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In the last three years, Garth Brooks has arguably been the biggest road warrior in country music. And, now that his multi-year, 390-date “The Garth Brooks World Tour With Trisha Yearwood” has officially come to an end, he can’t help but reflect on his entire experience since coming out of retirement.

In a brand-new and wide-ranging interview with “Billboard,” the six-time CMA “Entertainer of the Year” winner, who closed out his top-selling North American run on Dec. 23 with the last of seven shows at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, revealed how the trek re-shaped him both personally and professionally.

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“If anything has changed, it’s a bigger level of gratefulness,” he explained. “Physically, I’m a little tired, but I hate to admit that … This band and crew have been exhausted for the last year and a half.”

Despite Garth’s understandable fatigue, the 55-year-old country icon has come to realize that, for him, there’s nothing quite like being in the presence of such a loyal fan base. And, it’s those die-hard fans that have kept him going night after night.

“It had to be Lincoln, Nebraska, [in late October] and I said, ‘I can’t believe I’m this close to the finish, but I just can’t get that motor running,’” Garth recounted of a time when he felt like he was physically burnt-out. “I came on out [from under the stage]. ‘Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance’ is the opening song, and I look to my left and there’s two girls. One of them is just screaming her head off, the other one is just bawling her eyes out, and it hits me — she’s crying because she’s here. I should be crying because I’m here.”

Garth, who clearly has made a real connection with the younger generation on this tour, then added that the tearful young fan’s emotional reaction marked a pivotal moment for him, and gave him just the boost he needed to feel amped up for his show.

“For that moment, that little girl saved everything for me,” he said. “She was younger than my daughters, but it was just neat seeing the innocence, all from the first song, for the fact that we were all here. That’s what I get to do every night, and so you feel very thankful.”

Aside from that heartwarming memory, Garth also talked about one of his tour highlights, a nightly segment of his show called “housekeeping,” where he grabs his guitar and takes fan requests from people holding up homemade signs in the audience. He recalled another big moment, which occurred with one of his littlest fans, while he was performing at a nearly rained-out Yankee Stadium show.

“There was a little girl with a sign for ‘You Move Me.’ Her sign’s about to fall apart and she’s soaking wet,” he recollected. “You stop everything and the crowd allows her to have her moment. That’s a beautiful thing, and that’s why you picked up the guitar in the first place.”

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Even though Garth had a great three years on the road, he continues to look ahead to the future. In 2018, he is set to headline RodeoHouston’s concert series, as well as California’s Stagecoach Music Festival.

“My retiring days are behind me and I just want to run, run, run,” he said.

Garth Brooks opens up about the toll touring has taken on him Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
Nashville-based writer and Rare Country contributor Melinda Lorge has always been passionate about country music. Follow her @MelindaLorge and join the conversation @RareCountry.
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