Over the course of history, no country artist has ever sold more albums than Garth Brooks. In fact, he’s the best-selling solo artist in the U.S., meaning that no other artist from any other genre as ever sold more records than him.
Of course, you can’t talk about Brooks’ success without mentioning his 20 number one hits. His most recent, “Ask Me How I Know,” was just released in 2017.
But as successful as he is, Brooks still falls subject to his fair share of criticism. This is nothing new, as Brooks has been criticized over everything imaginable since he made his way on the scene back in the 1980s.
One aspect of Brooks’ career that always seems to come under fire is his alter ego phase. In case you aren’t familiar with what happened during that time, allow us to fill you in.
Wanting to stray from his country music career, Brooks decided to create an alter ego to give him the freedom to explore another genre. This alter ego, an Australian rock singer named Chris Gaines, was originally created with the intention of making him a character in a movie, in which Brooks would star.
It was under Gaines’ name that Brooks also recorded an album titled The Life of Chris Gaines. Although it reached the second spot on the Billboard all-genre albums chart and produced two charting singles, reviews for the album were mixed. Many critics and fans were left puzzled over why Brooks would decide to embark on such a drastic departure from his usual style.
The less-than-fuzzy feelings from fans and critics put a stop to Brooks’ time as Gaines, as well as the movie that had been planned from him. To this day, whenever someone wants to criticize Brooks, his alter ego phase is almost always one of the first points mentioned.
Reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic perhaps best captured the public’s feelings about Gaines in his review of his album:
“When Brooks’ new persona and his album was revealed to the public, they were unforgiving – they didn’t think that he was playing a role, they simply thought he’d lost his mind.”
After hearing harsh insults hurled at Brooks about his time as Gaines, one country star is speaking up. During an interview with comedian Joe Rogan, Chris Stapleton took the time to defend Brooks’ decision to explore a new personality and style.
Although he is a professed fan of Brooks, even Rogan expressed a bit of bewilderment over the Gaines phase of his career, saying it was “when Garth Brooks put on that wig and pretended to be that other dude.” But Stapleton didn’t jump on the criticism train. Instead, he said he had no reason to judge Brooks for wanting to branch off in a new creative direction.
“Who am I to judge anybody, particularly someone who’s as successful as he is?” Stapleton said. He went on to further defend Brooks’ decision, saying maybe he saw Gaines as his only key to experiencing more success at that time:
“At the time he did that, he had to be into ‘what in the world else can I do? The only way I can become more successful is if I become someone else and make them successful.’ Like, he was so successful, and still is in that space, that he can’t be any bigger than he is.”
You can listen to Stapleton’s full interview below if you’d like to get the full picture from what he had to say. Do you agree with the points he made? Let us know in the comments.