Garth Brooks on revisiting the first years of his career: 'I'm getting to hear things I never knew existed'

Wendy Geller
Senior Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

Imagine if you could go back in time, to the very beginnings of when you started your career or life’s path, and reexamine every aspect of your choices. For many people of a certain age, this exercise would consist solely and simply of personal memories, which may or may not be entirely accurate. Superstar Garth Brooks, however, is taking this idea and running with it in a fascinating way.

The iconic musician, who will be 56 this coming February, has just released The Anthology Part 1: The First Five Years, the first volume of a five-part anthology chronicling his extraordinary career. Fans — and Brooks himself — are drawn back into the first five years of his career, exploring never-before-seen photos, stories, pre-debut-album songs, and a collection of music to accompany the 200-plus-page book.

Although Brooks has an unparalleled career as a musician, this set marks his first foray into writing a book, and he notes that he’s been enjoying this journey all the way. “It’s pretty cool — as the author of a book, you get surprised just like the readers of the book get surprised,” he told Yahoo Music during a live chat discussing the project. “That shocked me, because I didn’t expect to be surprised.”

As Brooks explains, he’s (unsurprisingly) been approached to chronicle his life story before, but he wasn’t interested, due to the one-dimensionality of a straightforward autobiography. “The truth is, that’s just my side of it,” he notes. 

With this project, Brooks was able to expand the range of viewpoints to include the players — both the musicians and the folks behind the board — which resulted in some memories and anecdotes about things the superstar had not been aware of.

“They asked the people that were in [the studio] every day,” he relates. “Try to remember, it’s the same five guys who played every song on those first five records. Same engineers, same producer. But these guys are players. They never get interviewed, so they never speak that much. So to hear the story from their side — there’s so much in there that I’m learning about the Garth Brooks career that I had no idea about!”

“Everything then was analog, so it would be a pain in the butt to go through all that stuff. So what the engineers did was, they went back and [transferred] everything to digital. And it’s just sitting there in your email — I’m getting to hear things I never knew existed.”

Some of those things? Brooks talks about stumbling across a demo from his now-wife, Trisha Yearwood, who was putting her pre-fame pipes to a song meant to be pitched to Reba McEntire. “You’re hearing little Trisha before she gets a deal,” marvels Brooks, adding that Yearwood herself was surprised by some of the things discovered about both of their careers during the process of assembling the project. “Great little surprises like that are all through this book.”

Even better news for fans is the fact that Brooks is going full speed ahead with work on four subsequent volumes, which will be released in non-chronological order. The singer explains he’s planning on putting out Vol. 3 next, which will take fans into the works behind his famed live show. Brooks says this particular volume “is going to explode” with stories — “because instead of the basic five [players], now you’re talking the basic two dozen guys that’s been on the road and crew since we started!”

Overall, Brooks admits, there have been bumps in the road over his award-strewn career, as well as many highly publicized decisions, such as his retirement in 2000, taken in order to devote time to his three young daughters (another point in his story that he reveals will receive its own volume). When asked if he’d take the chance to change anything he’s done over the years — or give his younger self any words of advice — Brooks takes a short moment to reflect.

“There’s a beautiful song by Rascal Flatts — they have a song called ‘[Bless] The Broken Road,’ that led me straight to you,” he notes, quoting the song’s chorus. “I’ve been thinking about that a lot, because I’m a divorced parent, as well. So you think, with the love of your life, you have no children between you biologically. And you think, what if [my] three girls [by ex-wife Sandy Mahl] were hers and mine? And then you realize those children wouldn’t be the same way that they are.

“So there’s a lot of things that you go, ‘Hmm, would you really change that?’ Your knee-jerk reaction is yes — change everything. But that would probably change where I’m at today. And I would never want to chance that. At all.”