Toby Keith Interview


Long before all the sell-out concerts and the multi-platinum CD’s, Toby Keith was just another singer/songwriter struggling to be heard.
On March 26th 1993, I had the opportunity to interview Toby Keith.
He was part of something called the “Triple Play Tour”, traveling the country with two other up and coming singer/songwriters-----Jon Brannen and Shania Twain.

Q – Toby, whose idea was it to package the three of you together for this tour? The record co.?
A – Yeah. It was the Nashville Mercury people. The same people that launched Billy Ray (Cyrus) got together and said let’s put three artists were committed to in ’93 instead of putting one out in the first third of the year and the second.

Q – How was it known that all three of you could get along on the road?
A – Well, they kind of set us up for it. You never know. We’re getting along pretty good. They just took us without telling us we was gonna do this Triple Play and started taking us to dinners and things, early on, to see if we could get along and if we hit it off. Everything was alright. Shania is real easy to get along with. And Jon Brannen is one of the nicest guys I ever met.

Q – Were there say 12 mercury artists in competition for the 3 slots available on the Triple Play Tour?
A – No. They had 7 or 8 new artists that they were gonna stick out, so they, I guess, polled their people and said who do we want to to be committed to and our 3 names were priority this year, in ’93, so they just packaged us together and shipped us. I mean we’ve been on all the Nashville network shows, been on CNN. We’re headed for an interview with USA Today. We’ve been in every door that an artist by himself would never got into.

Q – This is pretty unique.
A – It is. It’s kind of similar to the old hit rock ‘n’ roll caravans, like the Dick Clark thing, that used to go in rock and Motown back in the 50’s and 60’s. But, it’s never come out of a guitar town like that.

Q – Who opens and closes each show? Do you alternate?
A – Yeah. We’ve alternated. Shania is always in the middle. Me and John have alternated. She’s comfortable with that. She doesn’t want to open the show, and she don’t want to try and go on after us ‘cause her shows a little more musical and dramatic, emotionally. Like a female shows more feminine, me and John are kind of rough rockin’ guys. So, it would be hard for us to go out and really rock it for two shows and her to come out after us and be real sentimental. She wanted to be in the middle. Women libbers would bash us if we stuck her in the front. Three new artists and the woman goes on first. Yeah, here we go.

Q – What does it mean to have an agency like C.A.A. (Creative Artists Agency) behind you, as opposed to a William Morris or I.C.M. (International Creative Management)? I have no idea if you’ve worked with these there agencies before.
A – I’ve never worked at this level with agencies this big. I know Ron Barrett of C.A.A. is takin’ care of this. They’ve done a wonderful job I’ll say that. To sell this whole tour without any of us having a single or anything in the market. Somehow they got it sold. I don’t know how. When they put this thing together in December and January in a hurry, none of us had anything out. It’s maybe pushed my single to 28 this week on R and R. In 4 weeks people know my single now. Nobody had a clue a month and a half ago, General John Q. Public and they sold this whole tour to the big clubs like Billy Bob’s in Ft. Worth and Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte, North Carolina. They sold these dates just by I guess by being a good agency.

Q – What happens to all of you after this tour ends, April 2nd? Your album (CD) is released on April 20th, right?
A – Yeah. They’re talking about doing a West Coast and North leg of this thing. Chicago, New York, L.A. thing and then hit San Francisco, Phoenix maybe, Albuquerque, Denver. Make another tour out of it. I don’t think it’s gonna be as extensive as this one was. I know for sure we’re gonna play another show in Orlando. And, we’re gonna do New York, L.A., and Chicago. But, I don’t think we’ll be back out where it’s just solid press and tour like it was for Triple Play these last 5 weeks. As soon as it dies, and they close the door on this, my bands waitin’ in Oklahoma City and I’ll pick them up and we’ll go back to hittin’ honky-tonks, man, playin’ my music. Just tryin’ to sell records.

Q – As an individual artist, are you signed to C.A.A.?
A – No. I think Shania signed with ‘em. But, I’m not with anybody. I’m waitin’ till this tour is over. I’ve got dates so I don’t know a booking agent right now. It’s better to let my single climb on up an let ‘em come at me with some offers and see what’s up.

Q – Besides a singer/songwriter, you’ve been an oilfield worker, and a pro football player. How did those jobs help you in writing songs?
A – They really didn’t. The oil field was a lot of time by myself up in a derrick. It gave me a lot of time to ponder these things. Football didn’t help me any. When you’re chasin’ down on a quarterback, you’re not thinking about cheatin’ and drinkin’ songs.

Q – Maybe some guys are.
A – Yeah, maybe they are. Maybe they’re goin’ in there sayin’ Hank Williams is about to knock their butt in the dirt. I usually write at night before I go to sleep. The hour or two before I go dead asleep. I usually go through what I messed with that day.

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