NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ When Garth Brooks says he's just about through, should his fans believe him?
Brooks just celebrated an amazing milestone: He has sold 100 million albums, certified by the Recording Industry Association of America.
He used the occasion to make a dramatic announcement, one he's been hinting at since 1995.
``I'm here to announce my retirement,'' he said, his voice quivering with emotion. He cited the need to be with his three daughters and to sort out his marriage, and worries that he might not be able to retain his massive popularity.
In the next breath, he seemed to contradict himself. He detailed plans for a new album next summer and mentioned a series of network TV specials to promote it. He also spoke of two projects that he'd like to do down the line _ a soundtrack album and a duets project with Trisha Yearwood.
Is the retirement announcement a ploy to hype the upcoming album? After all, Brooks is known for innovative marketing techniques, like dramatically cutting his CD prices and aggressively reselling his catalog through limited-edition packages, a box set and hits packages.
What better way to sell an album than by calling it a ``farewell album''?
Brooks swears that's not what he's doing.
``The last thing that I really need from (the press), and I'm praying that you really hear me on this,'' Brooks said. ``I don't want it to be called the last record, the farewell record.
``Could this possibly at this point be my last record? Yes, it could. But do I want to sell a record on the fact that it's the last record, or the farewell record? No.''
There are those in Nashville who view such statements as pure media manipulation, planting an idea by bringing it up and then denying it. No one is lining up to say such things on the record, however.
Mike Dungan, who runs Capitol Records in Nashville, Brooks' record label, has every reason to want Brooks to continue making records.
Dungan believes Brooks means what he says.
``I have found him to be without a doubt ... one of the most charming and disarming, straightforward and straight-up honest men that I've ever worked with,'' Dungan said.
The one area where Brooks has boxed himself in is important: He won't tour anymore; at least not until his 4-year-old daughter Allie has started college.
Brooks built his reputation on his prowess as a live performer, and clearly loves it. Committing to staying away for a long time is a real sacrifice.
``The stuff that I am pulling away from is the stuff that takes me away from home,'' Brooks said. ``That mostly was the touring and recording.
``It takes six months to make a record. And you're in with guys that believe that if you're supposed to be in (the recording studio) until four in the morning, you will be. Because music comes first, at that time.''
Brooks, who has been caring for his three daughters at his Oklahoma home, said things are now stable enough so that he can record one more album.
And his fabled intensity and competitiveness doesn't seem to have waned. Like an athlete, he motivates himself by believing he's the underdog.
That takes some doing for a guy who has sold 100 million albums in a decade, but Brooks appears to believe he's in danger of becoming a country-music dinosaur at 38.
Brooks said he will ``attempt'' to record the new album.
He will consider more than 10,000 songs for the project. He would normally screen about 4,000.
``The reason I say it's an `attempt' is because we all grow older,'' he said. ``This thing passes you by. It's not a slap in your face. It's not a statement that says you're not what you used to be. It just simply comes and goes.
``So if my time has went, or if I still have some time left, that's what we're getting ready to find out.''
Brooks would like to write film screenplays. Songwriter Tony Arata, who wrote ``The Dance'' for Brooks, has another idea, one the superstar could certainly balance with his family responsibilities.
``I met you as a songwriter long ago at (Nashville club) Douglas Corner,'' Arata said during a black-tie gala to mark the 100 million in album sales. ``And you are still one of us.''