Garth Brooks is taking a look back at his expansive career with a 5-part multi-media anthology that kicks off on Nov. 14 with a first volume that dives into his first half-decade in the business.
Part 1: The First Five Years, looks at Brooks’ meteoric rise from 1989-1993 in his own words, as he tells the stories behind creating, recording and promoting his first five albums for Capitol Nashville during his rocket ride to superstardom. His memories are supplemented by others who were there, including the songwriters, musicians, and Brooks’ longtime manager, Bob Doyle.
The 240-page hardcover book includes more than 150 never-before-seen photos, as well as 5 CDs, including outtakes, first takes, demos and masters. Of the 52 songs included on the CDs, 19 are new, unreleased or demo versions.
The book also includes tracking sheets, session charts, and even Brooks’ job application for Cowtown Boots, the shoe store where he worked in Nashville while he was a struggling artist. The collection will be available through all retailers, including Target, Walmart, Amazon, Costco and Barnes & Noble, at a list price of $39.98, although it will likely get discounted to below $30.
“My favorite thing about Part 1 was what I learned,” Brooks tells Billboard in his first interview about the project. “I had no idea that [songwriter] Tony Arata’s first cut in Nashville was ‘The Dance.’ I would have thought it had to be his 20th. I was very aware of my stuff, but there are so many stories from [producer] Allen Reynolds, [songwriter] Pat Alger, Bob Doyle and others.” While Brooks wrote his own entries in the oral history—the book is billed as the first book about his career he has written—musician/author Warren Zanes conducted the ancillary interviews.
While the oral histories entertainingly and informatively detail the behinds-the-scenes story behind almost every track on the first five albums —Garth Brooks, No Fences, Ropin’ The Wind, The Chase and In Pieces— the CDs are more selective, in part to allow Brooks to delve musically deeper behind the chosen songs.
“One of my favorite things is the first two takes of [Brooks’ first single] ‘Much Too Young’,” he says. “It was one of the points in your life where you’re either going to die or this thing is going to take off and they found [the recording]. They found the first cut where Bobby Wood is on the Rhodes and not the piano and [drummer] Milt [Sledge] is on brushes, not sticks, and it sounds like a Kathy Mattea record and there I am staring at these guys scared to death because they know what they’re talking about and I don’t.
“What I love about the music is it backs up the stories I’ve told my entire career,” Brooks continues. “I’ve told a million times the story about ‘Rodeo’ being a girl’s song. I love the story where Bob Doyle or [co-writer] Larry Bastian say they tried to get every female in town to cut this. I’d forgotten it went out to Linda Davis, Faith Hill, Trisha Yearwood… so I ended up doing it. You get to hear what we heard and then what it became. To hear Tony Arata reach over to that boom box and touch record for the first time to record ‘The Dance,’ I cried when they sent that in.”
The remaining four parts of the anthology will cover the last half of the ‘90s, his live career, his comeback since coming out of retirement in 2014, and the hits “and what was going on in the world at that time and how the music affected that and how the world affected the music,” Brooks says.
Additionally, he exclusively reveals to Billboard that each part of the anthology will have its own two to two-and-a-half hour documentary, so by the time the final documentary comes out, there will be a 10-to-12 hour documentary series chronicling his career. Ideally, the first documentary— the companion to The First Five Years —will come out Spring 2018.
“What I love about it is our world is made up of so few people [and] we’ve all been together so long. You get to hear the voice of every one of these people,” he says. “There are seven guys who played those first 50 songs in the first five years, there’s one engineer, one producer. Their voices are alive and well. They are the ones that were there every day.”
Brooks, the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year and the only artist to win the honor five times, is on the tail end of a 3-year North American tour that will end in December. He will headline Stagecoach next April.