NASHVILLE (USA TODAY) — The wait is over.
Country superstar Garth Brooks, who retired from music in 2001, announced today that he's returning with a new record deal with Sony Music, a world tour and digital sales of his catalog.
The 52-year-old musician revealed the news in a media conference streamed on his website. Wearing a Garth Brooks ball cap, untucked shirt and jeans, he told the assembled reporters they were "sweet" for attending.
"Scared? Yes. Old? Yes," he said. "My bigger hope is that I don't regret this day." Brooks didn't offer a timeline for releasing a new album, but "sometime around Black Friday is where we usually do our thing." A new single could arrive "sometime in the next two months," he said.
"The new record, I think, is what we would traditionally think of as a double album, just because there's a lot to say," Brooks said. Most of the material is from outside songwriters. "You just make them yours."
He teased that one song on the new album "might very well have taken the place of The Dance for me as my favorite song ever."
Digital sales of his music will begin "within the next two or three weeks" exclusively at garthbrooks.com. "It's a cool form," he said. "When you do it right, we'll all succeed."
Brooks suggested that the digital sales would be competitively priced. Some people "might think I'm giving it away, but I'm not." But it'll be "at a stupid price."
He spoke at length of his frustration about canceling five planned shows in Ireland after being denied permits for two of the five concerts. He said 75% of the 400,000 tickets already sold were purchased by ticket buyers ages 25 and under. "You're not one-billionth as sad as I am," Brooks said. "I'm the loser in this."
Brooks has performed and recorded only occasionally since retiring to focus on raising his children. His youngest, daughter Allie, starts college this fall.
Brooks is the best-selling artist in the USA since 1991, when Nielsen SoundScan began tracking music sales. He's sold 69.6 million albums, topping The Beatles (68.5 million), Metallica (54.42 million), Mariah Carey (54.40 million) and Celine Dion (52.2 million), according to SoundScan.
None of those sales are downloads: Up until now, Brooks has been the biggest digital holdout, declining to make his music available at iTunes or other digital outlets because he didn't want to break his albums into individual tracks.
Though he hasn't released a new studio album in 13 years, since2001's Scarecroww, his eight-disc covers and hits box set Blame It All on My Rootshas sold 885,000 copies since November as a Walmart exclusive.
In 1998, he became the first artist to win the Country Music Association's entertainer of the year award four times. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2012.