Originally created 11/30/97

World is a lucky `Sevens' to Garth Brooks



NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Sometimes, late at night, Garth Brooks stares at the ceiling of his bedroom, unable to sleep.

"I never think about the successes," the best-selling country music artist of all time says. "I think about the failures and how I'd like a second chance at it."

Mr. Brooks, 35, worries that he didn't do his best at high school football back home in Oklahoma. He ponders why his single The Fever failed years ago.

He even beats himself up with mistakes he HASN'T made, imagining how miserable he would be if he were to leave his wife of 11 years, Sandy. That musing turned into the song She's Gonna Make It.

Mr. Brooks says he almost changed a line in the song called When No One's Around on his just-released album, Sevens, his first work of new material since 1995. The line in the Tim O'Brien tune: "Four in the morning I'm lying in bed, a tape of my failures playing inside my head."

It was too close to the bone.

"It's funny how he hit on that," Mr. Brooks said. "And I didn't want to admit to it. It sure hit home with me."

What a pessimist. You'd think he'd be satisfied with himself after selling 62 million albums and packing New York's Central Park with a few hundred thousand people for a show last summer - not to mention winning a high-stakes poker game with Capitol Recorded Music this fall.

Mr. Brooks publicly blamed Capitol Nashville's marketing effort for the sales dip on his last album, Fresh Horses. He held back the release of Sevens for months while negotiating with Capitol on a new marketing plan.

Capitol wound up closing its New York office and firing key executives. After the smoke cleared, Capitol got Sevens in time for the holiday season and Mr. Brooks' ally Pat Quigley was president of Capitol Nashville, replacing Scott Hendricks.

The agreement to release Sevens left him happy, shocked and nervous, Mr. Brooks said.

"Because now you're back in the game. Things that you didn't worry about when you didn't have an album out, you're thinking about," he said.

A week before the release date, Mr. Brooks and manager Bob Doyle discussed what to do about radio stations in Phoenix and St. Louis that got the album before its release and were playing it.

It is decided that a cease-and-desist letter would be sent, so competitor stations wouldn't punish Mr. Brooks by refusing to play his singles.

"There's also this one station in Canada that is saying they won't add the new single because it's too country," he said with weary laugh.

The single Long Neck Bottle is shaping up as a major hit. It entered the Billboard singles chart at No. 27 its first week.

"If things go well with Sevens, you'll see two to three pieces of new Garth product in the next year," Mr. Brooks said. Those will include an album of duets with Trisha Yearwood, a Christmas album and a box set.

The latter project, tentatively set for the spring, will put all seven Garth Brooks albums and unreleased material in a limited edition set.

If it sells as well as Mr. Brooks hopes, he'll reach his goal of 100 million albums by 2000.

"It's not like at McDonald's, where it's a fetish to see the numbers roll over," Mr. Brooks said, adding that the sales figures are a symbol to him that he is connecting with his audience.