Garth Brooks doesn't do anything small, so it was only fitting that for his first appearance at Austin's SXSW Music Conference & Festival, he went big— like the size of Texas big. The country icon kicked off his visit with a press conference on Friday (March 17) at the Austin Convention Center, where he debuted a new single and announced he'd close out SXSW 2017 with a show at the event's Auditorium Shores venue.

That show, which was free, 'sold' out in less than five minutes. Hours later, Brooks sat down for a lengthy chat with Amazon Music Vice President Steve Boom. Brooks was an official keynote speaker at SXSW 2017 and talked in depth about his new streaming relationship with Amazon, but also his favorite artists in today's music space, the importance of albums and the importance of the songwriter.

Though his own kids have grown up in a streaming world — where you can get by only hearing songs destined to be hit singles, Brooks points out — the superstar still whole-heartedly believes in the power of storytelling on full-length albums.

When the keynote — dubbed a "fireside chat" — opened up for audience questions, Brooks dished on his favorite artists, starting with recent Super Bowl halftimer Lady Gaga. "The people who are really grabbing me right now? Lady Gaga I think she's a fabulous writer," he said, also naming Katy Perry, Beyonce and Bruno Mars, with the latter garnering a massive cheer. Brooks digs Joe Nichols in his own genre, because in his opinion, Nichols sounds like a young Merle Haggard, and Jason Aldean "because of the muscle he brings to it." Still, Brooks feels like country music is void of the female voice, and he wants to see that change — a topic many have debated over the past several years.

Friday night, Brooks was feeling the itch to perform, so he showed up to Austin's famed country hole in the wall, the Broken Spoke, for an unannounced performance of hits and covers, which was live-streamed on his Instagram page.

On Saturday night (March 18), Brooks gave his planned appearance at SXSW's outdoor riverfront stage — his first official Austin concert in 20-plus years. Early on, he guaranteed to raise hell, and he delivered on his promise for more than 15,000 screaming fans. All of his own smash hits were included — "Two of a Kind," "Two Pina Coladas," "The Dance" — in addition to a number of covers, like "Piano Man" and George Strait's "Amarillo by Morning." The show was open to the local public if they were lucky enough to snag one of the free tickets released via Ticketmaster. The catch? Fans were expected to show their Amazon Music Unlimited app at the gate.

"Ask Me How I Know," from Brooks' most recent album, Gunslinger, is on country radio now.

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