domingo, 9 de diciembre de 2007

Garth Brooks Interview

To see Garth Brooks in concert is to love him. Whether you're a country music fan or not, you can't help but be won over by the warmth and sincerity his stage persona. Obviously, some of Brooks's charisma has translated onto disc: since releasing his self-titled debut CD in 1989, the singer more than thirty million albums. In May, NBC will air Brooks's second prime-time special, an in-concert program filmed over four sold-out nights at the 65,000-seat Texas Stadium in Irving last September. Credited with revitalizing country music and new respectability within the music business at large, Brooks has also caught some flak away from the good-old-boy mainstream and singing songs that deal with such "taboo" subject as wife beating and homosexuality. A very patient, extremely friendly Brooks sat and talked with me in New York about such disparate topics as his admiration for the rock group Kiss and his fervent patriotism.

PETER GALVIN: I used to be a big Kiss fan, and I know that you were, too. You contributed a song to the upcoming Kiss tribute album. How did that come about?

GARTH BROOKS: The guys in Kiss had read in an article that they were very influential to me as a teenager. So they flew to L.A. to see a show of mine. After the show I came backstage. Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons were there. I reached out to shake Paul's hand, and he didn't say, " Hi, nice to meet you." He just said: "I see it. I see it in your show. I see it in your clothes. I'm flattered. " Man, I was beaming. My whole chest was out. I was like, "Wow, thank you." And the great thing, too, about Paul Stanley standing there with Gene Simmons is that these guys are not small people. They're huge. In real life Paul and Gene are well over six feet. They're bigger than life.

PG: Did you get to choose the song you wanted to do for them?

GB: No, they chose it for me. It's called "Hard Luck Woman." I kept telling them I really wanted to do "Detroit Rock City" or "God of Thunder," or something like that.

PG: At least they didn't ask you to sing "Christine Sixteen."

GB: [laughs] Right! [sings] "Chris-tine...!"

PG: I want to talk a little about the rounding the song "We Shall Be Free" on your album The Chase [1992]. You took a lot of flak from some homophobic fans who had a problem with the line "We shall be free ... when we're free to - "

GB: [starts singing the line]" . . . love anyone we choose."

PG: Right. Seldom do popular songs and films have anything in them that gay people can directly relate to, and, whether it was intentional or not, I think you probably connected with a lot of gays and lesbians because of that line. What is your own personal experience with gay people? I know that your older sister Betsy, who plays bass in your band, is gay.

GB: I'm trying to think about when I was growing up - I'm talking mid-'70s. It wasn't a period when people talked about being gay. I mean, we're still in a period when people don't talk about it that much. You also got to remember, man, growing up, I thought that everything was fine in my life. I could have been in the middle of a war all I wouldn't have seen it because I had everything fixed on my dream, and I was running as fast as I could. But where the gay issue has hit me the most is my sister. I've lived with that forever. And the thing is, the longer you live with it, the more you realize that it's just another form of people loving one another, so it doesn't become something special to you, something that's extreme or odd to you. But the line from that song isn't so much about people dealing with "it" as it is about people dealing with themselves. In that song I was talking about relationships between all kinds of people - interracial stuff, Jewish people with people from other forms of religion. But all the reviews focused in on gay. It's like, hey, imagine anything and its opposite coming together. Or anything that seems the opposite of how life has been, coming together. It's all about love.

PG: The negative stereotype of a country music fan is of an ignorant, beer-swilling redneck. Obviously, there are many country fans who don't fit into that category. I'm one of them, although I do like beer. [GB laughs] But I think it was interesting to have that "we shall be free" lyric in a country song because it shows that country music isn't only for people who fit that stereotype.

GB: Sure. But if you're wondering if we have the same fans now as we did before "We Shall Be Free" came out, I think the answer is no. We gained some fans that never knew our music, and we lost some fans that followed us very closely. My thing is, the longer I'm around, the more I'm going to reveal to people what I am. I have never been ashamed of what I am. I wasn't ashamed of singing "Friends in Low Places"; that's where I came from. But I'm also proud of "We Shall Be Free." In fact, in that song, the line I really thought I'd catch the biggest flak for was "When we all can worship from our own kind of pew. . . . " Nobody said jack about that.

PG: Does your acceptance of homosexuality conflict with your belief in God?

GB: That's a tough gig. I know everything I've got I owe to God. And I do believe God exists, but if I'm going to find out later on, you know, at the final day, that you were supposed to love a certain type of person or that one sex could only love the other sex, well, then, I guess I missed it. Right now, if you're asking me to tell you what I honestly believe in, it's that love is love, whoever shares it. It's just important that it's shared.

PG: Have you ever had a man come on to you?

GB: No guy has ever pulled the shitty guy thing by grabbing my ass, if that's what you mean. But I have had women with a lot less class than the worst man I've ever seen, come up and grab me and say, "How ya doing?" It's like, "Get away." No, I've never had a guy hit on me, but I do have a story that, for me, really relates to my feelings about this.

There's a guy back home that I sincerely love. He works with us - I'm not going to mention his name, and I'm not going to mention what he does for us. Rumor has it - and I've never talked to him about it, and it really doesn't matter - that he's homosexual. I ran into him one night in a club. I went there with my manager, and he was sitting at the bar, and I went up to say, "Hey." We always hug each other, so I'm hugging him, and I'm standing there talking to a bunch of people, and he sits down next to me. We're talking, and all of a sudden I feel this - what he's done is reached down and grabbed my hand. So we're sitting there actually holding hands at the bar. And there're people watching me, making me feel real uneasy about it. Then, all of a sudden, I think: Which is going to bother you more? People seeing you holding this guy's hand, or how he's going to feel if you pull your hand away? Not breaking that guy's heart or insulting him in any way meant so much more to me than anybody's opinion about me. So I just relaxed. Then we went to dinner, and it was cool. I thank God that moment happened to me because since then, I've been real cool about that kind of thing. People that you care about, you try to take care of, and the image takes a backseat. PG: My next question kind of has to do with what we're talking about. Do you think that all men have a feminine side? GB: I can only speak for myself. I think I have a huge feminine side. I've always hung around my mom and my sister a lot. And I find myself being able to work with women very easily. But some guys are real uncomfortable around women. If their wife is pregnant, they're praying she's going to have a boy, 'cause they're not going to know what to do if it's a girl. When my wife was pregnant, I prayed for a girl.

PG: Well, I always thought that what got the world so screwed up was too much masculinity, and that what we need over time is for a more feminine side to be recognized and appreciated. The world needs to know more about what women know. We need less warfare and more understanding.

GB: Yeah, but that's a real hard concept for me, 'cause I come from a very patriotic way of life. My father was in Korea, he was a marine, and I believe that peace is one thing worth dying for. That's probably the biggest paradox there is, that you have to kill for peace. I have the utmost respect for our fighting men and women in the service, and if it came down to there being a draft today, I would bust my ass to get there and to sign up as quickly as I could. That would be a priority for me.

PG: This idea of patriotism relates to a song on your most recent album, in Pieces [1993], called "American Honky-tonk Bar Association." You have this line about a "hardhat, gunrack, achin'back, overtaxed, flag-wavin', fun-lovin' crowd." To tell you the truth, in my experience, flag-waving people are often very narrow-minded and prejudiced about who they allow in their country and in their neighborhoods. To me, that's not a very "fun-lovin'" attitude. What I guess I'm saying is that I'm wary of patriotism.

GB: What's "wary"?

PG: It means I look at it slightly -

GB: You mean you're leery of it?

PG: Yes.

GB: If it helps, I'm a flag-waver. And I'm hoping that you just like being around me. And I hope we're having fun. [PG laughs] Personally, I would like to see the United States as a very patriotic country, a very proud country - but also a country that allows love and freedom of expression, that allows people to pursue whatever in hell they want to pursue, as long as it doesn't offend the rights of others.

PG: I'm curious about how you think the country music establishment sees you lately. At the last Country Music Association awards you were shut out except for one minor award. Artists who have experienced the kind of phenomenal success that you have often have to deal with a backlash.

GB: I'll be very honest. There was a time when I felt Nashville was like: "Hey, Garth. You're the underdog. Go get 'em." But now I'm not so sure. And I don't know what I need from Nashville, or what Nashville wants from me. The people there are cool, but the industry is different. And for me personally, It's not quite the same now as when I began because I'm in a different position. But I'm still trying to just be myself. The problem is, I'm not sure that on the subjects we talked about earlier, country music isn't going: "Hey! Don't be so much yourself. Jeez!" [laughs]

PG: Well, you've gone out on a limb in a certain way.

GB: Yeah, it's sad. I don't feel like I'm out on a limb; I feel like I'm being honest.

PG: Well, that's the best part of it. You're not doing anything to shock people; you're just being you are.

GB:I get a lot of messages from people who think I do certain things for the shocks and as a marketing ploy. That's not the truth. Not at all. it's like when that line "When we're free to love anyone we choose" caused so much trouble, I looked at myself in the mirror and said: "Man, you are one controversial person. But you're a very plain guy, a meat-and-potatoes guy. How come everything that you do is so controversial?" It's funny how sometimes real life is the odd way to look at things.

COPYRIGHT 1994 Brant Publications, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group
Bibliography for "Don't be fooled by Garth Brooks's flag-waving - country singer - Interview"
By Peter Galvin. March 1994

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