Garth Brooks Plots Stadium Tour & Network Special, Addresses Agent Rob Beckham's WME Departure

garth brooks
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Garth Brooks performs during the 2018 CMA Music festival on June 9, 2018 in Nashville, Tenn.  

“I was scared to death to get out of honky-tonks because I thought the arenas were too big,” he tells Billboard. “And now stadiums kind of scare you because you’re comfortable in the arenas.”

“People that know me know I’m scared to death of stadiums,” Garth Brooks declared at a press conference Wednesday (Oct. 17) where the superstar, nevertheless, announced a three-year tour that will exclusively play those massive venues. 

At the event, held at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Brooks also announced that his Saturday show at Notre Dame Stadium will air as a prime-time television concert special Dec. 2 on CBS.

His North American stadium tour is expected to total around 30 shows, and Brooks said he’ll play 10 to 12 stadiums a year. Originally envisioned as being exclusively limited to college stadiums, Brooks said the concept expanded to also encompass some professional stadiums for routing purposes.

In a one-on-one with Billboard after the press conference, Brooks said routing the tour in stadiums primarily used for football presented a bit of a challenge. “We lost a lot of good markets that we’d love to be playing but we can’t get to because the athletic department won’t let us in because of things that happen,” he said. He referenced an August JAY-Z and Beyoncé concert at the University of South Carolina where fans did an estimated $15,000 to $200,000 worth of damage to the field, despite a covering, and the field had to be replaced.

While most of the shows are expected to take place outside football season in the spring and summer, Brooks told Billboard, “We’ve talked about anything as crazy as maybe booking something north in the winter, because who’s ever done a concert in the snow? So everything’s kind of open and everything’s possible. That’s what I love.”

Though Brooks has long been capable of filling stadiums, he has only played a handful during his 30-year career, most recently at New York’s Yankee Stadium in 2016, usually preferring the relative intimacy of arenas. He admits it’s time to move up. “I was scared to death to get out of honky-tonks because I thought the arenas were too big,” he says. “And now stadiums kind of scare you because you’re comfortable in the arenas.”

Despite the stadiums pushing for two-tier pricing, Brooks will stick with his longtime policy of offering all tickets, including those on the field, for one price. He explained that he’d never want a parent taking their child to his show to have to explain that they’re not seated closer to the stage because they couldn’t afford it.

Five shows will go on sale before Christmas, including the Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis and the State Farm Stadium in the Phoenix area. The other three are still in contract negotiations. Brooks indicated that one of the shows on the tour will be at Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts and two others will be in Texas and Tennessee.

The deal with CBS to film the Notre Dame show caused Brooks and his team to take a “hard right” on plans for that performance, revamping details all the way down to the opening song. And while he called Notre Dame a “blueprint” for the stadium shows to come, Brooks also said the production will be overhauled after this weekend’s show so that what fans see on the December television special, titled Garth: Live From Notre Dame!, is not the same show they’ll see in person in the coming years. The TV special will be produced and directed by his longtime collaborator Jon Smalls. Brooks is an executive producer.

Opening-act slots for the tour are still being determined, but Brooks said his wife and fellow country star Trisha Yearwood would not be doing a set during the shows, as she has for their three-year North American arena tour, which wrapped in December. While he said Yearwood might turn up occasionally as a surprise guest, he hinted that she’d be staging a tour of her own. For the Notre Dame show, Yearwood will host a special parking-lot event called “Trisha’s Tailgate,” which will include a cooking demonstration similar to what she does on her long-running Food Network program and at food and wine shows.

Brooks added that some old friends may be joining him on stage. He said the stadium tour would be reminiscent of his first tour in the last '80s, cryptically saying,"I'll get to play music with people that haven't played [with me] in a while. 

The stadium shows may not be Brooks' only performances over the next few years. He  expressed interest in doing a residency of "maybe five shows" at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, similar to what Little Big Town did in 2017. 

Brooks also spoke with Billboard about the unexpected recent departure of his agent, Rob Beckham, from WME, where he had been a partner. While Brooks did not shed any light on Beckham’s surprising exit, he did say he has spoken with Beckham and, “He said he was happy. He’s fine.”

The country superstar said he got a “sweet” call from WME co-CEO Patrick Whitesell on the day of Beckham’s departure and that Whitesell told him, “‘Look, man, until you find somebody you’re comfortable with, I’ll take care of your stuff,’ which I thought was very sweet. I love everybody there, but we’ll see what we’re going to do now.

“The things that Rob did for us I can never repay him for, so it’s a tough loss,” Brooks added. “But if he’s happy, that’s all that matters.”