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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Garth Brooks

Aired December 25, 2010 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LARRY KING, CNN HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Tonight, music superstar Garth Brooks "Out of Her Time" and back in the spotlight. Being totally honest about marriage to Trisha.

GARTH BROOKS, SINGER: She is my best friend.

KING: Divorced from Sandy.

BROOKS: I didn't see Sandy for months sometimes.

KING: And why he loves his guitar.

BROOKS: I still use the guitar pretty much just to hide my gut.

KING: Plus, he'll tell us what he's got against iTunes. Garth Brooks for the hour. Next on LARRY KING LIVE.

KING: Great to welcome back after too long an absence, the brilliant Garth Brooks, the Grammy-winning country superstar. He has sold more than 128 million albums. He's the number one selling solo artist in the United States' history. And he currently headlines at various times a series of shows at the beautiful Encore Theater at the Wynn in Las Vegas. He'll next perform in Nashville for their flood relief shows, and then be back at the Wynn in January.

When you hear that, number one selling solo artist, does that -- does that flip you?

BROOKS: Oh, yes. I mean, it's -- it's kind of odd to hear your name with that. But I think that's more of a reflection of the audience I get to play for. I'll put the country music audience up against anybody as far as numbers, size, quality of fans. That's -- that's where it's at. And you're lucky if that's your bunch.

KING: Why are they that way?

BROOKS: Oh it's -- it's really cool, man. And they'll give you record sales that can make you stand shoulder to shoulder with the greatest names that ever played music. At the same time, they want you to be the guy next door and the guy you grew up to be. So it's -- it's -- it's pretty easy to be -- there. Yes.

KING: Do you ever look at yourself and say why do I -- why do I affect so many people -- why do I connect so well?

BROOKS: You know, when I was just starting out, Arsenio Hall had an interview, and he asked himself that, why me. Why. And he said what I learned was, stop asking why, and just get to work because your time is only going to be for a little while. Do all you can in that window and then move on and quit asking yourself why.

God knows. I don't know. You know, because there's people every day in that town and you know that town. You know Nashville, there's people that are ten times more talented than me, ten times better singer than me, song writer than me, but for some reason you get the ball and now -- and now you run with it. And you do the best you can.

KING: Come on. You believe there are people ten times more talented?

BROOKS: I live with -- well, I'm married to one of them.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Yes.

BROOKS: That's a thousand times more talented than me.

KING: That's talented -- yes.

BROOKS: And then -- it's just -- so I don't know why that you get selected. But all I know is, be thankful and go out and have fun and do your best to represent your family and -- and your music.

KING: Ok.

And you're on top of the world. And in 2001, you give up performing, essentially announcing a kind of retirement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROOKS: I don't know how else to say it. I'm here to announce my retirement. It's -- it's a thing that I feel good about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: How old were you?

BROOKS: I don't know. 2001, I was almost 40.

KING: Why?

BROOKS: Well, Sandy and I were getting a divorce. And I couldn't depend on Sandy to carry my load for me anymore. We had three children, and the three children were just starting to be that -- that form thing, you know, where they're really starting to be their own person. They're starting to ask questions like, hey, where's dad, you know?

And so part of our agreement was that I would retire from music, and we would stop touring and we would move back to Oklahoma, where Sandy is from.

KING: Even though you were getting divorced. BROOKS: Yes, because the main thing -- you be -- you can stop being husband and wife, but you don't stop being mom and dad. You can't. Because these babies, they didn't ask to be brought in the world. You brought them in here.

They're your responsibility, and you -- you set with them and you raise them to a point to where you kind of let them go and they do their thing and you've got the rest of your life to then go do whatever it is you're looking for.

KING: So what did you do when you were retired? Just be a father?

BROOKS: I went to a lot of soccer games, yes. I was a soccer mom. And -- and still am.

And you know, the most important -- we were talking about this the other day. The most important days, more than any Grammy award thing or anything, is the day that you're responsible for snacks after the game.

KING: That's right. Oh, yes.

BROOKS: These kids look at you like -- like nobody has ever looked at you before, because that's your role and that's -- that's very important.

KING: How much did you miss the stage?

BROOKS: You know what? I missed it a lot, but to tell you the truth, I think I would have missed it more if I didn't find out like that, like everybody does, that nothing is better than being a parent. Nothing. Nothing brings you more joy. Nothing makes you laugh harder, cry harder. It's the greatest lift and the biggest heartache you'll ever have.

KING: Correct, more painful, too.

BROOKS: Amen.

So -- but that makes sense. The good things should be really high, and the good things should be really low.

KING: But what about the times you had listened to music or watched a performer on television?

BROOKS: Well, my hardest thing, and I -- I see a lot of artists go through this. My hardest thing was to let go, to be happy for everybody and just to enjoy. And go back to being what you were before you became an artist, and that was just a fan.

Somebody who went on the radio and pushed buttons like everybody else and stocked on things you loved and went on past things you didn't. And that was -- that was tough. But that was fun for me to get back there, because now I think I look at the music business a lot different than ever would if I wouldn't have left.

KING: Did people keep coming to you to perform?

BROOKS: Yes, thank God. It's nice to -- to be asked. You know --

KING: So you weren't forgotten.

BROOKS: No, no not at all. And they are very sweet to me. You know when we started this in 2001, everybody rolled their eyes, retirement, you know, retirement. And then it got to the point where people instead of were going, yes, I really retired. And they started coming up to you going, dude, are you ever going to -- and that -- that felt good, you know?

But it's -- it's how we are in our -- in our world. We'll say things, and then things will change. And this was very important for me to stay with it. And it's still very important for me to stay with it. My first year-out of retirement this year, working for Wynn and doing other stuff also took the ceiling off my head to say no.

So I said yes way too much this year. I've been gone way too much this year. And we still have two children left in high school, one is in college. But we still have two children left in high school. I, along with Miss Yearwood and Sandy, have a job to finish for sure and that's getting these kids off to school.

So this next year, I think we're going to even curb it back and more talk to Wynn and we're going to go from three days out in Vegas down to two days, and we're going to go from 15 weekends down to 12 this year because I just -- I just -- I've been gone from home too much.

KING: Are their mother -- is their mother still involved with them?

BROOKS: Oh very much so. Every day, we exchange the kids at 6:00 every day. That's the deal. So if I have the babies in the morning, they go to school and at 6:00 -- because that was usually soccer practice, then after soccer practice, they go home with their mom. And whichever parent doesn't have them that night they come by and pick them up for school in the morning.

KING: How close do you live to your ex-wife?

BROOKS: Just about -- I don't know, probably a five iron for Tiger Woods. You know, it's just -- it's close. And it's --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: It's a -- your current wife deal with all of that?

BROOKS: Wonderful. The town. That's the -- that's the secret. This is Sandy's hometown, where she grew up. So I was really worried how they were going to treat Miss Yearwood. They treat her like a queen.

KING: What town is it?

BROOKS: It's in between -- its north of Tulsa in between Owasso (ph) and Claremore, great two towns. And they treat us so -- because all three of us are always together. We're always together at every soccer game, every track meet. So -- and I would never wish divorce on anyone. With that said three kids and three parents, worked out pretty good.

KING: Would it bother you if Sandy remarried?

BROOKS: No, no. Because you want -- you want her to be happy. That's all you want. So -- but the thing is, what -- what you find with people is before you can share yourself with someone else, you must find out who you are, and love who you are.

And Sandy is right in the middle of that right now. She is starting to find out who she is, because she went from her mom and dad's house to our house. She never had that time to find herself. And in this time, in this great point in her life, and she's prettier than she's ever been, and she's more joyful than she's ever been, she is finding herself. And the person she is finding, she is liking and so am I.

KING: The extraordinary Garth Brooks. We'll talk about how Steve Wynn got him to come back. We'll talk about his life with his terrific wife, Trisha Yearwood.

All coming up. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I can truthfully say I never knew anyone like him. He's Garth Brooks, he's back on the scene, and the scene is better for it.

How did Steve Wynn get you to come out of the dark?

BROOKS: I was -- I was looking for someone to join in philanthropy. I was going to put together a super board for the charity, we have the Teammate's charity that deals with professional athletes. And so I was looking for a way to get a-hold of him. Bob Doyle, my manager calls me and says, hey, Steve Wynn is looking for you and I'm thinking, here it is, divine intervention.

And so I think I know why he's looking for me, like other people in his field have looked for me before to come out of retirement and play music. I wasn't going to do it, but it would be a great window for me to open philanthropy -- you know -- options with him.

So the plan was, I would get Steve Wynn to give me a lot of money for my charity, while letting him down easy to say I'm not going to come out of retirement, I can't play your place. And how it ended up was, he never gave me a dollar for charity and now I work for him. So it's just --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I know Steve very well, and he's very persuasive.

BROOKS: He is. But he's a -- he's a -- he's a very, very, very nice man.

KING: Why didn't he give you a dollar for the charity?

BROOKS: Oh, he's got -- he's got so many things going -- himself and he's very -- and you know him, he's very head-strong, he believes in what he believes in, and he knows our charity is fine without him. And he's got money going somewhere else.

KING: What does your charity do?

BROOKS: This is Teammates for Kids; it just deals with professional athletes. You know, I -- I bet you -- you're a big baseball fan, I bet you one out of every four guys that comes to play belongs to charity. And these guys just pledge money for doubles, singles, home runs. And then our job as a charity is to triple that money and then 100 percent of the money goes to the kids.

And I think that's why the athletes --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Underprivileged kids?

BROOKS: Yes. And just we -- we focus in three areas. We focus in education, health and since the majority of our children are in the inner city areas, that's our third place.

KING: What does Steve say to get you to come back to the stage?

BROOKS: Steve wanted -- you know Steve. He's very intelligent. Probably one of the sharpest men I've ever been around. And Steve took about five minutes to hear my story of -- because he asked me, what do you do and all this stuff. And he says, oh, I know how to do this. He says we can't screw up your family life.

KING: So --

(CROSSTALK)

BROOKS: First thing out of his mouth was not money. He says we can't screw up your family life. He says the first thing we have to do is get you a plane. And so I'm like, ok, you've got my attention now. And so that plane is like a car. And we're two hours difference in time line, so we leave Tulsa at 4:00 and we get in Vegas at 4:00.

So you leave a soccer game at, you know, 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon, you get in Vegas at 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon.

KING: You worked that night?

BROOKS: Yes. So --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: What do you do Saturday?

BROOKS: What's that?

KING: You work Friday night.

BROOKS: I work Friday night.

KING: And what do you do Saturday?

BROOKS: If the girls have something going on, like soccer training, then we leave Friday night to wherever they're playing. Opening weekend in Vegas, they were playing a tournament in Memphis. So we landed at about 7:30 from the show the night before they played at 8:00 and pulled up right when they were kicking off and they -- with every win then we get to advance, they played until about 4:30 that night.

We got on a plane and got back. I was running right through the dressing room, I didn't even get to do makeup, they through on, Garth Brooks, bam, and here it's -- the show starts. We do two shows on Saturday, and they made the final Sunday. So we had to fly back to finals and go back and do the Sunday night show in Vegas and then get home just in time to take them to school Monday. And then I went to sleep for about a month -- after that.

KING: So you -- you never missed the girls.

BROOKS: Yes, you try not to. Now and you -- you do every now and then and it breaks my heart. They have indoor season, which a lot of them play on Friday night which I don't know who made that schedule, but they didn't ask me.

KING: How often -- how often do you work at the Wynn?

BROOKS: About 15 weekends a year, so it's not bad. It's -- well, my God, you said work. I'm -- that's a funny word to use.

KING: Which is (INAUDIBLE)

Our LARRY KING LIVE cameras got a chance to visit backstage before Garth's show last weekend. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROOKS: I've got friends in lonely places --

Hi, the LARRY KING LIVE, come on in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- 27th anniversary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Garth rocks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love you, Garth.

BROOKS: That's your typical backstage. This is nicer than most houses I've ever been in right here. Not Vegas as much as Wynn. He does everything top shelf. I mean, A-1. That's -- that's what he does. It's a running joke in the show that most people come here not knowing what to expect. And that's really weird, because when I walk out there, I don't know what to expect either. And it's not a lie. It's -- everything just goes from a flip of a coin and you go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been amazing, the best ever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My God, that was the best freaking concert I've ever been to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seeing Garth Brooks live, priceless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to just spend five minutes alone with him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Reba McIntire was in the audience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- was in the audience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Garth and Trisha did another vibe and they were practically a cappella (ph) I looked down and Reba was doing her trademark thing and she's crying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what an experience, you're watching Reba McIntire cry over Garth and Trisha. It was fantastic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROOKS: That's the greatest thing --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Having had the pleasure of being in that audience, it was one of the great shows I've ever seen.

BROOKS: Thank you.

KING: Now, how did you get the idea to do it with yourself, period, you and a guitar?

BROOKS: When we retired in 2001, in '98, we stopped touring, so the band was gone. And so it was just me. And kind of reverted back to play at a place called Willie's in college in Oklahoma State University when I was going to school there. And that's where my music was born.

And so it kind of went back to Willie's, just playing other people stuff, showing people what you were raised on and then going back and showing them how that influenced the music that you're playing and writing today.

KING: And then you bring on your wife for a couple of numbers.

BROOKS: I tell you what. It's -- it's like the ace in the hole, you know, kind of thing. They'll get you to a point where they're just about to hang me. I'll introduce her, and then everything is fine again.

KING: The Beatles, by the way, are now on iTunes but not Garth Brooks. We'll ask him why. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Did you think of hiring a band? I mean, this is a big place. It's the Encore, the Wynn? One man --

(CROSSTALK)

BROOKS: Oh yes.

KING: -- standing on a stage, alone? Did you think maybe we'll put together a band?

BROOKS: I just came to sound check the room, basically, so I knew it would just be -- I just needed me to sound check the room to see if I liked it. And, again, this was all at the same point when I was going to tell him, no, thank you.

But when you play the room, oh, my God, that Encore Theater was built for sound, you know? It's Danny Ganza's theater. And this thing was built for an entertainer --

KING: I worked (ph) it.

BROOKS: Ok, so you know. Most of the places I play are for basketball or hockey. So sound is kind of high on their list, but not the most important thing. This room, you really don't even need mikes. You sit and talk to the people, they talk to you. You fall in love with the room, and he saw that show, and he said, ok, I want to do it.

And I said, whoa, whoa, let me bring the band, you'll love the band. So I brought the band out there, we played and had a great time. And at the end of the show, he goes, I get the band, but I get just you more. And I said, can I ask why, and he says because there's no other show like it.

It was pretty cool. It's pretty naked, but it's honest and it's fun.

KING: It is a naked show.

BROOKS: Yes it is.

KING: And you dress whatever you wore during the day, right? BROOKS: Well it was -- again, you're coming in from a soccer game and you don't have time to change. And you just go out and people like -- you kind of be -- again, that audience let's you be who you are.

KING: Ok, a story I've never told before. My wife sang at that Encore and she is a pretty good singer.

BROOKS: Very.

KING: And -- she -- she was putting together an album and she wanted a duet with someone and wound up with Willie Nelson. It'll be out soon called, "I Give Great Song". Do you like Willie?

BROOKS: Yes.

KING: Well, we called you. And I'll never forget this call. And I said Garth would you like to do a tune with -- with Shaun? And you said, I would do anything for you, but I will never, ever sing a love song with anyone but my wife.

BROOKS: I -- I just never have. I don't know what the future --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I was so impressed with that.

BROOKS: I just -- she's kind of -- she's kind of -- you know, we were counting it up the other day. I think I've cut maybe -- there's been 100 and some -- 101, 102 Garth Brooks songs recorded. She has sang on 77 of those songs. She -- you know, we've known each other for 20 -- God, 24 years now. And she is my best friend, and -- and you talk about it -- I see pictures of her coming on the break. And I've got to tell you that this is just a woman that age is a friend to because she gets prettier and cooler and funnier as she gets older.

KING: Garth has been married to Trisha Yearwood for almost five years. Let's take a look at how that all started. Garth was with her in front of 7,000 people, Bakersfield, California. Watch.

BROOKS: The three days my three girls were born and that day right there were the best days of my life.

KING: Did you think about it a lot that day? You knew what you were going to do.

BROOKS: Well, they were unveiling statues at Buckle Windon's (ph) place and they -- for some reason had picked like the top whatever men in country music and for some reason we were confused enough to be in that group.

And so when we were making the statue, I already had the ring. And I said -- and I put the ring on for the statue mold so that this ring is on that statue. Because they said, this thing is going to last for 200 -- 200 years and I thought well, there it is, that's the way to ask. Because when I pointed up and said these things are going to last 200 or 300 years, there is the ring. And -- and it was so good and I'm so glad she said yes. That would have been pretty -- pretty embarrassing there.

KING: We'll be back with Garth Brooks after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Garth Brooks. Ok, now you're back. What's it like?

BROOKS: You mean playing music?

KING: No, I mean, is it different than -- than the past?

BROOKS: The business has changed, definitely.

KING: How?

BROOKS: But the thing is still --

KING: How is the business do?

BROOKS: -- well, the businesses has went totally digital, which is new for us, because we have done everything -- everything in our career we have done on tape, analog, everything. Even when the whole world was going digital to the '90s we stayed analog because of the warmth of it. Well, now you can't even find tape anymore, so the whole world has kind of gone digital and that's a -- that's a hard to keep up with, because it moves fast.

KING: Why do you not go on iTunes?

BROOKS: ITunes. First of all, I know that I have traveled to iTunes on a number of occasions, all the way up to Eddie Cuset (ph) and talked with him, just like this. The conversations got very heated. There's a lot of love in the room, because they're good people. But they're business people. And iTunes saw an opportunity --

KING: Steve Jobs, right?

BROOKS: Yes, and I never spoke to Steve. Eddie is -- you know Eddie is the guy that runs that place, and I think Eddie represents them well, and Eddie represents himself well. Good people. They -- they sell iPods. That's what they do.

So they can talk all day that iTunes is a store for music, but iTunes is a marketing arm of the iPod. So they sell singles. That's what iPods do. And so I asked them, I just want album only. I don't want singles.

Because you make an album for a reason and that album is a reflection of who the artist is at that time. And what I love about albums, let's take "No Fences", for example, for us, that has friends in low places and thunder rolls on it. But it also has a song called "Wolves" on it, that's way too not commercial for radio, but changes people's lives when they hear it. Well, I think that's important too.

So the whole thing comes out as a piece, I want as a piece, they won't. They won't cut it up. And so my thing is when they do album only, and they do variable pricing, they shouldn't tell me what I'm going to price it. I don't want to tell them. and they're going to sell it and if somebody wants it, they want it; if they don't, they don't.

So that's a big change in business from retail to digital retail.

KING: Are you very involved in the business end of your business?

BROOKS: Yes, I think so.

KING: Do you stay on top of it?

BROOKS: I try to do my best. You put your faith in your people. You know, Bob Doyle, Cary O'Neil (ph), Rusty Jones are the three guys that -- we've been together since day one. And they do business. They do law. They do management. And it's important you listen to them. But at the end of the day, it is your decision.

KING: You have a great PR person too.

BROOKS: Miss Nancy, I would put up against anyone because it's very rare you find people like this. Nancy's all heart and soul. God help you --

KING: What's her full name?

BROOKS: God help you if you cross her though.

KING: What's her full name?

BROOKS: Nancy Seltzer.

(CROSSTALK)

BROOKS: What's that?

KING: Like she needs it.

BROOKS: Well, she's a great PR person, but don't let her fool you. She's very smart business wise.

KING: But very loyal to you.

BROOKS: Well, she's been very sweet. I would die a thousand deaths for her, and she has died a thousand deaths for me. So --

KING: Are you hard to represent?

BROOKS: I think so. KING: Because?

BROOKS: Well, I think because there's a fine line between being an ass and standing up for what you believe in. You know, being an ass just because you can make that decision or stand up believing because you really think it's right, even though the whole current is going everywhere else. You're the last guy standing, you know?

You had mentioned iTunes and you had mentioned digital. I had leaned heavily on the Fab Four that they hadn't gone digital. And now that they have --

KING: The Beatles are digital.

BROOKS: It feels like you're the only guy out here standing for what you got.

KING: Are you bending?

BROOKS: No, but I got to tell you, because they don't know how in the world you get this done, but I would love to talk to Paul or somebody that was in on this decision and see what they're thinking.

KING: You can't reach Paul McCartney?

BROOKS: You know what? I just never have been a guy that feels like I'm comfortable picking up a phone and calling a musical God, an icon, and a world figure like that, because I know the guy's busy, but I would love to know what --

KING: I think we could arrange for Paul to call you.

BROOKS: You know what? I would take you up on that and I, you know, try and represent myself well as a businessman and a musician with him, but I would love to know what --

KING: Maybe we'll make that happen.

BROOKS: Thank you.

KING: Is it more fun now singing by yourself?

BROOKS: No, no, no, no, no.

KING: Still miss a band?

BROOKS: Oh my gosh. When you guys got like Palmer and you got Mattingly with you and Gant, these guys, it's a blast. And they're so much better than I am at everything and you get to be part of a group. It's like, you know, the closest thing I can do it to is a sports team or a military unit. You go out as a group and it's you and guys against the world. And you go out and you play and it's the greatest feeling in the world.

KING: Back with more of Garth Brooks. I'm going to ask what was it like opening night trying something you've never done before, alone with a guitar. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Garth Brooks. All right, now, this was an experiment of a kind. No band. You had to be pretty big to do this. Guitar, stand on stage, tell stories. It's almost an autobiographical show. It is an autobiographical show. Garth Brooks from childhood up.

What was opening night like?

BROOKS: It was scary. I mean, I would describe it as being naked outside and the temperature was very cold, if you know what I mean. I mean, you're exposed. But look who you did it with. You did it with a guy that truly believed in your talent, Steve Wynn. And you did in front of the people that have given you the clothes on your back and the roof over your head. They don't want you to fail. It was like walking into the pool of the perfectly warmest water.

KING: So you have the audience before you come on, don't you? Do you ever bomb?

BROOKS: Oh, yes.

KING: You do? You have bad shows.

BROOKS: And when you do, though, the great thing when you do, all the tumblers are clicking because you're learning, you're working, because you sure as hell don't want to feel that way again. So when things aren't going well, instead of just falling apart, start learning, figure it out.

And those are also the great nights to try new things. You're dying anyway, go ahead and try it, you know?

KING: And you can still die even though they love you and they want you and they --

BROOKS: Here's what we originally started talking about in this conversation. The country music audience, they want you to be the regular guy. And the regular guy is not a flawless person. You know, no offense to journalism, but in the last three or four decades of our existence, people, we have forgotten that our heroes are human.

If we had the press that we had, would John Wayne, JFK, Martin Luther King, would they be the heroes that I own inside? I think it's very important that we don't overlook that, guys, we're going to make mistakes and --

KING: And the audience understands it? Your audience? BROOKS: The country music audience sure does.

KING: Forgives you and applauds, even though they know you're not at the top of your game.

BROOKS: They want to see you learn. The last thing we want to do is forgive somebody of something and see them make the same mistake again. They'll forgive you once, but they want to see you learn. And I don't think that's too much to ask.

KING: Because in the other realms show business -- Bob Hope says, if you're a name, you have them for five minutes.

BROOKS: Fair enough.

KING: Then you better be good.

BROOKS: Amen. Well, it's like that whole thing. You know, they can -- once they give you the ball, you got to run with it. And that's the thing. So you're lucky if you get the ball, but then it's up to you after that. The hardest part is not getting a record deal; the hardest part is hanging on to it. And that's how --

KING: Staying on top is harder than getting there, isn't it?

BROOKS: Yes, I don't know about staying on top, but just being competitive, staying in there. You want to better yourself. You want to be a better person. You know, ten years down the line, you can have all these things up on your wall, these plaques, all these awards, but if you're not a better musician and a better singer, songwriter, and a better people after that ten years, are you really a success?

And I think that's the main thing. And after that ten years, if you don't have all those plaques and things, but you're a better person, you're not a failure. That's the important thing.

KING: How's Garth Brooks doing? How much better are you as a player?

BROOKS: Well, as a player of Wynn's show, you definitely learn a lot. So I have definitely learned a lot. You get out there and you play. And I still use the guitar pretty much just to hide my gut. But, you know, when you get out there, it's just you and that guitar with everybody and you're telling a story. So it's pretty cool.

And there's things I can't play. We have a song called "Shameless" in a show that Billy Joel wrote. And Billy Joel writes music way above my understanding. So there's pieces in "Shameless" where you just -- and you tell them, I'm going to drop out at this part because I don't know how to play it. When you do, they don't know what to expect and when you just mow right through it, they go, you know what, there's a fine line between stupid and bravery, and this guy seems to walk it. And they allow me that.

KING: Who's a guitarist you wish you could play like? BROOKS: Steve Wariner's my buddy. This guy, when he just touches it, he's all over it. But there's lots of guys that -- we were at a -- me and Ms. Yearwood was talking about this last night. We went up to give Billy Joel a thing called a "Golden Note" that ASCAP gives for their people. And that night there was a piano sitting out there. Billy played at it. There had to be -- there had to be six or seven artists playing at it.

And I wish I could remember all of their names, but everybody played the piano. And then at the very end, and forgive me if I mispronounce his name, Marvin Hamlisch, comes in.

KING: I know Marvin very well. You pronounced it perfectly.

BROOKS: He sits down and no offense to anybody that came before --

(CROSS TALK)

BROOKS: -- when he hits it, it's all of a sudden -- it's like, did they bring in a new piano? It's the same piece of equipment everyone else has been playing all night, but this thing is warm; it bends around his fingers and it breathes. And you find yourself sobbing at this guy playing. That's the difference between owning an instrument and mastering one.

KING: Memories, like the corners of my mind -- he wrote that.

BROOKS: Yes. It was --

KING: We'll be right back with Garth Brooks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROOKS: We're here today in conjunction with the great state of Tennessee to announce that we would like to -- Ms. Yearwood and I would like to announce that -- step forward and try and do our part in the relief efforts. We're going to do one arena show this year in 2010. It will be here in Nashville.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Garth Brooks. Now you're not working at the Wynn until January. What are you going to do in Nashville?

BROOKS: Well, we -- you know, they had those massive floods in May. And, again, when you talk about journalism, you talk about the -- everything that is a blessing is a curse; everything that is a curse is a blessing. Journalism, I had spoke about how it can hurt you; journalism can also help you.

But what happened was at the exact same time the Gulf oil leakage, the spill thing happened. So the press wasn't on Nashville.

But if you can imagine a flood where things are standing 40 to 45 feet underwater, it was crazy. The Grand Ole Opry, up to row five or six, was just water. And when I -- we saw it on the Internet, so when I saw the pictures, I said, that's no way that could be. That picture's been doctored -- you know, doctored.

This thing was of epic proportions I don't think any of us were ready for. So they suffered a lot of damage. They need a lot of help. So a lot of the music community came together in May and June and did their things. We knew around Christmas-time, they would need that second wave. So we're doing our part of getting in to be a Nashville citizen and get to help ourselves this Christmas.

KING: What are you going to do?

BROOKS: We're bring the whole band out, lighting rig, everything, like we haven't done probably since opening the Sprint Center. We're doing the South California wildfires that we did out here.

KING: You're going to work where?

BROOKS: We're going to work at Bridgestone, at the big arena there. It used to be called "The Geck". It's the big arena that Nashville invested in and so needed it and has so supported it. It's a beautiful building. Sound's great.

KING: One night?

BROOKS: That was the original plan, one night. And one night turned into nine for us, thank God. And so the great thing with this concert that we love, just take the ticket price times the number of tickets sold, and that's the money that's going. It makes the math easy and it makes --

KING: You pay your own way there?

BROOKS: Yes, and so does everybody else. The crews, lighting, everybody are paying their own way, because that's where we're from.

KING: Is your wife going to sing?

BROOKS: Nashville. Oh, yes. I'm a smart man when it comes to entertaining. And I know to go nowhere without her, no matter what that takes, because that little gal can bring a room.

KING: You mentioned the guitar hiding your gut. Have you always had a problem with --

BROOKS: I've always fought my weight, always, always. Yes, you know, I'm the last of six kids. Everybody in the family's athletic, all state, all Americans, and then there was me, you know? And just always just did. So it's just something that I live with.

KING: Do you like to eat?

BROOKS: What's that?

KING: Do you like to eat? BROOKS: I love to eat. You know, my resume, before I got my music job, when it says, you know, name your favorite hobbies. Eating and napping always was mine and never could find a job doing that. So, but now I finally have.

KING: What do you think you would have been if you weren't an artist?

BROOKS: You know, I've been asked this question before, and this is not a statement of humbleness, it's a statement of honesty. I think you would have probably been dealing with me on another level on the dark side, to tell you the truth. I really do. I just -- I'm a guy that --

KING: You mean, you might have been a criminal?

BROOKS: You know what? I don't know. There's a difference between, you know, famous and infamous, and --

KING: A thin line sometimes.

BROOKS: Yes, it is. And I'm not sure, because I want to be a representative of my mom and dad, but I live on the dark side. I just like it. You know, Billy Joel talks about that too, that he lives his life with a dark side.

KING: Does the dark side ever come out?

BROOKS: I think in music is does. I like that world. I like -- you know, there's a great line in "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" when he says, "I'm in a bad mood and I'd like to enjoy it for a little while," you know? That's what you do with music. You get in that dark thing and you write that dark side of --

KING: Little demons hanging.

BROOKS: Yes.

KING: Garth Brooks and President Obama, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Garth Brooks was asked by President Obama to play at his inauguration. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What was that like?

BROOKS: It was awesome. It was neat to look out over the water and see the Washington Monument. Look over your right and see the future president of the United States. But the great thing about that day was we all believed in that one word, change. And we all -- you talk about unity. I would wish upon the entire world the feeling that I felt all that day, unity. When you walked through there -- and, you know, one of the greatest moments of that -- and forgive me if I step on somebody's toes because I don't think this was a mistake. They said they got their timing off and I don't know if I was HBO or whatever. They did not air the prayer that opened it.

If you can pull up the words of what that prayer was about.

KING: Who read it?

BROOKS: You know what? I'm going to be unintelligent on this. So I'm going to leave that open because I know it was a very special man that did it, simply because his beliefs as a religious leader and his beliefs as a human being that believes in personal choice. So I don't want to step on anybody's toes, but I'm sure if you look it up, you'll get the accurate introduction of the gentleman.

But what it was was a prayer for the president. But the truth was it was a prayer for each one of us, because it talked about tolerance, going the long run. We do everything for the short run so much. Everything about pulling together and going forward.

I don't want to get on politics. With that said, my biggest concern that I have with us is, you know how people if they weren't a certain religion in the old days in European rule, if they got voted out, then they got beheaded, because they didn't believe a certain way. I'm starting to fear that we're replacing those two religions with Democratic, Republican.

I fear that because our person didn't go in, then we sit on our ass and dig our boots in the ground and try and slow everything down for four years until we get our guy in. And when that happens, then the other half that didn't vote for him digs in the ground.

My thing is, our system elects it. Once he's in, whoever it is, let's pull together and make the best out of the next four years.

KING: And we'll have our remaining moments with Garth Brooks after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We've got a special shout out for one of terrific editors here at LARRY KING LIVE. Steve Salvador and his wife Beth are the proud new parents of Charlotte Grace, born last week. Big sister Ella is pretty happy too. Congratulations Salvadors.

How long you going to keep on now? Are we going to have a retirement again?

BROOKS: You know what? As long as those two remaining babies in high school say, dad, everything's good, then we keep going as we do. But -- and Wynn knows if there's ever even an ounce of them going, dad, then we put this thing on ice.

KING: So you can break that contract?

BROOKS: Yes, remember that's Wynn. Wynn's a handshake guy.

KING: If they're all set and everything's fine -- they all go to college, everything's good, would you now go back on the concert tour?

BROOKS: No, I've asked Ms. Yearwood for her blessing for that. And to get to tour for the first time ever in my life with no guilt, because, you know, even when we toured the first time, Sandy and I were married and been married, but I didn't see Sandy for months sometimes because you were out that much. Long before cell phones.

So I wasn't a very good partner to her. Then when the children come along, you know, the second they hand you a child, you already feel guilty for not being there 24/7.

So, I can't imagine my children being off to college, everybody healthy and happy, and then Ms. Yearwood says, "sick them". Oh, my God. You talk about fun.

KING: Are you as happy as you've ever been?

BROOKS: Yes, I am, for a lot of reasons. You know, my mom and dad are gone. That's the down side. My brother Jerry's gone. So as you get older, you start to lose people. But what I have found out is people that truly lived while they were here, live forever. I see my mom every time I close my eyes. I see my mom every time I walk out on stage.

So, the good things are good. As long as your children are healthy and the people you love are healthy, then everything's great. As long as your relationship with God or Christ or whatever it is you believe in is healthy, then everything's good.

And I got to tell you right now, knock on wood, because I'm one of those guys that say, if you say it something -- because I love baseball and they're very superstitious; I'm kind of that way. But, yes, I can't imagine things going better for me right now.

KING: You're one of the best people I know, Garth.

BROOKS: Thank you.

KING: Don't be surprised.

BROOKS: That's very sweet.

KING: You're one of the best people I know.

BROOKS: Thank you. That's awful nice of you to say.

KING: Garth Brooks. You'll see him in Nashville on Christmas and back at the Wynn in January unless one of the daughters says no.

Monday night, Coco's going to be here. Yes, Conan O'Brien. Time now for "AC 360."