Garth Brooks: “Life’s better with music in it”

Bars and honky-tonks, already pulsing with music at mid-day, line Nashville’s Lower Broadway. Make room for one more. Named after his 1990 country hit, Garth Brooks’ Friends In Low Places Bar & Honky-Tonk was still a work in progress last month when “Sunday Morning” visited. “Don’t wanna be egotistical,” he said. “‘Friends In Low Places,’ for me, is a chapter in country music. It needs to be here.”

Pauley asked, “What is the difference between a bar and a honky-tonk?”

“A bar’s a place usually where just locals come, like you saw in ‘Cheers,'” Brooks replied. “A honky-tonk’s probably got a dance floor, a little bit bigger, right? It’s modeled like a dance hall.”

Garth Brooks shows Jane Pauley the construction of the Friends In Low Places Bar & Honky-Tonk in Nashville. 

CBS News

The 61-year-old Oklahoman was a new name in town some 30 years ago, on the road to becoming the best-selling solo recording artist of all time – 157 million albums and counting. “If you’re lucky enough to get to sell some records in this town, you owe this town,” he said. “How can I pay back? Well, if you come down here on Lower Broadway and there’s not a Friends In Low Places, are you kidding me?”

“Because this is going to be a honky-tonk, and people are gonna have a really good time,” Pauley said. “And you’re gonna serve every kind of beer.”

“Yes, ma’am. We’re gonna serve everybody,” he said.

And times being what they are, that stirred some people up.

“You’re gonna serve every kind of beer, to everybody,” said Pauley. “And that’s controversial?”

“I think if you want division on this planet, at this time? Talk about unity, talk about love. What’s our other option?”

“But you got some fans who are thinking, you know, ‘Garth Brooks, is he with us or is he with them?'”

“I’m with love,” Brooks said. “You come on this ship or not. But love’s big enough for all of us. They say the hardest question on the planet is, ‘Why are we down here?’ That’s the easiest one. We’re down here for each other. That’s why there’s more than just one of us down here. So, I love that. And I kinda love the differences, because that’s the fun part of it.”

Garth Brooks.

CBS News

The other parts were on his mind when Brooks and Pauley first met 30 years ago, in 1992, for “Dateline NBC.” After rocketing to the top of the music scene, he didn’t like what he saw. “If it wasn’t for the people that come see me and my love for them, I would’ve been out of this business a year-and-a-half ago,” he told Pauley then.

Today, Pauley noted, “You were a man with the world by the tail. And you wanted to let go of it. You were talking about quitting.”

“100%,” said Brooks.

“I 100% didn’t believe you would. But you were serious?”

“Oh, very serious.”

Of course, he didn’t, and seven years later Brooks was named Artist of the Decade. 

And then he did it.

In 2000 he and wife Sandy were splitting up, and he walked away to be a fulltime dad to their three daughters. “That’s when life kinda began for me,” he said. “I thought the ’90s were rockin’. ’90s couldn’t hold a candle to getting to be a dad for those kids for the 2000s.”

Inspired by his own childhood in Yukon, Oklahoma, the youngest of Raymond and Colleen’s six kids – one girl and five boys, who shared a bedroom.

Pauley said, “Your childhood home sounds like the home equivalent of a clown car.”

“It was nuts,” he said. “And we were blended. It was a great thing. So, mom had three kids, dad had one. And they came together and had two more. But half- or step- was never, you never got to use that.”

“And there’s a lotta music?”

Tons of music,” he said. “Life’s better with music in it.”

And every kind of music: “James Taylor and Creedence, Janice Joplin. Dad was listening to Haggard Jones, Buck Owens. Mom was listening to Belafonte, Mahalia Jackson. And then on my own, I discovered George Strait. That day changed everything for me.”

“You heard, what?”

“I don’t know. When you hear that voice that you trust, you hear that voice who’s singing, and you go, ‘Man, whatever that is, makes me smile.’ And then, when you get behind a guitar and you’re like, ♫ Give me a bottle ♫, all of a sudden, your bones and everything goes, ‘Hey, hey, we like this. Whatever this is, we like it.’ And then, it’s almost like breathing. So, you find yourself singing all the time.”

When his youngest daughter went off to college, Brooks went back on the road, with country music artist Trisha Yearwood by his side (they were married in 2005). The fans were still there, more than ever.

He’s scaled back a bit, with a Las Vegas residency, but beginning a new radio venture. And with the imminent opening of the Friends In Low Places Bar & Honky-Tonk, Garth Brooks is savoring a full-circle moment.

“You might be interviewing the luckiest, most blessed guy on this planet,” he said. “My children are healthy, they’re on their way, Ms. Yearwood’s happy (I’m hoping!), and then hopefully, the music [is] bringing people together. And they’re using it to celebrate. They’re using it to mourn. They’re using it to unite. How does it get better than that?”


CBS News

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Story produced by Kay Lim. Editor: Ed Givnish. 

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