Garth Brooks Honored with No Fences Award at CRS

by Preshias Harris / 321 days ago / Comments
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Talks about “taking off the chains that hold us back”

Once again, Nashville was the host city for Country Radio Seminar (CRS), celebrating its 54th year in 2023. Among the highlights of day one of the Seminar: a far-reaching interview with Garth Brooks moderated by RJ Curtis, Executive Director of Country Radio Broadcasters (CRB).

Brooks is the inaugural recipient of CRB’s Garth Brooks No Fences Award.  The award, named after Brooks’ ground-breaking No Fences album, recognizes an individual in the country music industry who boldly demonstrates innovation, creativity and tenacity.

In his comments, Brooks wryly noted that this was an industry award that recognizes those who defy the industry’s traditional standards. Curtis led Brooks through a discussion of the Country Music Hall of Famer’s career and his impact on country music.

Curtis talked to Brooks about the song “Friends in Low Places,” saying that it sounds like there’s a thousand people singing the chorus. “There were fifty,” said Brooks.  “If you know that place, the studio isn’t much bigger than this stage, so to cram all those people with one mic in the middle was pretty cool. It was the band, the crew, guys who played on the record, everybody next to each other.  It was fun.”

Curtis reminded Brooks that, during the chorus, someone shouts out, “Push Marie!”  James Garver, lead guitar player in the band, was unable to be at the recording as he was with his wife Marie who was giving birth and the shout out was an ‘in’ reference to the event. Referring to the shout, Curtis said, “That sounds like you.” 

“I don’t know,” said Brooks with a laugh. “It sounds like me. I’ll tell you the truth, I don’t remember much. I remember little moments, but everything at this point [in the session] is going so fast.”

In a fascinating piece of music history, Brooks was moonlighting as a demo singer while working a day job as a shoe salesman.  Songwriters Bud Lee and Dewayne Blackwell got Brooks to sing the demo of “Friends in Low Places” at a recording studio in Goodlettsville, Tenn., so they could shop the song to labels and artists. Brooks told the songwriters that he had just signed with Capitol Records and his first releases were already scheduled.  However, he really liked the song and asked if he could put a hold on it to which they agreed.  Meanwhile, the song was recorded by both David Chamberlain and Mark Chesnutt.

“Mark Chesnutt is one of the greatest country singers I think there is,” Brooks told Curtis. “We didn’t cut the song. We’d had it for a year and we were playing it in bars. We were playing it long before it ever came out. So Mark Chesnutt had cut it and [his label] wanted it for his single.  We found out and said, hey look, he can have it for a single and we’re not going to cut it. We’re not going to put it on a record if he’s got it.  And they were sweet enough to honor the hold we had on it. So that could have been either way. It could have been Mark Chesnutt who had the song.”

“Friends in Low Places” would become the first single from Brooks’ second studio album, No Fences. Brooks talked about the thought process behind his career strategy following the huge success of No Fences.

“Well, the thing is, you’ve got to take what you’ve won and stick it back up on the table and gamble it again,” he emphasized.  You have to.  Once you’ve made it, to sit there and ride it out? That might be for some people. But for me? Why was I given this? I was stupid enough to go: ‘I was given it to gamble it all again!’ Take those chances. Take those risks.” 

Adding to this concept, Brooks said, “That’s what I love about young artists. Young artists come up and they don’t know any better. They do something totally stupid and it’s so friggin’ cool, right? Take those chances. Take off the chains. I find a lot of us, we drag chains around that aren’t locked to us. It’s us who won’t let them go. Don’t do that. Think independently. Be the guy who leads everything.  Be an act that starts a revolution.”

Brooks emphasized that, for him, that’s what it’s all about.  “I was talking to [Country Music Association CEO] Sarah Trahern about this earlier,” he said.  “Are we done? Are we going to do what we do for the rest of our lives? Or are we going to shake it up?  Are we going to rip it up?  The answer is yes.“

He also talked about how, early in his career, he believed that country music could generate as many album sales as any other music genre and he was determined to prove it.

“I took the Eagles Hotel California album, I took Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors album, I took Boston’s [self titled] album,” he recalled.  “I said, ‘Country music can sell like these albums. You talk about how fast things went.  Three years later, No Fences surpassed Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors and Boston’s album for the all-time Platinum certification. Because country music, the audience, is that big.”

In a lighter moment, Curtis put a chart up on the screen showing a string of Garth Brooks hit songs in a thirteen-month period across 1989 and 1990. The songs were: “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)”, “If Tomorrow Never Comes”, “Not Counting You” and “The Dance”.

“Look at that chart,” said Curtis. “It’s pretty good for a new guy, right?  In the span of thirteen months, you’ve got four Top Ten singles, two of which were Number One.”

Curtis switched to the next slide, a list of the artists who appeared on the New Faces of Country Music® as the Class of 1990. Those artists were: Daniele Alexander, Suzy Bogguss, Jann Browne, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Lionel Cartwright, The Kentucky Headhunters, The Lonesome Strangers, Lorrie Morgan, Travis Tritt and Wild Rose.

“Now here’s the New Faces Class of ’90,” said Curtis, indicating the list.  “And yet, Garth, who’s missing from this chart?  This is a great list of artists, don’t get me wrong. But why weren’t you on that New Faces Show?”  

After a moment, Brooks asked, “Wasn’t I on the year before?”

“No, you were not,” announced Curtis to the surprised audience. “Garth Brooks never played the New Faces Show!”

With a shrug, Brooks said, “I don’t know why. You know what? It ain’t my question to ask. Why the hell wasn’t I on that show?!”

To roars of laughter from the audience, Brooks joked that he thought the person to blame was Clint Black.

Brooks also addressed the prolonged absence he took from music to devote his full attention to his family.

“Is there anything greater than that?” he asked rhetorically.  “No Fences and all that was fun. But it doesn’t touch you half as much as watching your kids do something. There is no greater gift that a parent can receive than a compliment on their child.  There’s no greater love than that because when they are happy, you’re happier than they are. When they’re sad, you’re sadder than they are.  I love music, but none of it can compare with having kids. So my going home to raise my babies was probably the most selfish move I ever made in my life. It’s great and I miss that time.  I miss the time when they didn’t talk back!”

Garth Brooks is arguably the most consistently innovative artist in country music and shows no sign of altering that path.  He has touring plans in the works and his Garth Brooks/Plus One residency in Las Vegas is only weeks away. He also talked about plans for the Friends In Low Places bar in Nashville and hinted about upcoming music.

The Garth Brooks No Fences Award is sure to become one of country music’s most coveted honors.  And there is no one more entitled to be the first honoree than Garth Brooks himself.

 

More about Garth Brooks at his website (including info about new episodes of "Inside Studio G"), his Facebook page, on Instagram and Twitter.

 

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Garth Brooks Tour Dates


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06/26/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
06/28/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
06/29/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
07/03/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
07/05/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
07/06/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
07/10/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
07/12/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
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09/28/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
09/29/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
10/03/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
10/05/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
10/06/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
10/10/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
10/12/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
10/13/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
12/05/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
12/07/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
12/08/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
12/12/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
12/14/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
12/15/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
12/19/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
12/21/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV
12/22/2024 : The Colosseum at Caesars Palac: Las Vegas, NV

About Preshias Harris

Preshias Harris Journalist

Preshias Harris is a music journalist who has interviewed everyone from Alabama to ZZ Top for articles and stories published in numerous music magazines. She is the author of longest-running monthly country music column in America and authored The College of Songology™ 101: The Singer/Songwriter’s ‘Need To Know’ Reference Handbook. As a music career development consultant with special emphasis on emerging and aspiring artists and songwriters, she focuses on ‘chasing the dream’ while understanding the realities of the music industry. She maintains a writers’ room on Music Row – named The Sangtuary – for her clients and their co-writers. She is a member of ASCAP (as a publisher), BMI, The Country Music Association (CMA), The Recording Academy, The National Association of Talent Directors (NATD) and a life member of Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI).

You can find out more about Preshias at https://www.collegeofsongology.com and find her blog at www.nashvillemusicline.com