Do you remember Garth Brooks’ alter ego Chris Gaines?
A decade after Brooks’ debut, six out of his seven albums reached diamond status, and he has 220 shows that drew record-breaking crowds all over the globe. It’s easy to tell that Garth Brooks was at the height of his career; however, he suddenly took a left turn.
When he released his eighth album, people were shocked it wasn’t a Country one, but instead billed as a rock & roll album. The highest-selling country star set aside his hat on the shelf, leaned into leather, added swooping bangs and some eye shadow. He became Chris Gaines.
His new album was called “Garth Brooks In…The Life of Chris Gaines.” But the big question now is, why did Garth Brooks do that?
What’s the Story of Chris Gaines?
Apparently, it was something of a strange experiment. Brooks thought it would be a great idea to step away from being the biggest country star in the world and released a “rock” album as his alter ego, Chris Gaines.
He was on top of his musical career. He released his smash-hit album “Sevens,” and followed it with “Double Live,” which has since been certified 21-times platinum and turned out to be one of the ten best-selling albums of all time in the United States.
It was in 1999, when Brooks, rather than following up with another smash country record, decided to go for a film project, “The Lamb.” In this film, Brooks would be featured in the starring role of a rock star named Chris Gaines.
To warm the people up, Brooks released an album of Chris Gaines’ material. The album’s cover just said, “Chris Gaines Greatest Hits.” It was actually intended to be the pre-soundtrack to the movie, to generate publicity for the film and so people could understand the backstory. The problem is, it only got people even more confused.
Even the sound of it was confusing to the fans. It was billed as a “rock n’ roll” alter ego, but instead, it landed much closer to the realm of pop. As a matter of fact, the album hit No. 2 on the Billboard pop chart and even gave Brooks his one and only pop charting single “Lost In You,” which peaked at No. 5.
Chris Gaines Trying To Create a Buzz
What’s even more interesting is that Chris Gaines made some guesting appearance. Less than two months after the release of Gaines’ album, Garth Brooks performed double duty on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. The country singer served as the host of the show, while his mysterious rock alter-ego, Chris Gaines, performed as the evening’s musical guest.
Gaines’ appearance on SNL was totally bizarre. It was actually the first time the public had a glimpse of Gaines, whom Brooks said “kind of looked like Prince,” although a bit heavier. “I think that’s a damn good looking man right there,” the country superstar quipped when Gaines’ image appeared on the background.
There was also an interview with Gaines that talked about his first band, a teen pop group called Crush. “Did You Know” cards were also included with Gaines trivia like “Chris was almost killed in a violent car crash in 1992. Chris spent the next two years undergoing extensive plastic surgery on his face, shoulder, and hands.”
Not only that, but Chris Gaines also appeared on a fake VH1 behind-the-music documentary called “Behind The Life of Chris Gaines.” Actors were hired to play all the characters in Gaines’ life. They also brought in real people, like respected music journalist Melinda Newman and musician-producer Don Was. They acted out scenes as if they were part of an actual documentary talking about a real person.
The 40-minute feature tracked Gaines’ extremely detailed fictional biography, from his origins in Brisbane, Australia, through his jeopardized music career, hit by cartoonish tragedy, unbearable sex addiction, and the classic greed of music industry executives. “Chris Gaines’ music took him to the top of the charts,” a voice-over said in the opening credits, “then his manager took him to the cleaners.”
Garth Brooks had to drop nearly 40 pounds for the role.
Unfortunately, the whole experience didn’t quite create the buzz Garth Brooks was hoping for. Both fans and critics find it weird enough. “Clearly, this guy got run over by the crazy truck,” Rob Sheffield, an American music journalist, wrote in Rolling Stone, “and I’m talking all eighteen wheels.”
There was hardly any interest from the general public but only absolute confusion at worst. The album was considered flopped, and the movie that’s supposed to debut Gaines, titled “The Lamb,” was scrapped.
Garth Brooks Ditched Chris Gaines
The country superstar quickly returned to country music. In 2001, Garth Brooks released the album Scarecrow to reassure fans of his commitment to country music. The album became one of the best-selling solo albums in the United States, with 148 million domestic units sold.
Still, Brooks stood on his ground, and he said he had no regrets about how things turned out for Chris Gaines. “I love the music, and that’s what it’s all about,” Brooks said.
But are we going to see Chris Gaines again? Don’t hope for it! “I would never even really get close to it again, because it really was a really tough time for me, because of the fact that I saw for the first time that people could be focused on something way past the music,” the country superstar said. “And that’s never a good thing, when music takes a backseat,”