He's been performing without live audiences, appearing on all kinds of TV programs and promoting his new album, "Fun," which dropped Friday. But Garth Brooks isn't having any fun himself.
It was apparent in his voice over the telephone.
"I understand these football games can go on without the crowd, and you hear the simulated audience and you forget. It just doesn't work that way for concerts, man," he said Wednesday. "Nothing replaces getting to play for people in the same room. That's the fun about entertaining."
The country megastar insists that he misses concerts more than his millions of fans do.
"Ain't nobody on this planet who misses it more than me. That's your gas," he said with the kind of Garth-gantuan hyperbole that juices his outsized personality onstage. "When I retired to be home with the girls (his three school-age daughters for nearly 10 years in 2001) or taking a year off your band and crew need to get fueled back up, those are things you can live with. But when you were on a roll and someone else throws the red light up on you like COVID has, that's hard to take. But at the same time, I can't (expletive) about it because people are suffering really, really bad."
He knows firsthand. His youngest daughter has recovered from COVID, though he's concerned about any subsequent repercussions.
In a time of crisis, Brooks understands the role music can play.
"We sometimes seek for answers in music," said the singer-songwriter, 58, who is prone to deep thoughts and sincere pronouncements when the spotlights are off. "I know we seek for comfort."
With "Fun," he's serving up a smorgasbord of Garth Brooks comfort food — honky-tonk stomps, sentimental ballads, a cowboy song, an island tune, a New Orleans romp, message music and a cover of a pop hit.
But one selection stands out — the topical "Where the Cross Don't Burn," featuring country legend Charley Pride.