Garth Brooks says Thunder Rolls 'stealing the show' as tour makes its way to Edmonton

Country music star Garth Brooks has added a second Edmonton show to his Stadium Tour, which arrives next month. He took a few minutes to speak with CTV Saskatoon reporter Jonathan Charlton about the reason for the second date, how he keeps all his fans happy at shows, and working with the late Charley Pride on his latest album. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You've added a second show in Edmonton. Why did you decide to do that?

The on-sale took off and I took off at the same time, we were playing Notre Dame. So when the plane landed an hour later, I got a text saying all the tickets are gone. I thought, 'how can that be?' And so when you investigate it, they say it's the largest turnout ever for an on-sale that happened in Edmonton. So then you start doing the math going, "Jiminy Christmas, we might have disappointed more people than we made happy." So you check your socials, you check country radio, the building, all of them said second show, second show. So you know, it's sweet. To invite yourself up for one show, it's really sweet to be invited back while you're there.

I had a look through your discography and I counted 13 albums, not counting Christmas or live records. How do you go about choosing a setlist out of dozens and dozens of songs?

After doing this for a while, you'll see the ones that the people seem to tune in on and the ones that seem to tune out on, and so also, man — Jonathan, you ever seen a Garth show at all?

I have not.

No. Okay, so this will explain it. What you do is you make sure you get the old stuff in, right? You make sure you get all the stuff that hopefully people are thinking about — Thunder Rolls, Shameless, Friends in Low Places, those songs right? And then if I'm lucky enough to come back out if they call for an encore, then we do this thing called house cleaning. It's a tradition. And then here come all the signs, and in Notre Dame there were probably 200 signs (with song names), and now you just start picking. They're all the deep cuts off those records.

Alan Reynolds, the producer, always made me do a guitar vocal of each song before we ever went to the studio to cut it. So I know how to play each one of them, pretty much, so you can pick Cowboys and Angels or you can pick Ireland, She's Every Woman and do the songs that aren't in the standard setlist. Then hopefully this way people get to hear a little bit of what they came for.

You mentioned Thunder Rolls and Friends in Low Places. You released those in 1990 and you must have played those hundreds, maybe even thousands of times. Does it get old playing them so often?

Here's the crazy thing Jonathan. Not to promote anything, I promise, Thunder Rolls is getting a better response than it's ever gotten. It's just, these songs are like players on a team. They'll have their ups and right now Thunder is stealing the show. It just is. I don't know if it's because of the stadium and that thunder rolling around outside and everything — but people know, hey, it's not gonna rain — but everyone gets into it.

Unfortunately, I say this gratefully and I say it sadly, We Shall Be Free is probably more poignant than it was in the 90s and that's a song that says we need to love one another. And so when those songs are really flying high, usually means that we're kind of detached. So I'm sad for that moment but really happy that hopefully, that song can make a difference still after all this time.

We can go down the list man, That Summer is having its best run right now. Which is just odd, just the songs that you just go 'wow' and then Shameless is now starting to become a guy song too. It was always just a girl song. But now everyone's singing it and it's fun up there to notice the difference and see each one of these songs going through their peaks.

Two years ago you released Fun, your newest album. What was your goal with that record?

Just exactly what it was, just fun. And I loved it. I love that record and I'm gonna probably put it up with Sevens and No Fences as my favourite Garth Brooks records, those top three. It's got a song called Sometimes You've Got to Die to Live Again that ends it all, it might be one of the most beautiful songs ever. I think one of the greatest written songs, if not the greatest written songs, is a song called She's Stronger Than Me. I didn't write it so I can say that.

And then they got stupid things on there like Mardi Gras, and It's a Hard Way to Make an Easy Livin', the Shallow duet with Miss Yearwood, and That's What Cowboys Do which sounds like right off a — and I'm flattering myself by saying this — it sounds like it's a George Strait song right out of 1983. So I like that kind of country music. So I really love that record.

Lastly, I want to ask about one other song on that record, Where the Cross Don't Burn, which is performed with Charley Pride. So that one seems to be about a Black man teaching a white boy about Jesus and how to love. Why did you want to write that song? And what was it like working with Charley Pride?

Yeah, that's another thing, I didn't write it. It came across my desk, I loved it, and thinking about when it comes time, when he says "money doesn't matter, nor the colour of your skin," I'm sitting there going, "I shouldn't sing that." And who should? If it's an older Black guy, it's got to be Charlie, because Charlie always took me under his wing ... And so that was pretty cool to get to put those two voices together with the history we have, and how beautifully that song, I think, is written.

Anything else you want to mention that you think is important for people coming to Edmonton?

No, man, just how grateful we are. Thanks. Thank you for letting us stick around another day. This will be fun. And I can't imagine in a stadium that holds 61,000, doing it twice, I can't imagine anybody that wants a ticket not getting one.