In 1999, Garth Brooks Was The Biggest Musical Act In The World - And Then He Became Chris Gaines

In 1999, Garth Brooks was at the height of stardom. The country singer was RIAA's #1 solo artist and showed no signs of slowing down his career. But then, the "Friends in Low Places" singer tried to break the mold with a new persona. Garth Brooks became Chris Gaines, an Australian rocker with a sordid and tragic past. Garth Brooks's rock name and persona were all part of a larger marketing plan for a film starring Brooks as the emo-haired rocker, but it never came to fruition. The album - a "pre-soundtrack" to the film - flopped, fans were angry and confused, and even Brooks had a hard time justifying the bizarre alter ego. 

  • Gaines Was Essentially 'Garth In A Wig'

    The music of Chris Gaines was a departure from the Recording Industry Association of America's #1 solo artist sound.

    In order to convey Gaines's pop sensibilities, Brooks shed his usual cowboy garb for a black, angular wig with brow-grazing bangs. Gaines also sported a soul patch and clothes that were a far cry from Brooks's contemporary Western aesthetic. Brooks also designed his alter ego to be 40 pounds lighter than himself. 

  • He Has An Elaborate Backstory Full Of Tragedy

    Brooks's alter ego, Gaines, wasn't presented as some sort of overnight pop sensation, as his sudden appearance would suggest. Instead, Brooks and his team gave his pop persona a winding backstory full of tragedy and tribulations.

    Originally from Brisbane, Australia, Gaines had an Olympic swimmer for a mother and a withholding, stoic swim coach of a father. In an act of rebellion, Gaines dropped out of high school to chase his passion for music. He formed pop band Crush with his friend, pilot Tommy Levitz. The two were on their way to stardom until Levitz perished in an airplane accident. Gaines released a solo album, lost his father to cancer, fought sex addiction, and got into a nearly fatal car accident, after which he had to have radical plastic surgery. 

  • Brooks Was Initially Reluctant To Get Involved

    When Paramount first pitched the concept of Chris Gaines to Brooks, he was hesitant:

    Paramount hired me to do it. They had faith in me as an artist, that I could make this stretch and come up with music for a character in the pop-rock field. I thought they were crazy. I turned 'em down.

    It took some persuading from Kenneth and Tracey Edmonds, the husband-and-wife team putting together the film project. Brooks acquiesced and did a few recording sessions as Gaines and found himself pleasantly surprised with the results. 

    "The very first song we cut was (the current hit) 'Lost in You,'" said Brooks. "I listened to it and said, 'Holy cow - this is something that could happen.'"

  • There Was An Actual VH1 Behind The Music Episode About Him

    Brooks's PR team utilized every avenue possible to introduce Chris Gaines to the world, including creating a mockumentary on VH1 that modelled itself after Behind The Music. The one-hour mockumentary went through Gaines's tragic backstory and includes narration like, “He was a rocker who liked fast cars and even faster women."

    It also featured straight-faced appearances from the likes of Billy Joel, who revered Gaines as a musician, and actor Maria Costa, who claims to have dated Gaines in the past.