriotism, and the military — has generally aligned with one specific party.
“I don’t see defending the people who can’t defend themselves, believing in God, and loving one another, I don’t think that belongs to one political party. I think it belongs to us as American citizens. We’re very, very lucky — all of us — to be living within these borders.”
Brooks bursts out in laughter when after that rousing speech, we propose that he run for president. “No, please,” he exclaims.
The Garth Brooks fitness regimen
Switching gears to his riveting live performances, we ask Brooks how at a time when many crooners his age sit back with their guitars, he’s on overdrive, jumping and running across the stage to ensure every fan catches a glimpse or even a selfie. How does he do it?
“Man, I wish I knew … my vitamins?” he ponders. Then, in a serious tone, “this is real important: the peanut butter M&Ms are the best. And then the best power drink is Dr. Pepper, hands down. So those are my two things. And then the rest of it is just have fun. It’s a gift from God, man. As long as it’s gonna last, it’s gonna last. And the day it’s over, all the money it’s made you ain’t gonna buy you another day.”
The heat is on when Brooks is asked to choose his favorite barbecue spot in Texas. “How can you do it? It’s like trying to pick your favorite child. Everything’s good down here — y’all get it down here. And I gotta say, Oklahoma does the same thing,” says the Tulsa native.
We then ask him to at least name his favorite barbecue item: “Brisket is my favorite, ” he tells us. Fatty or lean? “I’m actually a lean guy — even though I eat a lot and I’m not lean,” he says, lifting his shirt and revealing distinctly flat abs. “My wife’s a pulled pork girl, she’s from the South,” he says of longtime spouse and country star Trisha Yearwood. “So my thing’s brisket.”
The King of Country
Continuously deflecting praise, Brooks, whose upcoming Anthology Part 2 album he confirms is “coming soon,” pushes back on the light-hearted suggestion that with his record sellouts, earthquake-spurring shows, and devotion to fans, he might actually be the new King of Country — with all due respect to the current ruler.
“No, no, no, George Strait,” he fires back with a grin. “George Strait is still the king. I love Strait — I always wanted to be George Strait. I try to imitate him everywhere I can. I know they say Bob Wills is the king. For me in my generation, it was [Merle] Haggard and [George] Jones, and the new guy on the block was George Strait, and he’ll always carry the flag as the King of Country for me. King George.”