Garth Brooks takes break from retirement 'Scarecrow' brings singer back to spotlight

Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2001

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Garth Brooks' cellular phone buzzes incessantly on a desk across the room at Capitol Records. He rubs his eyes and ignores it.

''I feel like I am so slow right now,'' he says. ''I don't remember it moving this fast. But it moves fast. So, (I'm) catching up.''

Brooks, who's sold 100 million albums -- and makes his schedule around his daughters' soccer practices -- is focused back on the country music business for a few months.

The occasion is the release of his ninth album (excluding holiday, live and compilation projects), ''Scarecrow.'' He's hinted it may be his last, though he's left himself some loopholes.

There will be no tour to promote the album, as Brooks has announced he won't return to the concert circuit until his three daughters are grown. His youngest, Allie, is 5. He lives close to ex-wife, Sandy Brooks, in Oklahoma, and the children alternate between the two homes.

Instead of touring, Brooks planned three concert specials on CBS during November. The first was scheduled for Wednesday (Nov. 14).

''If people tune in, it's going to put us in front of 10 times as many people as it took us three years to see live on tour,'' Brooks says. ''So it works out really well for me as a father. ... It makes us feel very good and very confident going into the season of the 'Scarecrow.'''

After the specials, Brooks says he'll return to being ''a dad who occasionally sings.'' The 39-year-old announced his retirement a year ago, saying he would record one more studio album.

''I can understand how people can go, 'Now wait a minute, if he's retired, how's he doing all this stuff?''' Brooks says.

''An easy way to clear it up ... is to point out that I'm doing exactly what I said I'd do. But that doesn't sell any papers. You know?''

Brooks believes the time is right for a break, even without family considerations.

''The road of country music winds and twists and veers off and does things,'' he says. ''There's a fine line between reinventing yourself again, and then selling out to try and get airplay. That's a tough line that you walk.''

Finding material for the ''Scare-crow'' album was difficult, he says. Needed were songs he was comfortable singing that would please radio programmers, and didn't repeat themes from past hits.

''Scarecrow'' is a mixed bag, with Brooks handling a variety of material with assurance. Besides a couple of nods to his early country style -- the rollicking ''Beer Run'' is a politically incorrect romp with George Jones -- the album reflects Brooks' childhood roots in the music of the 1970s.

There are strong hints of Jackson Browne (''Mr. Midnight''), James Taylor (''Thicker Than Blood'') and Bob Seger (''Why Ain't I Running'').

''What's weird is, when you look at country music and the blue collar individual, what is the theme today for that?'' Brooks says. ''It's a Bob Seger song called 'Like a Rock.'

''That song is very cowboy, very -- for me -- country today, Garth country. But 30 years ago or 20 years ago, it would be Bob Seger's rock 'n' roll kind of stuff.''

The first single, ''Wrapped Up in You,'' is a catchy acoustic pop number.

''It's like you've got four guys on the porch in Kentucky somewhere, but the four guys are John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr with a fiddle and harmonica,'' Brooks says.

Except for some interviews and the TV specials, it will largely be up to country radio programmers to determine whether the ''Scarecrow'' music gets heard once Brooks returns to life in Oklahoma.

So far, the album is a hit. Two songs are concurrently climbing the charts. ''Wrapped Up in You'' is being promoted by Capitol, and Jones' label, RCA, is pushing the ''Beer Run'' duet.

Brooks says he's open to any ideas Capitol has about issuing unreleased material. He would also come out of retirement to make an entire album with old friend Trisha Yearwood. She sings a scorching duet with him on ''Scarecrow,'' a Delbert McClinton song titled ''Squeeze Me In.''

Also on the back burner is a follow-up to his least successful album, ''Garth Brooks ... in the Life of Chris Gaines.'' That was a foray into pop music in the guise of a fictional singer from Australia.

Brooks says he'll make the soundtrack for the proposed film about Gaines, if it gets a green light. But he's unsure if he could still play the title character.

''I don't know if I ever want to lose that much weight again to play a character,'' he says. ''It's something that I might be getting too old to do.''


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