With his current single, “She Never Cried in Front of Me,” topping last week’s country singles chart, the timing is excellent for Tuesday’s (Oct. 28) release of Toby Keith’s new album, That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy. Of course, Keith’s timing has been consistently on target for several years, especially since taking greater control of his career with the creation of his own record label, Show Dog Nashville.
While Keith continues to grow as a singer and songwriter, Keith is particularly proud of the growth he’s experiencing as a record producer on the latest project.
“I’ve been producing my own albums for the last two or three times,” he notes. “I think in the production of it, you’ll see I’m growing as a producer and am starting to get more of my fingerprints all over the music.”
Keith wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy, including eight written with Bobby Pinson, whose credits include Sugarland’s “All I Want to Do.” Keith says, “We got a great bunch of songs. … I’ve got a song on there [“Cabo San Lucas”] I wrote with Eddy Raven, who I thought was a very underrated artist back in the ’80s that never got the credit I thought he deserved.”
In addition to his music, the television premiere of Keith’s second feature film, Beer for My Horses, takes place Nov. 2 on CMT. It will be followed by release on DVD on Nov. 11.
In a recent interview with CMT Insider, he talked about the new album and how he’s found his greatest success in taking chances with singles that exhibit a strong attitude.
CMT: You know what your fans want, so I presume that’s what you planned to give them this time.
Keith: There are three or four songs that are would be kind of female songs, and we get tremendous reaction from them on a first listen, but there’s a lot of attitude, too. Me and Bobby wrote a song called “Creole Woman” that’s kind of a swampy, Cajun, Southern rock thing. I wrote another song when I was on my USO tour a year and a-half ago. I was at a base one night about six miles from the Pakistan border in Afghanistan, and I wrote a song called “Missing Me Some You.” It’s about a soldier missing his wife, and he keeps her picture down in his battle gear. It’s a blues song like I’ve never done, so if you want to talk about a complete left turn, that would be the left turn on the album. … It’s straight-ahead blues, but it’s a really different kind of a thing than I’ve ever done. Everything else is just straight attitude. There’s about four love songs on here — which is about three more than I usually do. (laughs)
What’s the reason for that?
I don’t know. Bobby’s a really funny guy. We wrote this one song while we were on my bus. I was getting ready to go on stage that night. The sun was still up, and we had the windows up and we were writing this real sweaty lovemaking-type song that we had a great idea on. We were in the middle of one of the steamy verses, the sun had gone down, and it was starting to get dark in there, and I laid some heavy sexual lyrics on him. And he goes, “You’re either going to have to light a candle or turn some light on,” so you’ll find that song on the album. When you find it, you’ll know which one I’m talking about.
At this point in your career, I would think that it’s not a struggle to do an album.
It’s not. I mean, I’ve done this forever. The difference between now and 10 years ago is I would turn this album in and the label would pick the three weakest-ass things [for singles]. They would pick the weakest little songs on there — the most simple, non-offensive middle-of-the-road kind of songs. And then they would let all the stuff that people really want to hear just go by the wayside, and it was harder for me to be discovered. The last six or seven albums, we just have come out of the box with the strong stuff. And that’s why we’ve done so well and been so successful — because we don’t stay middle of the road very much. Not that I write that much middle-of-the-road stuff. It’s always really easy for bureaucrats to pick the easiest way, the path of least resistance, and it’s never going to be easy all of the time.
It’s a tough time for everybody these days. It’s a tough time to be the head guy at a record label.
You’ve still got to have the wheels turning. … If I keep myself on the radio, and I’m rolling up and down the charts all the time, then that allows us to go tour — and that’s where all the money is. … I don’t think [selling records] ever hit my Top 5 on my income sources. … I make money doing everything else, and record sales has always been kind of an afterthought anyway to me.
Editor’s note: CMT Insider producer Terry Bumgarner conducted the interview for this story.