One the eve of a headline-making concert booking at New York’s Yankee Stadium, Garth Brooks has announced a new partnership with SiriusXM, putting him at the helm of his own 24-7 music station, The Garth Channel. Launching Sept. 8, The Garth Channel will feature not just music from the country superstar, but tunes from the artists that influenced him as well.
Brooks tells Billboard those influences aren’t just the legends, but also younger stars who came along after Brooks and make what he calls “feel-good music.” He cites as examples pop stars Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, as well as country stars Kenny Chesney and Joe Nichols. The channel’s programming, he says, will also feature some up-and-coming singer-songwriters who have yet to land record deals, including Brooks’ current tour mate Karyn Rochelle. As for his own material, Brooks says they’ll be able to showcase not just his hits and the new music still in the pipeline, but also material from “the vault,” like rarely heard live recordings from Brooks’ past appearances on shows like Austin City Limits and VH1’s Storytellers.
For the music-loving star, the new channel feels like a grown-up toy. “The potential is infinite… The channel is going to be growing as it goes — I don’t want to start out 110 percent. I want to start out focusing just on the music, finding out what the right balance of music is, and then start introducing other stuff, like the music that you won’t hear anywhere else.”
Radio veteran and former Big Machine Label Group promotion executive Mandy McCormack is expected to play a key role in programming the channel. She has worked directly for Brooks and wife Trisha Yearwood since early 2015.
Brooks will be curating and presenting much of the programming himself, a task made easier by equipment SiriusXM has installed in his home, as well as interviews being conducted by Sirius XM senior director of music programming Lou Simon during some of Brooks’ tour stops. Brooks and Yearwood are currently at the halfway mark of a three-year tour, and Brooks expects to get even more hands-on with the channel once that tour finally wraps.
Meanwhile, Brooks is gearing up for his July 8 and 9 shows at Yankee Stadium, and can barely contain his excitement over the gigs, and the massive stage that will take over the outfield. Like his 1997 show in New York’s Central Park that became an HBO special, these shows are also being filmed for a potential future broadcast.
Brooks, who has been rehearsing his band and crew hard for the shows — most recently in an empty Las Vegas casino ballroom — is trying to keep his emotions under control. “I just want to have fun, let it loose, and just get to do my thing,” he says. “If I think the other way, I’ll get too nervous and the show will be just totally the opposite of what I want it to be. I just want to be really relaxed, go out there and know that I’m among people that love the music, which makes them my family, and just have fun.”
Brooks has become accustomed to great crowds on his tour. “Every night people come in after the show and say, ‘I’ve never seen a crowd like that’ and I go ‘Thank God, I get to see that every night,’” he says. “They’ve just got the greatest attitudes. They come to sing and have fun, and that makes me feel more than good.”
Back home in Nashville, Brooks and Yearwood recently completed their first-ever duets project, a Christmas album set for release this year that will feature a mix of holiday standards and new material, and tracks that range from “big band sounds” to “some very acoustic stuff.” The album, he says, was recorded with “a ton of joy [and] a lot of laughing.”
He is also halfway through recording a new solo studio album, which has been worked on at a slower pace while his longtime studio bassist, Mike Chapman, battled the cancer that took his life June 13. Brooks calls Chapman “the heart and soul of the studio group. We’ve kind of moved at a pace that aligned with that battle, so when he was feeling good we would record and when he wasn’t, we wouldn’t,” he explains. “Now that chapter has closed. What a valiant warrior. We honor him, and then try and move on somehow without that sound. This back half [of the album] will be really interesting to see how it changes without him.”
In related news, Brooks has signed with Nashville-based The GreenRoom to augment his publicity efforts. The GreenRoom staff will work closely with Brooks’ team, including his longtime publicist Nancy Seltzer of Los Angeles-based firm Nancy Seltzer & Associates. The GreenRoom’s other country star clients include Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts and many others.