The weekend started with a small, intimate press conference which I was very lucky to have been invited to be a part of. Garth and Trisha had just arrived from the airport and made their way, via Facebook Live and fans in virtual tow, from the dressing rooms to the press room. I gotta say, I love how much they both have gotten into connecting directly with their fans via social media. They really seem to love it and I know their fans certainly do. One thing Garth and Trisha excel at is connection. This article is going to be a little longer than usual because there were so many good things talked about that I want to share. I held my questions for the one on one session at the end but I wanted to share some great conversations with the others in the room. Tonight allowed a small group of us into a world that few get to see, the honest thoughts and emotions of Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, the obvious love they share between themselves and those that work with them and for the fans.
One of the first things Garth told us when he took the stage was that he wanted this to be a conversation, not just asking him questions, he wanted to be able to ask us questions in return and find out more about who we were, what we enjoyed and just get to know us as much as we wanted to get to know him. I thought that was, well, for lack of better words, just pretty cool. The atmosphere was very laid back, very casual and not the usual runaround, chaotic press conference one would expect for artists of this calibre and for Garth's first time playing Raleigh in decades. They both made us feel very comfortable and I hope we returned the favor. I really wasn't expecting the emotional experience that came from just a few short questions. Having listened to and respected both of these people from as far back as my musical memories take me, I can say that I have garnered a new kind of respect for them as people, not just as artists. They're both as genuine as a heart can possibly be and they're both as kind as you would hope people to be. I am definitely a continued fan for life.
Garth: "This is where it all comes together. I could listen to music all day long but until I sat in that auditorium in Nashville when James Taylor came to do something with the Nashville symphony. It was the first time I'd ever been in the same room where there's nothing between you and him, that's what it's about. He plays the symphony and he's all charted out. When you do those symphony gigs, you usually get done pretty quick because the symphony can only do so many songs so then James comes back out, just he and a guitar. Now we're unscripted, now we're off the reigns. He just starts playing all of the things he loves, which are all of the things I love because I love him. I bawled like a baby and every time I think about it, that's what music is. Standing in the 13th row, first concert and I got to go with a date other than my brother, it was Queen. 13 rows away from Freddie Mercury ... whew ... Brian May with that guitar. That's when they allowed you to stand in your chair, your hands are up, you're screaming so loud that you can't hear yourself and the music was so loud. That's what it's all about. That's what makes me want to do this every night, night after night."
Trisha: "For me, it was Linda Ronstadt, I was 15 and I was in the balcony at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta and I remember listening to her sing and thinking if I could get up on that stage and do that, I would never stop. I think it's that we are going at a pretty fast pace on this tour, we're already a year and a half in and and it won't be another blink before this tour's over. We are just trying to enjoy every single second and we are, I mean it's what we've always dreamt of doing our whole lives and we get to do it together."
Garth (obviously very emotional): "So there's that sense of urgency and I think that's what makes live concerts so cool. For some people, you always have to think of things both ways, ok? People don't realize how far I travel to hear them sing, they just never compute that, it's always the other way around and there will be people here tonight that it will be their first and their last time they'll ever see us live and this is the first and last time I'll ever get to do it live for them. There's the marriage right there and we'd better enjoy it."
Mandy (Raleigh Magazine): "Trisha, with "The Passion" coming up, it's a musical about the life of Jesus. It's a very daring project. What drew you to it?"
Trisha: "Um, I'm terrified, first of all. When I talked to the producers, Alexanders and Andy who had done GLEE, I thought this will be a really fun experience with a lot of these productions are starting to go live on TV like "The Sound of Music" and then we had "The Wiz" and "Grease". It wasn't until a couple of days after I had said yes that it really sank in that I had agreed to play Mary, the mother of Jesus, and then I got really scared. Somebody asked me yesterday "What does your husband think of this?" and luckily I live with a guy who takes risks, he's not afraid to do anything and so I think for me, this is probably one of the most challenging things for so many reasons. The music is all pop music, it's all different for me, it's all really hard and it's not in my comfort zone and then there's the emotion that comes with telling this story with one of the scenes that I'm in and some of things I have to sing around. I'm nervous and I'm not usually nervous but this is different. This is a story that I grew up in church hearing and I love the way the story's being told, true to scripture but bringing it to modern day, telling that story of love which is the best story to tell. I want to be a part of that."
Janie Caruthers 94.7 WQDR: "Here in Raleigh, playing the Longbranch is a right of passage and sadly it's no longer open but what memories do you have of playing the Longbranch?"
Garth: "First of all, did your grandparents tell you about the Longbranch? I know you have no recollection of being in there. It's just great. It's what we were saying coming in talking to you guys on Facebook, the great thing about coming here is you realize this is where your career kinda started. So Raleigh, you go into the Longbranch and you play and then you come back and you play it again. You get to be involved with their 25th anniversary event. It's like Ticketmaster, the people who do your tickets, they keep all their data and what they're telling you is 48% of the building weren't even born yet when you toured last. So it's pretty cool because you're getting to see those faces you saw at the Longbranch back in the day and then you get to see their children. The crazy thing is each one of them knows the words to each one of your songs, every verse. I'm amazed. People always ask "ooh, what did you do if you forget the words?" You just look out in the audience, it's crazy. Hopefully the music, it's the important thing, and not the artist is what's getting across."
CBS News Raleigh: "I saw you get a little emotional when you were talking about the letter you posted to fans on your Facebook page. Can you tell us a little more about that?"
Garth: "What I've learned out here on the road is what people are looking for from the old music to the new music. They keep talking about "the Garth stuff". I wasn't sure what they meant. What it came down to is I've been lucky enough to have been paired with some really great writers. Instead of taking someone else's song and making it your own, you have to put your soul to music and then write. They're telling me that's what they're missing. I didn't know if the writing muscle would come back. Trust me, when we took off, we didn't do anything music wise. Oklahoma, it's a great place to raise your kids, we're talking oil, cattle, gas, hay, you know stuff like that and that's kind of what we dove into. Nashville's all about creative energy and all the writing juices that flow there. When you get back in that town, you want to write again so we just started to write again. You just pick up a pen and if that's good or bad, this next album is going to be more Garth than any other album. The people will decide if that's good or bad."
Tina Currin, Indyweek Magazine: "I run marathons and it seems like touring, especially these very long extensive tours, are very physically demanding. What has it been like preparing for the demands of this tour day after day?"
Garth: "I've been on two world tours before and they were 3 years each so to pick 3 years seemed to be the obvious thing. The thing I didn't count on was I'm 54. There's something about a guy that for some reason still seems to think he can do what he could do in his twenties. I can (laughs) but you know. I think that was the biggest shock."
Trisha: "Yeah, I think that when we first started this tour, even when a lot of these cities are two shows a night. What I do is so much less than what he does out there and I know from living with John Wayne that he will be hurting and no one will ever know it and MAYBE he'll tell me at some point in the car on the way home if he's bleeding anywhere from falling ... (looks at Garth) ... not falling. I'm sure you meant to go to the ground ... but yeah, I think you just get it done. My part isn't as physically demanding as what he does. The first 6 months was a re-training of just the energy. Even though I'm not always on stage, I'm back stage and might have to come back out and we might not get back to the hotel until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning and we don't sleep until 2 the next day. Garth is usually doing a kid's camp Teammates for Kids, I've got everything from live tweeting for the cooking show to book signings, we do Prizefighter luncheons sometimes so there's always stuff going on the next day. After awhile, you get into a shape of what you're doing. It's like exercise. You might be great at hiking and you hike up a hill but you can't play basketball without losing your wind because you haven't done that so you get in shape for that then it's hard to do something else. I think it's just getting in shape for this like anything."
Garth: " I know this is our press conference, but can I ask you a question? You run marathons, full? What do you do when you just want to quit?"
Tina: "When you wanna quit running?"
Garth: "Right. When you're in the middle of a marathon, what do you do when you just think "Oh hell no", how do you keep going?"
Tina: "I listen to music and the amazing thing about distance running is that at a certain point, it shuts off, everything else shuts off and you just get lost in music and stop thinking about what hurts and you just kinda get in the zone and it feels really good."
Garth: "And for you, when is that point?"
Tina: "Uh, maybe like mile 18."
Garth: "So the truth is you know if you can get to 18 miles, you can get to the rest. Let me tell you, there are few things in my life that I haven't done that I've wanted to do."
Tina: "You should do it."
Garth (lifts up shirt and pats his belly): "Um, no, but I love you and admire you. You have something that I would like to call my own."
In the short clip below, Garth talked about pulling back the curtain and exposing those who make him sound good night after night, the musicians who have been by his side for years and have played on the albums. He got very emotional and shed a tear talking about his friendship and gratitude he has for his band members.
I shook his hand and introduced myself in return and (in reference to his remark in the video above), apologized for my Alabama accent (I'm from Mobile, AL) which made him turn red and start laughing and trying to dig himself out of that hole.
He asked me to tell him about Lovin' Lyrics. I told him that I'm just a music fan who wants to give back and do what I can to help those artists who don't have the money to pay for big name promoters and can't get attention because they don't have the money it takes, that I just want to help get the music out there and give back to others what music has done for me. He smiled, took a step back, put his hand on his face and said "wow, that's so great" and hugged me. Needless to say, that one moment made the hard work up to this point more than worth it. I asked him two questions:
Me: "So you're standing at the gates of country music heaven and there stand Patsy Cline, George Jones and Waylon Jennings. George Jones looks at you and asks, "Why should we let you in?" What would you say?"
Garth: "Well, that's a simple one. I believe in God and God is George Strait."
That wasn't the answer I was expecting, it was better than the answer I expected and it started a great connection with Garth. He looked over my shoulder and noticed my mom, asking "Is that your mother? I can tell", then walked over, shook her hand and gave her a hug, asking her how many of "us" she had and carrying on their own special conversation. That meant the world to me and I know it meant the world to my mother. Thank you for that, Garth. We then talked a little about his charity, Teammates for Kids. His face lit up when he talked about the kids he's worked with and the mission he's on to help kids that need it. 100% of donations go to the kids, period. For more information on the mission, go to https://teammatesforkids.com/mission. It's really a wonderful cause. When time was up, HE asked if we could take a picture. Well who am I to say no and why would I? Are you kidding me? It's a picture of a lifetime and one I was able to share with my mother.
Due to time restraints, I only got in about 2 minutes with Trisha. I asked her how she keeps herself together with everything she has going on and just not snap and if she's ever told Garth to just talk to the hand. She said there are times she wants to just sit down and cry, pull her hair out, but Garth is her calm. He always has a way of making her fears and stress disappear. When it comes to the love she has for him, her eyes said so much more than her words ever could. I introduced her to my mom and she came down off the podium and said "I need to hug you, I miss my mom so much" and she hugged her so tight and quite honestly, I think my mom would have adopted her right then if she could have. She talked about being petrified of portraying "Mary" in "The Passion" and said she was afraid it would be so powerful that she wouldn't be able to finish singing and would break out into full on ugly cry face. I'm watching her performance as I write this and I'm the one who broke out into full on ugly cry face complete with sniffling and the whole lip tremble, the production is powerful but SHE was powerful in her performance of "Hands" and "Broken". You did just fine, Ms. Yearwood.
Thanks to Garth and Trisha for their time, their candor, and their kindess and for making me realize why I love this genre, it's passion not only for the music but for what it stands for. What a wonderful night. Stay tuned for a review of opening night!
Follow Jenn on Twitter at @lovinlyrics
All photos courtesy of Jennifer Smith / Lovin' Lyrics