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Brooks hopes "Sevens" will be lucky

By Jeffrey B. Remz, May 1997

The "Sevens" could be lucky for Garth Brooks this summer.

The country superstar will release his new album "Sevens" on Aug. 7, the same date as a free concert in Central Park in New York. HBO will broadcast the concert live.

Current plans are to release a new single on July 7. The single has yet to be picked, according to Brooks.

He said in a recent, half-hour press conference in Boston the disc - his seventh, hence the title - will feature the different sides of his music.

During the conference, Brooks, who was in town to play six concerts in Massachusetts, knocked record companies for not having long-term plans for developing artists. He also questioned the ability of Capitol Nashville head Scott Hendricks to promote the album. He said another television special is in the works for 1998.

A few changes are in store with "Sevens." For starters, the album will have at least 14 songs on both cassette and CD. Most country albums have had only 10 songs due to the costs involved in having more than that. Brooks has never had more than 10 songs on an album except for "The Hits."

He is expected to finish recording the new album during the first week of June.

Unlike Brooks' other albums, this one will feature his band on several songs. Brooks, like many others, traditionally has used studio musicians.

Brooks, relaxed and low key throughout the press conference, said the material would be divided between cowboy-type, traditional songs which Brooks has done on previous albums, "Garth Brooks songs" ("Thunder Rolls" and "We Shall Be Free" as examples) and more rock oriented numbers.

Brooks defended his music as being country, although some critics have contended he has watered down the genre opting for more of a rock and pop sound. "We know it's country, " he said. "We think country music maybe has a little broader than what you think it is. It doesn't mean it's right or wrong."

His current "Fresh Horses" album has sold about four million copies, sales figures which have disappointed Brooks.

He said he has tried to get Joe Mansfield, a Capitol executive who helped boost Brooks' career, but was fired, back to the label. "There is something about Joe," Brooks said. "I don't know what it is. I did whatever it took to get Mansfield back there. Now, we are seeing if Mansfield can come back."

The new album will be marketed out of Capitol's New York offices instead of Nashville. New York also marked "The Hits," a 10-million seller for Brooks.

But he went back to Nashville for "Fresh Horses" and said in a Billboard magazine interview, the label gave up on the disc.

Brooks said he may have been asking too much of the label. Part of the problem was that former label head Jimmy Bowen had to leave due to health problems. Up to the plate stepped producer Scott Hendricks, just six months before "Fresh Horses" hit the streets.

"It was too much to put on them too soon, but I learned my lesson, " Brooks said.

Brooks emphasized that despite going with New York for marketing, Nashville would work with New York and a play a role.

As for Hendricks, Brooks had less than kind words. After acknowledging himself he did not answer about Hendricks' abilities, he said, "He's a nice man, and I look forward to working with him. Right now, I think it is too much to ask of him to run it by himself."

Brooks has been touring since March 1996 and sold out wherever he goes. "We've just been very fortunate on ticket sales," he said.

When asked for the reason, Brooks said, "I wish I had something cool to say." He didn't.

Brooks starts working on a television special while in Dublin in May. He said the concert would be shown in the U.S. on St. Patrick's Day 1998. No station has been picked to host the special. His previous ones all were broadcast on NBC.

Brooks said his concerts have included songs from throughout his career. "I'm promoting six of them," he said. Brooks said when he goes to a concert by his favorites - George Strait and James Taylor - he wants to hear their hits.

The most popular requested songs are "Friends In Low Places" and "The Dance," a song Brooks referred to as "my favorite (and it) seems to be everybody else's favorite."

One song which has not worked is "Rollin'" off "Fresh Horses." "I don't know if it was me, but I'll take the blame for it. The response wasn't...anything. We took that as a sign."

When asked about the future of country music, Brooks indicated record companies should concentrate on the music. He said part of the problem was they also were involved in publishing and merchandising and tying it all together.

He said Nashville suffered from too many bandwagon jumpers. About seven years ago, only seven labels existed. Brooks said the figure climbed to 32. "There are a lot of people who (think) if hillbillies can make music..."

Another problem cited by Brooks is the failure of labels to develop artists. The trend has been if an artist doesn't score with a single or album, the label may drop the musician, sometimes even before an album has been released. Among those dropped were Brooks' friend and former lead guitarist Ty England, who had two albums. Many end up being one-hit wonders with short recording careers.

Brooks said record companies were "expecting too much out of these people much too young."

"When I was 27, did I do everything to blow it? Yes," he said.

With help from above, that is no longer the case.