By: Daneille Scott
Traditional Country VS. Modern Country Part II
Although influenced by traditional country music, Garth Brooks is considered to be a modern country music artist. Since the beginning of country music, it has continuously been changing- each artist trying to set themselves apart from other artists.
Country has evolved into something almost unrecognizable as country music. Its sounds are different, its styles are different as well as the way artists deliver it to their fans. Being unique and entertaining the crowd are huge aspects of what makes modern country music different from the traditional style.
Garth Brook's career launched very differently than that of Johnny Cash. Born on February 7, 1962 in Tulsa Oklahoma, Brooks got his start in music singing in clubs and bars while attending Oklahoma State University (Garth Brooks Biography 1).
Brook's mother, Colleen was also a singer, so he was raised on music, like that of Johnny Cash. Growing up, Brook's got inspiration from his idols that included artists such as James Taylor and John Wayne and from groups like Kiss and Queen. (Painton 1-3). After he graduated college, Brooks moved to Nashville in hopes of pursuing a music career.
Upon being rejected from several record companies, Capitol Records decided to sign Brooks to their label in 1988 (Erlwine 1). Brooks's first album was an instant success, and crossed over into the pop album charts. It was his second album that established him as a superstar. It contained the hit Friends in Low Places, which spent twenty-three weeks at the top of the country charts. That album sold seven-hundred thousand copies within the first ten days of its release (Erlwine 1-2).
By 1990, Brooks was a world known modern country music artist. His music broke the boundaries of traditional country. From the instruments that he used to his extravagant performances, Brooks crossed the boundary between country and rock music.
Although at times, he did revert back to traditional roots and perform with acoustic guitars, the majority of his music was performed with electric guitars and other electric instruments. With amplification and the guitar distortion, Brooks's songs were an example of country-rock music.
Brooks is well known for his crazy, on edge concert style. By the end of 1990, he was selling out stadiums within minutes and was putting on stadium-sized shows, patterned after ‘70's rock extravaganzas (Erlwine 2). Brooks didn't just stand in from of the microphone and sing. He used a headset in order to allow the freedom to run, jump, and swing out over the audience with a harness. His concerts included flashy lights, sparks, flames, and smoke.
Brooks was also known for throwing water on the audience and bashing his guitars onstage. He prances across stage like a cross between Mick Jaggar and Ferris Bueller, swinging from rope to rope ladders and smashing his guitar (Painton 1). Brooks's performances were extreme and focused around entertaining the audience. It was the first time any country artist had incorporated such rock & roll techniques into stage shows (Erlwine 2).
In 1990 Brook's career was at its peak. This trend continued for several more years. He released several hit albums selling millions of copies each and he had several hit songs including If Tomorrow Never Comes, The Dance, Unanswered Prayers, Rodeo, and Shameless (Erlwine 1-3).
He proceeded to enchant his fans with his country- rock style and wild concerts until the release of his Chris Gaines album in September 1999. It proved to be a huge commercial disappointment to Brooks and the record label (Erlwine 4). After the album failed to sell, Brooks announced his impending retirement at the end of 2000, saying that he wanted to spend more time with his wife and three daughters (Garth Brooks Biography 2).
Although now retired, Brooks contributed in a very huge way to the music industry. He was the first country artist to used rock & roll techniques not only in his shows, but in his music as well. Brooks is a pivotal figure in the history of country music. With his commercial savvy fusion of post-country, honky tonk, post-folk-rock sensitive singer/songwriter sensibilities, and ‘70's arena rock dramatics, Brooks brought country music to a new audience (Garth Brooks 1).
Brooks made it ok to push country music to the limit and to try new things. He is a pivotal step in the development of modern country music.