Why did Garth Brooks change his name?

Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks

Chris Gaines is a one-off fictional rock persona created for Garth Brooks to explore musical styles far removed from his success as a country singer.

Initially, Brooks planned to feature the Gaines persona in The Lamb, a motion picture that never materialized.

In 1999, Brooks released one album as Gaines; the album produced two charting Billboard singles, including the Top 5 pop hit “Lost in You”.

In 1999, Garth Brooks, together with his production company Red Strokes Entertainment and Paramount Pictures, began to develop a film in which Brooks would star.

The film was supposed to revolve around the life of Chris Gaines, a fictional rock singer, and his emotionally conflicted life as a musician in the public eye. Brooks created the Gaines character and backstory, but he did not write any of the songs on the album.

To create hype for the film, Brooks took on the identity of Gaines and released an album in October 1999 titled “Garth Brooks in…the Life of Chris Gaines.” The album was intended as a “pre-soundtrack” to the film, and it was meant to represent the “greatest hits” of Gaines’ entire career, spanning several decades of supposed recordings.

To promote the album’s release, Brooks appeared as Gaines in a television “mockumentary” for the VH1 series Behind the Music, and he also performed as Gaines on an episode of Saturday Night Live, which he hosted as himself.

Despite Brooks’ promotion of the album, it received a lukewarm reception. The album received mixed reviews, and Brooks’ fans responded with general confusion as to the purpose of the project.

Although the album made it to No. 2 on the Billboard 200, expectations had been higher, and retail stores began heavily discounting their oversupply.

The sales of the album were less than expected (more than two million), and no further developments in the production of the film as a result brought the project to an indefinite hiatus in February 2001, and the Gaines character quickly faded into obscurity.

Despite the less than spectacular response to the project, Brooks gained his first – and, to date, only – Billboard Hot 100 Top 40 single with “Lost in You,” the first single from the album.

Critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic speculated that the alternate persona and elaborate marketing scheme backfired, writing, “When Brooks’ new persona and his album were revealed to the public, they were unforgiving – they didn’t think he was playing a role, they simply thought he’d lost his mind.”

However, Erlewine gave the album a 3-out-of-5 stars rating and, in the same review, later wrote: “Judged as Brooks’ first pop album, it’s pretty good, and if it had been released that way, it likely would have been embraced by a wide audience.”

In March 2021, Brooks announced that The Life of Chris Gaines was to be re-released on multiple platforms, including digital and vinyl, adding that previously unreleased songs were also forthcoming

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