Garth Brooks is finally embracing digital music, but he's doing it his own way.
Brooks, one of the last holdout big-name musicians still refusing to put his music on iTunes, said Thursday he will make his back catalog of hits and his new music available for download, but only through his own website. He said the digital downloads of previous music would be available in a few weeks to tide fans over until a new album comes out later this year.
The 52-year-old country star remains one of music's top-selling artists, with 134 million albums sold, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. He has said in the past that he had no animosity toward Apple, but disagreed with its approach to selling music.
Other performers who refused to join iTunes but later reached deals include AC/DC, Radiohead and Led Zeppelin. ITunes was launched in 2001.
"So, we'll be doing our digital the best way we can, the only way we know how, because we are the only ones who kind of play our own way," Brooks said at a press conference in Nashville.
He also announced a new deal with the Sony Music label, which will put out an album of his first new music since 2001. Brooks said it would likely be issued sometime around Black Friday. The first city on his tour will be announced on July 15, according to Sony.
Brooks, in a new Rolling Stone article on his return, praised contemporary country music but said that his new songs wouldn't veer toward "bro country" or "hick hop."
"If you had to put it in a box for me, [it'd be] 'Garth Music,'" Brooks said in the Rolling Stone article, describing his work in the studio. Later, he added the type of content he has been known for — Western fare like "Rodeo" and "Much too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)" — will be well-represented. "You're damn straight we'll do cowboys songs on this album."
Brooks entered semi-retirement in 2001 near the height of his popularity to be with his three daughters and his wife, Trisha Yearwood. Since then he has performed an extended run in Las Vegas and done a few charity shows.
The Country Music Hall of Fame member said he's grateful for his fans sticking around during his time off from the road.
"A second half of a career isn't granted," Brooks said. "I'm not saying that's what I have now, but you have given me a shot to have it."
But he acknowledged a rocky start to his return to the stage. A series of Ireland shows later this month billed as his "Comeback Special" was cancelled after a battle between venue owners and local residents.
Brooks had expanded the number of shows he was to play at Croke Park stadium in Dublin because of demand, but the Dublin City Council last week refused to grant permission for five shows, saying they would cause "an unacceptable level of disruption" for residents and businesses.
Brooks said tickets had already been sold for five shows and if he couldn't play them all, he would play none.
"And if the prime minister himself wants to talk to me, I will crawl, swim, I will fly over there this weekend," Brooks said. "Sit in front of him, I will drop on my knees and beg for those 400,000 people to just have fun and let them come see."