WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Country singer Garth Brooks "fell in love with" Ireland on his first tour abroad in 1994, and decided to make it the focus of a television special that airs Wednesday.
"The whole special is more about Ireland and their people than it is about Garth and his music," Brooks said in a recent telephone news conference. "It's just an inspiration to play there."
Brooks, the biggest-selling solo artist in U.S. music history, said Ireland impressed him because "as soon as you get there (it's) so comfortable ... your fists become unclenched, your defenses aren't up -- it's very very comfortable."
Much of the two-hour NBC television special was taped during a three-night concert appearance at Dublin's Croke Park, with Brooks performing selections from his latest album, "Sevens," and duos with friends Trisha Yearwood and Susan Ashton.
There's also a fiddle performance shot on the waterfront of the village of Howth, about a half-hour's drive outside Dublin.
Brooks said his mother has Irish roots, and he said she and the Irish have "an undying spirit of hope -- anything is possible."
He noted the similarities between country and Irish music -- both are fiddle-based -- and found that "the greatest thing about music for me is the lyric, and these people hang on the lyric."
The singer, who has been criticized by some traditional country fans, said he "appreciates the respect we get from pop and rock," but added, "let's face it, there's not that much cutting-edge look to our stuff." But he added, "Make no mistake, I never want to be anything other than country music."
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