Garth Brooks, Co-Writers Swap Stories Behind The Songs In Secret Bluebird Show

Photo: Ben Krebs

Kent Blazy called Nashville’s The Bluebird Café “a place of magic and miracles” as he joined superstar Garth Brooks, Victoria Shaw, Pat Alger and Tony Arata Tuesday night for an exclusive, secret writers’ round at the tiny, 90-seat music club where Brooks was discovered nearly 30 years ago.

The writers’ round celebrated the Nov. 14 release of the first volume in Brooks’ upcoming five-part, multi-media anthology. Part I: The First Five Years chronicles Brooks’ ascent to stardom, as he released his first five albums for Capitol Nashville from 1989-1993.

For approximately and hour-and-a-half at The Bluebird, Brooks and his fellow songwriters swapped stories behind several of Brooks’ songs, both hits and album tracks, along with acoustic renditions.

Blazy recalled first meeting Brooks for a co-write at the request of Bob Doyle. The resulting song, titled “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” would appear on Brooks’ debut 1989 album, making it Blazy’s first cut after moving to Nashville—as well as the first No. 1 hit for both Blazy and Brooks.

Arata had a similar tale with another hit from the same album, “The Dance,” which would become his first cut and first No. 1 song. Later in the set, Arata recalled being bullied as a young boy, and how a song he wrote about the experience, “Face to Face,” wound up on Brooks’ The Chase album.

“There’s many forms of revenge,” Arata quipped.

Shaw performed “She’s Every Woman,” and recalled co-writing “The River” with Brooks in a house in East Nashville. Shaw took the lead during a performance of “The River,” with Brooks chiming in on the bridge.

“I tried to talk him out of using the word ‘vessel,’” said Shaw.

“But try singing it with the word ‘boat,’” Brooks shot back.

Alger reminisced about penning the then-controversial Brooks classic, “The Thunder Rolls.”

“I had an office in the basement, no windows, kind of like a dungeon,” Alger said. “But when I wrote with Garth, Allen Reynolds would let us write upstairs.”

Alger, who in addition to co-writing, also played guitar on the track, noted that Brooks had listened to Kathy Mattea’s “Like A Hurricane,” and found inspiration for a cheating tune from the line But in my heart there’s a thunder rolling/storm of love that was untrue.

Alger and Brooks recalled that the song’s famous “third verse” was crafted after taking advice from Jerry Crutchfield. “He said, ‘Get back on that song. Somebody needs to die,’” recalls Brooks. “And we wrote the third verse. Now everybody asks for the third verse.”

Alger took the lead on “The Thunder Rolls” during the writers’ round, offering both vocals and elegant guitar work. He also contributed “What She’s Doing Now.”

Multiple times throught the evening, all the writers paid tribute to their late co-writer, Kim Williams.

“There will always be an empty seat here for Kim Williams,” Brooks said. Blazy and Brooks performed songs co-written with Williams, including “What Never Happened (Is What I’ll Never Forget),” “Cold Shoulder,” from Brooks’ Ropin’ The Wind album, and invited the crowd to sing along with the Brooks classic “Ain’t Goin’ Down (Til The Sun Comes Up),” all done acoustically.

“That might be the slowest you’ve done that one,” Blazy said.

Brooks concluded the writers’ round with “The Dance.”

“Looking back, I just felt blessed to play here and play songs with my friends, “Arata said. “I still feel blessed to sit with friends in the Bluebird and play songs.”

To commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Bluebird, Brooks announced a documentary about The Bluebird Café is currently in the works. Then Brooks, now a seven-time Diamond-certified artist who is the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year, 10 years following his previous CMA Entertainer win, stayed after the show to sign autographs and take photos with a small group of lucky radio listeners outside the Bluebird Cafe.


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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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