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Yearwood: This Success Belongs to Her : Country music: Some credit singer’s career to Garth Brooks, but her album has sold more than 900,000 copies and features a No. 1 country single.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Trisha Yearwood, country music’s hottest new female singer, frowns at the inevitable mention of Garth Brooks’s name.

It’s not that the 27-year-old Georgia native dislikes the country superstar. It’s just that she’s tired of the tabloid whispers about her “romance” with Brooks--and the implication that she’d be nothing without his support.

“I hear movie stars and performers screaming about the tabloids all the time,” she said during a breakfast interview at a Studio City coffee shop. “But until they zero in on your life and involve you in some scandal, you don’t really know how it horrible it feels.”

Yearwood, who denies that she was ever involved romantically with the married Brooks, said the pair sometimes joke about the rumors. She even told of the time they passed in a hotel hallway during a tour together last year and had a good laugh about it all, with her snickering to him, “It’s so nice having an affair with you.”

But laughing off those rumors, she admitted, hasn’t always been that easy.

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“It’s no fun to have to defend yourself against nasty rumors or hear people saying that you rode somebody’s coattails to get where you are,” she said. “OK, I probably wouldn’t have made it as quickly without Garth, but I would have made it somehow. I do have talent.” No argument there.

On her debut MCA album, Yearwood--who’ll be in concert with Kenny Rogers tonight and Sunday at the Celebrity Theatre in Anaheim--demonstrates impressive emotional range and a feel for a variety of styles, from bluegrass and country-rock to old-fashioned R&B.; “Trisha Yearwood” has sold more than 900,000 copies and features the recent No. 1 country single, “She’s in Love With the Boy.”

Still, it’s hard to discuss her history without mentioning Brooks. Yearwood, who moved to Nashville from tiny Monticello, Ga., in 1985, was just another musical hopeful, going to college and working on the side until she met him in the late ‘80s. Both were singing on the demonstration records publishers use to circulate new songs to recording artists. When Brooks became a hit, he remembered Yearwood. Her first major recording job was singing background on his “No Fences” album in 1990.

Brooks had no hand in getting her signed to MCA Records, but his producer introduced her to another Garth--producer Garth Fundis, who did help her get that record deal. Most importantly, in terms of exposure, Yearwood toured as Brooks’ opening act after her album came out last summer.

But Yearwood is determined to show all the doubters she can make it on her own. She’s already cut that Brooks cord, hiring a separate manager--Ken Kragen--and touring with other artists.

“I’m so indebted to Garth and we’re still buddies but I can’t have people saying Trisha can’t do it without Garth and Trisha can’t stand alone,” she said firmly. “Well, I just have to go out and show ‘em all what Trisha’s really made of.”

On the Way: One of the most delayed albums in recent years has been delayed again. Bobby Brown’s follow-up to his massively successful 1988 debut album has been on the tentative schedule for almost two years, and is now tentatively scheduled for May. . . . Tracy Chapman’s third album, which was originally scheduled for last fall, is now due out the last week of March. . . . Lionel Richie’s “greatest hits” album, featuring three new songs, has been moved back from February to April. . . . Def Leppard, whose last album was in 1987, are also promising a spring release.


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