Garth Brooks, the George Strait Super Fan

On Wednesday night (Feb. 13), Garth Brooks was all of us.

He is, at his core, a country music fan just like the rest of us.

“I love country music, because it spans so many things. I’ll never forget the first time I heard George Strait. I’ve wanted to be George Strait my whole life,” Brooks admitted to the country music industry crowd in Nashville for the annual Country Radio Seminar. That led him into Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning.”

Which led him into Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” which led him into James Taylor’s “Carolina In My Mind” and so on and so on for nearly two straight hours at the Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville.

After more than 30 years in the country music business, this CRS was absolutely not Brooks’ first. That was in 1990, right around the time he was releasing his second album, No Fences. “It was a year of firsts. The first nationwide club tour, the first time ever on radio, and speaking of radio, my first Country Radio Seminar,” he wrote in his Garth Brooks: The Anthology Part I book. And that was the same year that Brooks released “Friends in Low Places,” a song that the CRS audience knew well.

That book also has a picture of Brooks on the steps of Jack’s Tracks Recording Studio on 16th Avenue in Nashville, with the cast of characters who sang background on “Friends in Low Places.”

While he had such a captive audience, Brooks shared his thoughts on how he hopes his music will affect the lives of his fans. “Singles are always the safest things they can be, but it’s the album cuts that save people’s lives. We’ve got to find a way for albums,” he said. It’s a familiar refrain from Brooks, who has always maintained that albums should be listened to in their entirety. From the first track to the last. And then ultimately, when you show up with just you and your guitar, everyone will know the words to all the songs. “As an artist, your only hope is that you have a song that everyone knows the words to,” he said.

Before the show started, Brooks was on social media — not in his cowboy hats and boots, but in the current country uniform of t-shirt, jeans and Timberlands — to share with his followers who exactly would be in the intimate crowd. “Gonna play for the people who’ve played our music forever,” he said.

Other than the cover songs from the artists who inspired him, Brooks covered his own string of hits, taking shout-out requests from the audience for songs like:

“Unanswered Prayers”
“That Summer”
“The Red Strokes”
“Somewhere Other Than the Night”
“Standing Outside the Fire”
“Friends in Low Places”
“The Dance”

The next time Brooks will be performing is on March 9, when his stadium tour makes a stop in St. Louis.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She’s based in Chicago, but she’s always leaving her heart in Nashville.