Garth Brooks has sold more albums in America than any other solo artist in history. Let that sink in: He's outpaced Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and even newly-announced Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan. But, when he stopped by AT&T Stadium in Arlington today, it was not to talk about selling music, so much as giving it away for free.
One thing to know: It's almost impossible to find Brooks' hits in a digital format online -- that is, unless you're a subscribing member of GhostTunes, the music service he launched in 2014. Sure, a casual YouTube search might bring up a scratchy bootleg smart phone video of Brooks performing "What She's Doing Now," but like that song's title subject, quality recordings have disappeared without a trace. It was a virtual "ghost" town. Until now.
Through Dec. 31, fans can download Brooks' newly-released single, "Baby, Let's Lay Down and Dance," for free by accessing a code found inside bags of Fritos.
A prize at the bottom of a snack isn't just for Cracker Jacks or sugar cereal these days.
It might at first seem like a cynical marketing move, and it is about selling more albums eventually. But, Brooks' long and storied career has been based on stunts; he's a master of them, and fans love it. Great ones involved his being suspended over Central Park on cables or falling in love with Chris Kattan's "Mango" on Saturday Night Live. Less successful ones included an alter-ego with odd facial hair. Only those willing to fall will ever know how far they can fly, or something.
And, as Brooks pointed out during a press conference, partnering with Plano-based Frito-Lay meant granting access to fans through one of the most recognizable brands in the country. You might not have heard of GhostTunes yet, but they're betting you've enjoyed the salty, tasty corn chips before.
You're craving a Fritos chili pie now, aren't you? Us too. Mmm... tastes like 'Ropin' the Wind.'
Other bands have made similar moves as the industry evolves in the digital age. U2 roused ire -- even from fans -- when the mega-popular band's 2014 album Songs of Innocence automatically downloaded to 500 million iTunes user libraries.
Lesson learned: Fans like freebies, but only with permission. Having to purchase a bag of Fritos chips makes it more of an in-kind transaction, anyhow. We're guessing there will be no shortage of eager folks who think it's a good trade.
What else is Garth up to these days?
He's retired from retirement forever
After years of near-constant touring and recording, Brooks announced he was hanging up his Mo Betta shirts and Stetson in 2000 to spend more time with family. Now that all three of his daughters are in college, and he's able to travel with the "love of [his] life," wife Trisha Yearwood, Brooks says he's back for good.
"My retiring days are behind me," he says. "I'll be in this business until they throw me out."
In other words: Younger artists, watch out.
There are two new albums out on Nov. 11
Fans have more to look forward to than just the new single. On Nov. 11, Brooks is releasing a 10-disc boxed set exclusively through Target, which will include a new (title yet-to-be-released) studio album. He and Yearwood have also collaborated on a Christmas album, their first release together.
What can we expect from the new tracks? Brooks says when they released his breakthrough his No Fences in 1990, he was confident it contained 2 or 3 solid singles. The new material has 4 or 5 that "just slay" him.
One important song didn't make the final track list
Brooks made history by being one of the first artists in country music to embrace his identity as a LGBTQ ally. In fact, his hit "We Shall Be Free" won a GLAAD Media Award in 1993.
When talking about the new album, he mentioned that there was one song that eventually wasn't included due to technical reasons, but that illustrates his continued commitment to equality. The song, which he hopes to release eventually, is called "Somewhere Under the Rainbow," a statement that change must be made through peace, love and acceptance in the current world we live in, not in a hopeful future one.
He's not getting a selfie with Big Tex this year
While Brooks and family stayed for a full week during last year's concert series, his return this fall was just for two short nights. He says, however, that one of his craziest performances was at the State Fair of Texas in 1991 following the Texas-OU showdown.
Who does an OSU cowboy like Brooks cheer for during a Red River Rivalry weekend? All he'll say is that he's orange and black through and through.
But, he did get to try sushi made from Fritos
With such a whirlwind trip, Brooks says he's not going to have a chance to go out on the town or check out any favorite haunts this week. He did, however, get treated to dinner by his new partner, Frito-Lay. On the menu? Sushi rolls that included the crushed corn chips. He says you might not think it would be good, but it really was.
Two things make certain awards more special to him
From Grammy wins to a Primetime Emmy nomination, Brooks has been up for virtually every coveted award a performer could want. They are more precious, he says, based on the caliber of other artists who have won particular ones. For instance, the fact that Randy Travis was inducted this year into the Country Music Hall of Fame makes Brooks' own induction in 2012 even sweeter, he says.
Awards also mean more as he ages.
"I don't think I was an ass in the '90s, but I feel so grateful now to still be here," he says.
Still, awards can be a young person's game, and he finds humbling the fact that he's still being nominated. That's perhaps a bit too modest: He's up for Entertainer of the Year at the Country Music Association's upcoming 50th anniversary show. It's his 8th nomination in the category, and could be his fourth win.