During a rehearsal break prior to his CMT All Access concert, Toby Keith sat down with CMT.com to answer questions submitted by his fans from around the country. CMT’s Male Video Artist of the Year for 2000, Keith talked about his favorite vacation spot, the video for his current hit, “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This,” Roger Miller and a particularly embarrassing moment during his days as an opening act for Alabama. Read what he had to say — and find out whether he wears boxers or briefs.
1. I wonder if an incident similar to the one portrayed in your music video “How Do You Like Me Now?!” ever happened to you in real life?
Not in real life. The girls I dated in high school were never sharp enough to be the valedictorian or the cheerleaders. That kinda nips it in the bud early.
2. What role do you play in the video making process?
Well, the overall thing I have a lot of say in. My director is so good, Michael Salomon, that I’ve learned to trust him. Some videos don’t have an automatic idea to do a video about, like “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This.” I really didn’t have an idea for it. “How Do You Like Me Now?!” tells a story; you can go put the football field up and do those kinds of things. It’s real obvious what kind of direction to take that. But “Kiss Me Like This” is just a love song, and I don’t have any great story there to tell. It’s just about a magical kiss on the dance floor, and one three-minute kiss would be a boring video. I just leave it up to him and he always shows up with a great idea.
3. You’ve been in videos, on the Dukes of Hazzard and in commercials; do you see a new career for yourself in films or TV?
I think if films and TV, if they thought I was worthy of something like that, then maybe we would consider something. I’m not the kind of guy who’s gonna go stand in line with a bunch of actors and read for my part. If I fit a part and can really be myself — I don’t have to be Toby Keith, but if I can just be a character that’s just like me and can have a part with a sense of humor in the whole thing — I can pull that end off and do it. But it would all have to make sense for everybody. I’ve got a job where I go sing and play and struggle in a business already without having to go stand in line with a bunch of starving actors and read for parts.
4. I love the video for “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This.” Why are your lips so red in the video?
I don’t know. Maybe the makeup lady put lipstick on me and I didn’t know it.
5. Valentine’s Day is coming up. What’s your idea of a romantic evening?
Wow. I don’t know. It would have to involve a nice dinner to start with and probably a hot tub before it was over with.
6. What’s your favorite thing to do to unwind on the road and off the road?
I’ve got a hobby that keeps me pretty occupied. Other than being with my kids and things, which is the obvious fun thing to do, in my spare time, it’s something that allows me to be creative and have my hands on. I’m a real workaholic and have a lot of my fingers in a lot of pies. Raising these racehorses keeps me reading pedigrees and books about it and just trying to stay on top of my game, researching things, experimenting with the breed itself.
7. Do you exercise and eat right while you are on the road?
Eat pretty good, best you can on the road. I mean, we do as good as we can. I have a gym at my house. I run four to five miles, four days a week. If I’m on the road, I’ll run about every day. If I’m at home and it’s nice outside, I’ve got me a five-mile run around my ranch, and I’ve got a full gym at my house, so I lift about four days a week, too, when I’m home. I stay pretty active in that.
8. I know you have race horses and hadn’t heard anything about them lately. Do you still have them and what’s the latest?
Yeah, I have brood mares that are having babies. I have babies that are racing at the track. I have older racehorses that are starting their second season. We’ve had five or six wins in our first two years. We’ve been involved in a couple of stakes races. This year looks to be our best. I’ve got some horses with some really fast workouts coming up.
9. What special thing do you want to do to celebrate your 40th birthday this year, and how is turning 40 going to affect your future plans?
Everybody that stays real young in their mind, where they’re at in their life … I feel the same way I did when I was 15. I can still go play full-court basketball, I can still run five miles. I feel just exactly like I did when I was 15. I have energy; I think it’s just how you take care of yourself and how responsible you are and how satisfied you are in your life at this point with your accomplishments. I’m having my biggest year right this minute. I don’t feel any different.
10. If you could record with any legendary country performer, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I think I was fascinated tremendously by the genius of Roger Miller. I got to Nashville a year or two after he passed away at an early age. He died way too soon. I never did get to meet him. I think his creative abilities were far unmatched in this town; he far surpassed anything that has ever been in this town. A guy goes out and takes “King of the Road” and beats the Beatles “Yesterday” out of six Grammys. Then he goes through his life and writes things people say can’t be on the radio, and they get them on there, and then has people, genuises themselves, following him around listening to what he’s got to say. He turned a phrase better than anybody; then he retires and doesn’t do anything for eight or nine years. Then they tell him to go write a Broadway play and he wins [awards] for writing a Broadway musical, the score, for it. He’s just a genius.
11. What was it like to record with Sting? The two of you sound wonderful together.
It was unique. We’re from different ends of the universe; they say it’s a small world, but it’s a pretty big place. He’s from a completely different culture, so we didn’t have a lot in common. The only thing we had in common was music. He came in, I came in. We did our thing. He went his way, I went mine. We don’t call, we don’t do lunch or anything. We were both on the same label, and it was something that made sense for everybody. I was on [Polygram-owned] Mercury, he was on [Polygram-owned A&M] and they just cross-blended it. It happened, and there you go.
12. I get very mad when some of the so-called “traditional” singers criticize other artists like Faith Hill and Shania Twain for having their songs played on pop radio. What are your views on the whole crossover thing?
I think crossover’s great. I know one thing that’s true, these people that criticize — you need to go look at their record sales right this minute. Anybody that wants to criticize, better have record sales to back it up because Shania and those people that are getting the crossover stuff are getting record sales to back it up. It takes that kind of superstar power to make this industry sell records and be able to compete. If not, we’re all gonna just become a niche in the industry, like bluegrass. So they’ve got to allow people to be heard to draw outside audiences continually into country music, just like the pop world does. If pop and rock and rap quit making records and just stayed with what they do now and never change and bring anything new on, then the new stuff would become a new format in itself. You have to grow and allow yourself to grow. Nothing’s wrong with traditional music. We can have it over here — there’s people that love it. But this industry, to have a radio station in every town to play your favorite kind of music, is gonna take allowing this thing to continue to grow and compete with the big boys.
13. What would you like to see happen next in your career?
Oh, I think all my albums are becoming platinums [million sellers] and double platinums. That was something I always wanted, was to be a record seller. I can’t think of one thing that would enhance my life right now. It hasn’t been about money for a long time. My dad always said, “Don’t just do your best, try to be the best ever.” It’s hard to do that, but you’ve got to always keep that mentality when you fight and hope. Everything you do, you’re always trying to be the best you can be, just continuing to grow as an artist. I get to go do every day what I want to do with a great label that supports me and a great team behind me. Country is not in the boom years right now; just like everything else, stuff cycles. Every industry cycles through, and we’re just going through our cycle phase right now, but I’m doing as well as I’ve ever done, and it makes me glad to know I can hang around seven or eight albums and still be a factor.
14. I’m happy that you’ve decided to stay in Oklahoma even after you’ve achieved success. What is your main reason for staying in Oklahoma?
My roots, and it’s home. My people live there. My horses are there. My other businesses are there. I’m a tremendous Oklahoma Sooner football fan. I grew up selling Cokes in that stadium when I was 12 years old and I lived 10 minutes outside of town. Now I’ve got my ranch. Everything is just home to me. That’s my little cubicle of the world. I can go around there and everybody’s proud of me, but they just say, “Oh yeah, well, that’s just ol’ Toby there.”
15. What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Cabo San Lucas. It’s on the tip of the Baja peninsula. I love Mexico, you get down there and you’ve got the food, the Sea of Cortez. You can go down in the wintertime and it’ll be 72 degrees. You’ve got great, beautiful clearwater beaches. It’s just majestic. They’ve got the big rocks with the waves crashing on the rocks; the sea is just a real brilliant purple … great hotels, great food, international flair. There’ll be people from Greece, England, Greenland, South America, everything, hanging out there. It’s not overrun with a gaudy amount of tourists; it hasn’t been overrun yet with all the BS that comes with, you know, like Myrtle Beach that’s just crammed with every kind of tourist attraction you can find. It’s got a little bit more of a getaway feel to it.
16. From what I read, you are happily married. So am I. How does your wife handle the fact that so many women out there think you’re HOT! How are you able to stay together?
She has a great sense of humor. As far as the ’hot’ goes, she just laughs. She says, man, they oughta see you in the morning.
17. Your wedding band appears to be quite unique, could you tell us about it?
Yeah, it was my wife’s favorite ring when she picked it out. It’s got about 17 diamonds on it; there’s nothing special about it, but it was always her favorite ring and she wanted me to wear it. No big deal, I wear it for her.
18. Do you go shopping for your own clothes or does someone else purchase your wardrobe for you?
Both. All the videos and TV shoots, we bring wardrobes in. For my ’95 tour slogan, we had backstage passes on them that said “Dressing Up Sucks” on them. We go out and do outdoor shows, and I see these other artists come in and they’ll wear their Manuel rhinestone jacket and it’ll be 110 degrees outside and all this stuff. When you’re outside, man, I’m just a T-shirt, jeans, and let’s go, you know? If it’s 110 degrees you’re supposed, you know, to be like everybody else. Your dry cleaners won’t accept [that suit] after about the third show.
19. What’s the most embarrassing or unusual thing that has happened to you during a performance?
I was doing a show about ’94 or ’95 with Alabama, and we have ear monitors (my whole band uses ear monitors). They go in your ear like a hearing aid; it takes the floor wedges [monitors] out of the picture so you can have a clean stage. Usually when people sing, they have to have these floor wedges in front of them to hear what they’re doing. Every show required them until ear monitors were invented. [Ear monitors are] wireless, so they’re on a frequency. In this certain building in Greenville, S.C., we were doing a show with Alabama, and we were opening. I’m always used to coming off the side of the stage, and I’ve got this certain place where I shoot between the bass player and the piano player and run right up to my microphone and sing when they announce my name. This particular night, the ear monitors were messed up on a local frequency, and they weren’t working inside this building, so we had to go with floor wedges. They announced my name, and I come running out in my normal, usual route, and right in my path in the dark is a big ol’ two-foot monitor. I hit that baby and went over and just ripped the knee out of my jeans, busted the neck out of my acoustic guitar. I just jumped up and I’ve got a ball of strings and busted wood hanging around my neck. It was nasty, completely embarrassing. I got up, did the show, then got back and had blood all in my boot. My knee was just completely wasted.
20. Do you wear boxers or briefs?
Briefs. Long-legged briefs.