NASHVILLE — He's got 13 years to make up for, so Garth Brooks' comeback is going to be big. Really big.
He'll kick off a three-year world tour soon, with the first date to be announced Monday. More details will follow within 10 days. "I'm very proud of the ticket price," says the 52-year-old singer, who retired in 2001 and drew more than 5 million people to his last tour (1996-98).
He also has a new studio album, his first since 2001's Scarecrow, in the pipeline.
A new single will be released "sometime in the next two months," he told reporters Thursday at his news conference. The album will follow, likely around Black Friday.
For the first time, Brooks' fans will be able to buy those releases digitally.
"His big change is making his music available to download," says Lon Helton, publisher of Country Aircheck, an industry trade publication. "And he's not giving it to iTunes."
Instead of going through digital retailers, Brooks will sell his music online at garthbrooks.com. "That will begin in the next two or three weeks," he says, starting with his back catalog.
Brooks, the top-selling artist in the USA since 1991, has been one of the last major holdouts in the digital realm. Some people might think "I'm giving it away, but I'm not," he says. But it will be offered "at a stupid price."
"I guarantee you it's something where you buy the whole catalog," says Kris Rochester, co-host of the syndicated radio show Tony and Kris in the Morning. "He'll sell millions."
Brooks has signed with Sony Music Nashville, and his new album will bear the RCA imprint. That album "is what we would traditionally think of as a double album, just because there's a lot to say," he says. One of the album's songs "might very well have taken the place of The Dance as my favorite song ever."
And don't expect him to follow current trends like bro-country or hick-hop. "For me, it's 'Garth music,' " Brooks says, though he finds it odd to be considered one of country's more traditional artists. "I was the guy that wasn't country in the '90s."
Brooks told USA TODAY that he's "deep into" recording the new album. "We're probably, I'm going to guess, 60, 75% done at this point."
Radio remains his biggest challenge, a format dominated by younger acts such as Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean, who weren't even making records when Brooks retired.
"You've got to be yourself," Brooks told USA TODAY. "You start chasing (stuff), it doesn't work. If radio takes it, great. If they don't, hey, we've had a great run."
Tony and Kris' Tony Randall says he expects both fans and radio programmers to welcome Brooks' new music.
"Whatever he puts on that album is what people want to hear," Randall says. "The only challenge he faces is himself."
When the arena tour launches, it could last into 2017. "The first one and the second one were both three years each, so I'd like that," Brooks says.
When his wife, singer Trisha Yearwood, asked if he was sure he wanted to stay on the road, he says he told her, "I've never been more sure of anything, because the kids are healthy, and I'm touring with you."