Richie Brown was the biggest Garth Brooks fan Jerrod Niemann ever knew. They went to college together in Texas, and Niemann told me Brown would always tell him -- and anyone else who was listening -- I'm gonna write with Garth Brooks someday."
Fast forward a few years, and Niemann and Brown ran into each other after they'd both moved to Nashville.
Fast forward even more, and Niemann and Brown were sitting in Brooks' kitchen writing songs.
It makes for an excellent story this week while the world awaits details of Brooks' upcoming U.S. tour.
"So Richie runs into Garth on Music Row," Niemann recalled. "And he tells him, 'Man, I know this isn't proper protocol, but what does it take to write with Garth Brooks? I know it's not the right Music Row etiquette.'
"And Garth told Richie, 'I'll tell you what. Drop off some songs to this location, and if there's something we can use, you'll hear from me. And if it's something that is going in a different direction, you probably won't.' We dropped off 15 songs for Garth."
What happened next was a moment that Niemann, his mother and every driver on Nashville's Briley Parkway that day will probably never forget.
"I remember driving my mom to the airport and telling her that I hoped someday I'd be able to tell my kids that Garth Brooks had heard some of my songs," Niemann said. "And literally two minutes later, I get a caller-ID-blocked call. I thought it was a collection agency or a girl I'd upset. But I answered, and it was a guy. And it was Garth.
"I started swerving all over and told my mom, 'It's Garth Brooks.' And she said, 'Well, don't kill us!'"
By the next weekend, Brown and Niemann were writing "That Girl Is a Cowboy" with Brooks. (Niemann also co-wrote Brooks' "Good Ride Cowboy" and "Midnight Sun.")
"It was crazy to sit there. I'm like, I'm 21 years old, and I'm in Garth's kitchen, writing songs," Niemann said. "I was like, 'Holy shit!' I need a minute to adjust to that.' From there, Garth just took us under his wing. It makes it a lot easier to wake up every morning when you know the people at the top are huge-hearted, great people."