Garth Brooks jump-started country music at the beginning of the decade, raising its worldwide visibility
and prestige to an unprecedented level, and going on to become the biggest selling solo
artist in U.S. music history, with over 62 million in sales. He's also the fastest selling
album artist in RIAA history and one of the industry's most awarded, the latest nod
coming from the Country Music Association when the organization named him its 1997
Entertainer of the Year.
This year, he infused new energy into country when he played to the largest crowd ever
to attend a concert in New York's Central Park, a performance viewed by an additional 14.6
million television audience. His 1997 tour has attracted well over 3 million fans since Garth
hit the road last March. What those statistics mean is that enormous numbers of people
are touched by what Garth Brooks loves to do: make music.
"Garth has always impressed me with his passion for music -- for life itself -- his
uncompromising values and his ear for songs," says producer Allen Reynolds. "And
Sevens is as fine a representation of those qualities as I could have ever hoped for in my
heart. Each time I listen to it, I'm moved. This is clearly an artist in his prime."
It's clearly an example of how records should be made, too, where songs and
performances are the first priority, and time frame is a distant second, where hurriedly
finding ten tunes and booking studio time is not even a consideration. Sevens was
recorded over more than a year, giving Garth time to road test the material, to add the
musical nuances that make these tracks so uniquely tasty, and find the songs so
representative of the artist's persona.
"This is a very personal album," Garth adds. "I only wrote six of the songs, but there are
many that are so 'me' that people I work with every day thought I wrote them." In addition
to the personal nature of the album, there is an exciting variety to Sevens, a diversity that
expresses a myriad of sounds, emotions and stories. The songs range from stone country
honky tonkers to shimmering ballads to dark reflections to lighthearted beach-flavored
The tracks are spare and the trademark GB vocals right out front. "At it's best, music has
space," explains Reynolds. "I love to hear musicians and writers who can say a lot,
sparingly. This album is full, but it still has the space that allows Garth to connect with the
There are some intriguing musical surprises on the album. For example, "I Don't Have To
Wonder" seems to call for the big electric guitar sound of a "Shameless," yet Garth heard
something different. "Chris Leuzinger is one of the greatest guitarists anywhere, and he
fully expected to go to work on that part. You should have seen his face when I said I
heard a haunting steel part," Garth laughs. "Chris said, 'Well, I'll be home by the phone if it
doesn't work.' But Bruce Bouton came in with this dark steel and just nailed it."
Later, Chris Leuzinger did the same on an equally unexpected guitar part on another song.
"'Fit For A King' is a bluegrass gospel song, and the last thing you'd expect to hear is a
fuzzed out late '70s rock and roll part," Garth says. "But we had Chris play the meanest,
thickest sound that just laid right up in there to give an inspirational, clean, angelic song
the gritty street element we needed." Garth also added to the track several of the players
who had been on the original version of "Fit For A King," which he'd heard on a project
by writer Carl Jackson. The mournful fiddle by Randy Howard is a standout among many
standouts on this album. And the harmony work done by Jackson and Lona Heid is
nothing short of stunning.
The tracks are innovative throughout Sevens. Another shining performance is provided
by Steve Wariner's guitar solo and scat singing on the album's first single, a little slice of
honky tonk heaven penned by Steve and Rick Carnes: "Long Neck Bottle." The band
rocks out on "Take The Keys To My Heart," a jazz song Garth found on friend Benita
Hill's multi-genre album, then transports you in spirit if not body to the islands on "Two
Pina Coladas," penned by Sandy Mason, Benita Hill and Shawn Camp. World renowned
bassist Edgar Meyer added the poignant arco bass on "Belleau Wood" as he did on
"Wolves" from No Fences.
On Pat Flynn's "Do What You Gotta Do," Garth spotlights guitarist Flynn as well as other
New Grass Revival members: Sam Bush on mandolin, Bela Fleck on banjo, with Sam Bush
and John Cowan singing harmony. Sam Bush also contributed the lilting mandolin on
"When There's No One Around."
Garth wrote six of the fourteen cuts, including the inspirational, introspective "How You
Ever Gonna Know" (with Kent Blazy), where you'll hear harmonies by a new vocal
"group" in Nashville: The Ordinaires. "Garth, [keyboardist] Bobby Wood and I were just
messing around with some harmonies one night after the session," Reynolds explains.
"But we decided the feel was right, and kept them. I don't think we'll be any threat to the
Jordanaires, but we had fun."
The chart-topping duet with friend Trisha Yearwood, "In Another's Eyes" was written
with Bobby Wood and John Peppard. Garth penned "A Friend To Me" with longtime
collaborator and Central Park opening act, Victoria Shaw. His trademark tip of the hat to
the West and "...love song to a truck," "Cowboy Cadillac," was written with his 1997 tour
opening act, Bryan Kennedy.
"She's Gonna Make It' is pretty much what would happen to me if I ever got a divorce,"
Garth explains, with a smile. "For the first six months I'd be out on the town. Then one day
I'd wake up and say, 'What the hell am I gonna do with the rest of my life?'"
And without taking anything away from his other compositions, Garth says "Belleau
Wood" is his favorite. "Back in 1988, before I ever had a record contract, Joe Henry -- who
is a Colorado writer -- mentioned to me that he'd written a lot of poems. 'Well, I'd love to
see 'em,' I said. He hesitated and told me he had about fifteen hundred of them. I told him
to bring 'em on. I read three or four hundred poems and found 'Belleau Wood.' It was the
kind of song you dream of being a part of, and I asked to add the music to it. I always put
my pick as the final cut, and on Sevens, it's 'Belleau Wood.'"
While the end result is a seamless recording that moves effortlessly through the fourteen
songs, it didn't start out that way, according to Garth. "When I started making this record,
I was confused," Garth admits. "At that time I hadn't been touring, and I came in
wondering where I was going. Allen sensed that I was questioning myself and basically
said, 'Okay, I'll drive.'" They recorded over a period of a year, and although Garth soon
regained his confidence, Allen continued in the driver's seat. "That's what I love about
him," Garth says. "He didn't back off what he'd started. He brought me songs that were
more 'me' than some I'd written myself. He pushed for fourteen songs and the sequence
you hear now."
"That very questioning is one of the things that makes Garth a joy to work with," Allen
explains. "Nothing is ever stale or cloned. It's always fresh. Given the amazing assortment
and number of songs, this is a show I'd go and see over and over. From the first note to
the last, it's like an oasis, a shelter in the storm."
Listening to Garth Brooks and Allen Reynolds talk music somehow makes the GB sales
phenomenon all the more enthralling. Ego is always checked at the door at a Garth Brooks
session. It's strictly about songs, musicians and a love for what is being created. The man
has always been about the music, and the music brought the man success as few have
Just look at the album statistics: His debut album, Garth Brooks, released in 1989, was the
biggest selling country album of the 1980's. His sophomore outing, No Fences, is the
biggest selling country album of all time. Ropin' The Wind was the third biggest, and the
first album to debut at #1 on both the Billboard Top 200 Album chart and the Billboard
Country Album Chart. The Chase and In Pieces both entered the pop and country charts
at #1. And Sevens made history before it was even released. The debut single, "Long
Neck Bottle," became the only single to be added by every Radio & Records reporting
station on the day of its release. "Long Neck Bottle" debuted in the R&R chart at #10, the
highest single debut in its history.
Garth has made 4 NBC specials, all of which were overwhelming ratings successes. The
first special, This Is Garth Brooks, was filmed at Dallas' Reunion Arena in September 1991.
At the time it aired it gave NBC its highest-rated Friday night in more than 2 years (17.3
rating/28 share), and was the #9 show in the Nielsen ratings for the week. The second
airing of This Is Garth Brooks remained powerful, receiving a 6.9 rating and a 12 share.
This Is Garth Brooks, Too! was filmed over the course of three sold-out shows at Texas
Stadium in Dallas in 1993, and that show gave NBC its first time period win among adults
(18-49) since August 1992. When The Hits aired in January of 1995, it gave NBC its best
adult rating in that time slot since January 19, 1994, with an 11.8 rating and an 18 share.
The behind-the-scenes documentary, Tryin' To Rope The World, featured never-before
seen footage of Garth's first European/Australian tour in 1994, and received a 9.4 share
and a 15 share in the 18-49 demographics.
In December of 1996, VH1 premiered Garth Brooks: Storytellers, as part of its critically
acclaimed singer/songwriter series. This intimate look into Garth and his music doubled
the ratings of shows featuring rock stars including Sting, Jackson Browne, Elvis Costello
and Melissa Etheridge.
Garth -- Live From Central Park first aired on August 7th, 1997. The spectacular was the
most watched and highest rated original program on HBO in 1997, beating all broadcast
competition in the time period as well as 3 of the 4 networks combined! New York ratings
were an amazing 51.7, according to Nielsen. The 1997 Super Bowl did not do as well.
Ratings continued to rise throughout the evening of the concert, peaking at a 19.1/29 in
the last 15 minutes of the concert. Based on HBO average ratings, Garth -- Live From
Central Park was the most watched special on cable television in 1997.
Along with the sales came awards including a Grammy, 11 American Music Awards, 10
Country Music Association Awards, 14 Academy of Country Music Awards, 5 World
Music Awards, and 8 People's Choice Awards, including Favorite Male Musical Performer
for the past six years. He was named "Artist of the '90s" at the 1997 Blockbuster
Given the past eight years of sales, awards and concert tickets, there's no doubt that the
numbers connected to Garth Brooks are formidable. But make no mistake about this: in
1997 the one number that counts is Sevens.