Throwback with us to 1990 as country icon Garth Brooks talks ‘Urban Cowboys’, and how his beloved industry changed at the turn of the decade.
There’s arguably no bigger name in country music than Garth Brooks. This icon has sold more albums than Elvis Presley himself. In fact, in the grand scheme of music history, Brooks has only been outsold by The Beatles. According to Business Insider, his near-unmatched sales are up to 156 million units in 2020:
- The Beatles — 183 million units.
- Garth Brooks — 156 million units.
- Elvis Presley — 146.5 million units.
Now, Outsider.com takes look at the legend himself, throwing it all the way back to 1990 with an amazing, in-depth interview courtesy of country staple, Sudzin Country. Within the series, host Herb has spent decades interviewing country’s biggest stars. And as country legend of old Herb states, “it is very interesting to hear from a young Garth,” and we couldn’t agree more.
For this Country Throwback, Herb dives in deep “incredible man at this time in his career and and he still is today.” Within, “Garth Brooks talks to Herb about his music, career, videos, life and bunch of other stuff that happened on the road to stardom up to 1990.”
Garth Brooks Talks The ‘Urban Cowboy’ Movement
“Just when George Jones asked, ‘who’s gonna fill my shoes?’, along comes my guest, Garth Brooks,” Herb starts off. A bold statement. One, however, that could not be more true.
“Someone once said that the more things change, the more they stay the same,” Herb continues. “And Garth Brooks personifies all the best that statement implies.” From here, Herb asks Brooks how he feels about this statement, and what it means for him in the country music industry.
“I guess the more things do change – the more they reveal the base from which they change from. And from which they will go back to. Like Country music.”
At large, the ‘Urban Cowboy’ movement refers to the acceptance of country music into the mainstream. Much of this is attributed to the film of the same name starring John Travolta.
According to Rolling Stone, the film itself is based on a 1979 Esquire Magazine story. “Urban Cowboy told the tale of a country music love affair between Travolta’s Bud and Debra Winger’s Sissy in the town of Pasadena, Texas,” RS states.
At the center of it all, however, was “singer-pianist Mickey Gilley (a cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis), who invested in the club with his business partner, Sherwood Cryer, when his music career had stalled.”
The resulting film, which smashed expectations in 1980, paved the way for country in pop culture.
“For country music,” Brooks notes, the industry “did the Urban Cowboy thing for a while. Though it brought more people’s attention to country music, it really – to me – downplayed what country music music is all about.”
“I think [with that movement], we strayed away from country music and got more into pop. And I believe people like [George] Strait and [Reba] McEntire, [Ricky] Skaggs, all held onto it until [others] could come in and nail it down.”
Brooks Became The “Neo Traditionalist”
From here, Herb laughs with Brooks at the term “Neo Traditionalist”, which the icon found himself branded with at the time. “What the heck does that mean?” they laugh together.
“I dont know what the hell a Neo Traditionalist is,” Brooks laughs. “Everybody says that in front of my name. I guess it’s a ‘new traditionalist’,” he ponders, “somebody that’s new doing the old stuff.”
“Well we feel we play ‘heart music’,” Brooks finally answers, speaking for himself and his team without much hesitation. “And as long as we do music from the heart, then things like boundaries, nationalities, stuff like that – are an enemy to us.”
For Brooks, it wasn’t about anything but singing and writing form within himself at the time.
“Not everybody’s country. Not everybody’s Western. But everybody has a heart,” he says.
Wise words from one of music’s most influential men to ever master the artform.
From there, Herb continues to ask Brooks thoughtful questions throughout. Each reveals more and more about this icon at the time.
And just as he says himself, his heart – as much as times have changed since 1990 – remains the same today.