It's been 20 years since Garth Brooks revealed his rock star alter ego, Chris Gaines, to the world, and in a new interview, the country superstar recalls that period as very difficult.

Brooks created an elaborate back story when he released his Garth Brooks ... In the Life of Chris Gaines album on Sept. 28, 1999. The songs on the album focused on pop music, and Brooks supported the release with an episode of VH1's Behind the Music in which he appeared as Gaines. Brooks also performed in character as Gaines on Saturday Night Live, and though the album was a success, it was confusing for many fans and critics, and he received harsh criticism for it.

"A lot of people misunderstood it, and my ribs are still sore from getting the s--t kicked out of me for it," Brooks tells Yahoo! Entertainment.

The project was intended to test the waters for a feature film titled The Lamb, in which Brooks hoped to star as Gaines. He says he can't envision ever returning to the character, even though the Chris Gaines era has gained its own set of fans over the years.

"I would never even really get close to it again, because it really was a really tough time for me, because of the fact that I saw for the first time that people can be focused on something way past the music," Brooks reflects. "And that's never a good thing, when music takes a backseat."

Brooks is surprised by the number of fans who have come to appreciate the Chris Gaines project over time. Fans have even organized a Gainesfest celebration that is set to take place in Nashville on Saturday (Sept. 28) to mark the 20th anniversary of the album release.

"And then all of a sudden you realize the people who got it, got it. And the people who never got it, never picked it up," Brooks says.

"So that makes me feel good ... everybody that ever does mention to me it says it's their favorite Garth Books album! I don't know how to take that!" he adds with a laugh. "But it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of work."

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