Skip to comments.Outspoken Toby Keith Shakes Up Industry
Posted on 05/16/2005 9:42:16 PM PDT by andie74
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - He's tangled with Peter Jennings and the Dixie Chicks over his music, criticized the media for its coverage of the Iraq war, tweaked the Country Music Association over awards snubs and threatened to flee his record label.
Keith was at the Country Music Television offices last week to promote "Honkytonk University," his new CD out Tuesday, the same day he's up for the Academy of Country Music's Entertainer of the Year award.
At 6-foot-4, the former oil field worker, rodeo hand and semipro football player doesn't so much enter an office as take it over. He's candid and talkative and doesn't seem to mind stepping on toes anyone's.
This day, he's still sore about a February report in Rolling Stone magazine that referred to him as "the king of ultra-patriotic country" and said his 2004 concert tour which brought in $27.7 million, second only to Shania Twain in country music earned "mostly red state dollars."
"The truth is and we looked it up we made a lot more money in the blue states," says Keith, 43, wearing a weathered straw cowboy hat and yellow Western shirt. "We did more shows in the red states, but we made a lot more cash in the blue states."
Keith feels he's been unfairly portrayed by the media and his critics as a hardcore right winger. While he's backed the American troops in his songs and supported President Bush's re-election, he describes himself as a conservative Democrat who doesn't always agree with the administration.
Back in Oklahoma where he and his wife of 21 years, Tricia, live with their three children, he's campaigned for Democratic candidates including Gov. Brad Henry.
"I get brushed with this big, gigantic red, white and blue brush. But I don't mind," he says. "I look good in red, white and blue."
Keith's star shines brighter than most country artists, and he'll be the first to tell you so. He's sold about 25 million albums with a sound rooted in the whiskey halls and beer joints of the Southwest.
Unlike most his peers, he writes just about everything he records. He says he can't imagine sifting through hundreds of songs to find a dozen or so that he likes and that reflect his personality. His hits include the hawkish anthem "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" a song inspired by his father's death in a car accident in 2000 as well the 9-11 terrorist attacks the boozy "I Love This Bar," the patriotic "American Soldier" and the chest-thumping "How Do You Like Me Now?"
The new album, "Honkytonk University," has a harder country edge. There's an old-school duet with his musical hero Merle Haggard, "She Ain't Hooked on Me No More," and a mid-tempo tune called "Big Blue Note" about a guy who finally comes to peace with a Dear John letter. The second single, "As Good As I Once Was," is a rumination on growing older and wiser.
The release of that single symbolizes Keith's frustration with his record company.
He left Mercury Records in 1999 because he was upset with the way his music was being handled. He went to DreamWorks, then an independent label, and became a superstar. Last year Dreamworks was acquired by Universal Music Group Nashville, which has Mercury under its umbrella.
"As fate would have it, in the end the little independent label I'm on that's $27 million in the hole when I walk in and it sells for $100 million four years later because of what we accomplish who do they sell to? I go right back to the hell hole I was in at first."
Keith said he approached things with an open mind but ran into trouble with the single. He wanted "As Good As I Once Was" to be the first one for radio; the folks at Universal, he says, thought it was too risky and chose the title cut.
"I had put out four or five albums without one A&R meeting. We put out what we wanted and it worked. So why would I have to change?" he says. "At this point in my career I'm not going to put up with it."
While he won't rule out a distribution deal with the music giant, Keith said, "Universal knows where they stand. I've got one more album (to fulfill his contract). After that, the next album is going to be on my label period."
Universal Music Group Nashville declined to comment Monday, but Billboard magazine reported that at the March radio industry conference where Keith made his remarks, UMGN co-chairman Luke Lewis said, "To (Keith) I say, 'Good luck.' The track record of artists running record labels is not that good."
Asked last week about Lewis' comment, Keith quipped, "Ask him if he wants to bet paychecks."
By starting his own label, Keith wants to move closer to the business side of music and, perhaps, farther from the artist side. He says he'll focus on signing songwriters, whom he believes are the forgotten backbone of country music.
"I'm trying to bring the song back and make songwriters into artists more so," he said. "The industry has forgot the song itself. They try to find the song and then attach it to a pretty face so it works on video."
What you probably won't find Keith doing, despite his strong opinions, is entering politics.
"I couldn't tick off the line. My dad called it 'glad-handing' walk up and smile and shake their hand whether you like them or not. If I don't like you, I don't like you. I don't want to come up and shake your hand."
"Whisky for my friends, and beer for my horses.." can't beat that LOL
I love Toby Keith's music. Lots of patriotic stuff, and lots of just plain fun songs.
Mr. Keith - Do what you do best.
Nothing against him, but I'm weary of this kind of silly stuff. Why would he look up such a stupid statistic? Whatever happened to plain old America, especially in terms of something like where a musician earns money? It's petty and silly.
Ironicly, I'd probably have been a democrat until Reagan in Michigan. Bill Milliken (a pro-abort high tax gun grabber who backed John Kerry) is a RINO today, but his types controlled the GOP at the time. Largely rich liberals, while democrats were more populist blue collar labor. Richard Headlee broke through in 1982 and the Engler/Headlee wing eventually took contol, resulting in a 1990 monumental win.
And until recently, there were a lot of conservative democrats in Michigan, and almost 1/3 of the legislators today still are sometimes social conservatives. About 1/4 to 1/5 of the GOP still have shades of Millikenism. The rest are either more libertarian, religious conservatives, or somewhere in between.
The Liberals don't understand Toby because they've forgotton what a conservative Democrat is. Scoop Jackson, Zell Miller...Toby Keith. A dying breed. Their party has been hijacked by anti-American socialists. This is why Toby seems like he'd be a conservative-Republican even though the Truth is that he is a conservative-Democrat.
And I accept that. My parents were conservative Democrats. Reagan was a Democrat. Coleman was a Democrat. Party left them not vice versa.
I'm in a blue state and love Toby's music, but then we need sanity up here. Even though I'm in a 'red' county it's just not the same.
I have a quote from him where he says "truth is i am a lifelong democrat,and that pisses off liberals today like you wouldn't believe"
Probably so he knows where to tour next.
Toby is on a genuine path. He kinda reminds me of Willie...without the Nashville baggage. I like Toby's style, which will only improve by his own label.
I love that too, but my favorite is, "The List". It personifies my husband. When I first heard it, we were driving across country. I made him listen to it EVERY day. Two or three times. He is finally slowing down to a pace where we may get to keep him a little while longer. THANK YOU, TOBY!
I too can appreciate conservative Democrats...I am the first Republican in my family, but we all agree on social issues.
For instance, my taxes shouldn't pay for your handout.
In fact, I am not sure where we exactly draw the line between Democrat and Republican -- Granddaddy, the uncles, and my folks all voted for Reagan, Bush 41, Dole, and Bush 43. None of them voted for Kennedy. They all supported the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and the War on Terror.
In their minds, though, only rich guys are Republican. But I think that with the likes of Jesse Jackson, Pelosi, Daschle, Reid, Teddy, Johnny Edwards, Kerry, and the Clintons, they are more willing to call themselves Republicans.
Again, the party left them, not the other way around.
Ever had a business manager?
I'm not making a big deal of this, I am just really tired of all this red-blue crap, as if that is meaningful in any way, seeing how some of these states were won or lost by small margins. (Can you tell I live in a blue state?)
Toby looks good in just about anything.
Okay, I think Ann Coulter rules apply.