Something switches in Garth Brooks when he’s performing onstage.
During concerts, the 54-year-old musician, who has sold more than 160 million records, constantly rushes from one side of the stage to the other, running up and down the steps of his set for the entire show – which usually lasts three hours. This weekend, he’ll tackle three straight nights of concerts at the PNC Arena in Raleigh.
“It was yesterday that nobody wanted to see us,” says Brooks, during a recent interview in Charleston, S.C. “And it’ll be tomorrow when they don’t want to again. I feel really lucky, and so while it’s happening, I want to play for as many people as we can.”
Each chance to perform means a great deal to Brooks. That was particularly true for him when he received word in February that Kim Williams, a close friend and the Nashville songwriter who penned Brooks’ hits like “Ain’t Goin’ Down (Till the Sun Comes Up)” and “Papa Loved Mama,” had passed away. Only three days prior, Brooks and Williams were writing new material together, so the news hit him particularly hard. Speaking just one day after Williams’ death, Brooks says that his kind of medicine doesn’t come from a doctor; only his fans can make him feel better. “If I could just get to the part of the day when I can get to the people, then I think I’ll be fine,” he says of the show he would play later that night. “That’s when it’ll be a party.”
Brooks, who has the same team of musicians backing him as he did 20 years ago, had gotten away from songwriting for a while. “The truth is, I didn’t trust my pen coming back from 15 years,” he says. “So four months ago, I just started holing up and just writing. So it’s coming, and it’s probably going to be the most Garth thing we’ve ever done.”
During his temporary retirement, Brooks, married to fellow country star Trisha Yearwood for 11 years, helped raise his three daughters from a previous marriage. Yearwood is also touring with Brooks. “It’s really sweet to be able to do this when your children are healthy and they’re on their own path and there’s no guilt of leaving them,” Brooks says.
When the last of the kids was safely off to college in August 2014, the couple wasted no time in boarding a tour bus the very next month. “They say your children will come back to you,” Brooks says with a laugh. “But if ours do, they’ll have to have a Garmin (GPS) and a tour schedule.”
Right now, Brooks and Yearwood are living out their dreams again, and the stage continues to cure what ails them. “There seems to be a joy that comes over you in that moment where you can’t fix anything for two or three hours, so you just you lose yourself in the music,” Yearwood says.
“And then getting to tour with the love of your life is pretty good, too,” Brooks adds. “I don’t know how it gets better than this.”
Who: Garth Brooks with Trisha Yearwood
When: 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: PNC Arena, 1400 Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh
Cost: $65.73 (VIP tickets $2,500-$3,500)
Info: 919-861-2300 or thepncarena.com