When I heard Garth Brooks announced he is out of retirement and preparing for an extended string of shows in Las Vegas it made me flash back to 1990 and my favorite interview of all time.
Ask most reporters in Nashville who their favorite person to interview is and they usually say Garth Brooks (I’ve asked several). He is genuinely one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, or one of the most genuine nice guys I’ve ever met. Not only nice, but engaging.
I haven’t shaken his hand since interviewing him in 1991, but I’m told that he is the type who never forgets a face and would likely say “Hi Jamey, didn’t we meet years ago?”
I was vj’ing Fan Fair working for WJSU-TV40 in the spring of 1991. I talked my news director into letting me go with the promise that I could send back stories each day to run in the newscasts, plus I would write and edit a 30 minute special on country music that the station could sell and place advertising.
Garth Brooks was a tough interview to get. Everybody wanted him after his “No Fences” album hit #3 on the pop chart (unheard of back then Taylor Swift). In addition to shooting, writing and editing a story every day and then feeding it to Anniston from WTVF, I started positioning myself to be somewhere around Garth’s publicist.
“Be at his booth tomorrow morning at 5” she said. “He’s doing ‘Good Morning America’, maybe I can let you ask him a few questions.
I stumbled in, lugging my tripod, gigantic camera and portapack (an enormous contraption that held the ceiling tile sized videotape and connected to the camera using something we called an umbilical cord). Garth was sitting in his autograph signing booth, wide-eyed in a cowboy hat like he’d just slept the best 8 hours of his life.
The “Good Morning America” producer immediately started shouting at me to get out and not come back. The network morning shows, if you are not aware, are very protective of their guests. “We have an exclusive with Garth” she said, and “You cannot interview him today.” I tried to explain that the interview I wanted would not air for a few weeks and even then, would air only in the 172nd market in the country, but she didn’t care. Garth looked at me like “sorry dude, wish I could”.
I didn’t leave but hung around hoping for an opportunity. Willard Scott was interviewing Vince Gill and Patti Loveless who would also sing their hit “When I Call Your Name” in the booth next to Garth’s so I figured at least it’ll be a good show.
Garth’s interview with Charlie Gibson by satellite was about to start. The lights came up, a photographer framed the shot, Garth started to answer Charlie’s first question and….everybody stopped. New York lost the satellite connection. I could see Charlie on a little tv monitor apologize for the technical problem and everybody, including the rude little producer woman, started scrambling.
In a few minutes it was discovered the problem was in a cable running out of the camera. It couldn’t be fixed in time. GMA’s big get, was gone. My camera became important.
The nasty producer demanded I let the photographer use my camera so ABC could try the interview again in the next hour. “NO”, I’m not doing that. Since I can’t interview him, I’m leaving” I told her. The photographer was nicer, explaining if I let him use my camera it would bail him out of dealing with that horrible woman. “Only if I can interview Garth and you shoot it”. She relented and during the hour-long wait, I not only got my interview with Garth, I had a photographer shoot it for me.
It was the best interview I’ve ever had. Garth was completely engaging, answering each question with interest. I had heard him tell a story about one of his first concerts that coincidentally came in Anniston and asked if he would explain “The Anniston Nine”. His story is still the longest on camera interview answer with no video I’ve ever put on tv.
Afterwords, Garth introduced me to his mom and dad who watching their suddenly famous son. Later that day after he performed in a downpour at the Fan Fair stage, Garth saw me backstage, called me over and introduced me to his wife Sandy, and then asked someone to take a picture of us. I’ve got it around here somewhere.
I’ve interviewed my share of celebrities and it’s not always good. I know many reporters who refuse to interview or even meet their favorite artist for fear it will destroy what they think of that person. Famous people get asked the same questions over and over again by different reporters in different cities. They can have a bad day. They can just be tired or uninterested. The reporter can be a jerk.
But I’ve never heard a bad story from anyone about interviewing Garth Brooks.
He’s my favorite interview. Do you have one?
Garth Brooks is still the coolest guy I’ve ever interviewed. A lot