That iconic piece of hand-held plastic — a staple of beaches, picnics and college parties — finally gets its due in Keith’s new single, “Red Solo Cup.” Written by Brett and Brad Warren and Brett and Jim Beavers, the catchy tune comes from Keith’s just-released album, Clancy’s Tavern.
“I’ve known the Warren Brothers for years. They got me the song, and I said, “This is stupid, but it’s freakin’ awesome,” Keith tells CMT Insider‘s Alison DeMarcus. “It’s like you’re almost embarrassed to say that you like it. And I love it.”
During this interview, Keith chats about his latest hit (written by a couple of “knuckleheads”), as well as his memories of his grandmother’s supper club and his own traditional influences.
CMT: Let’s talk about “Red Solo Cup.” Did you have one in the studio when you recorded this song?
Keith: Let me tell you about “Red Solo Cup.” “Red Solo Cup” is the stupidest song that I have ever heard in my life, and it’s written by two knuckleheads — the Warren Brothers — and two of their buddies that didn’t appear when I met them to be as quite as big of knuckleheads. But, obviously, to work with them, they would have to be somewhat knuckleheads.
The second that I agreed to put it on hold to save it for this project, then I started hearing feedback that there were other people in town that wanted to cut this song. [The Warren Brothers] said, “Well, no, they can’t have it. He’s got it already, and we’re gonna let him cut it.” Then I started playing it around for my camp, and they were like, “That’s awesome, dude.”
I didn’t have [anything like] “Weed With Willie,” “Get Out of My Car,” “Star Kissed” — all those little bus songs that I’ve done throughout the years. I didn’t have anything on this album like that. I said, “Let’s cut this thing.”
That’s the Warren Brothers and the Beaver Brothers playing on it. I said, “Give me a demo of what you guys sent me,” but they did it on one microphone the first time. They just gathered around a microphone and did it. I said, “I need all of you in the studio. I’ll pay for it. We’ll go to different rooms in the studio, so I can get a good mix on it because I can’t mix one microphone. So they went and cut it just like they did, and I sang to their demo. And that’s what you get. That’s the whole thing.
Tell me a little about “Clancy’s Tavern” and why the song is so special to you.
It’s an exact reading of the minutes in the day in the nightclub my grandmother had [in Fort Smith, Ark.]. Her nickname was Clancy, and she left the name “Billie Garner’s Supper Club” on the building when she bought it. She worked in there when Billie retired and my grandmother took over. It was such a popular place that she was like, “I’m not gonna turn it into Hilda’s.” Her real name was Hilda. My grandfather called her Clancy as his “get-under-her-skin” name. Billie Garner was not my grandmother, and I couldn’t make it fit into the song, so I said, “You know what? ‘Clancy’s Tavern.'”
She was like everybody’s life coach that came in there. They had no bouncers. Packed, they probably had 350 people. They had steaks and shrimp and salads and soups and fine dining in the back, with a beer joint in the front. You had to pay a cover to get in where the band was. If you were a stranger and came in and started something, you had the whole club on you. She ran that tight of a ship. Every word in that song is so true.
So these characters, like Lily, were real people from your grandmother’s life?
Oh, yeah, Lily was another widow that would follow her almost home. She got off on Midland Boulevard, a few miles right before my grandmother pulled down to her house. So they would get together, these two old women. I don’t think Lily carried a pistol, but I think she followed my grandmother because my grandmother did. (laughs)
They’d close the night out, get everybody run out, get the door shut, count the money and put it in a bag. Those two women would get in those cars and go to the bank and put it in the night drop, then follow each other as far as they could home. … I spent that summer with her, and I watched it every night. It was pretty amazing.
You’ve got a lot of different influences on this album. You’ve got a blues song, you’ve got a kind of a ’80s rock song, kind of a Billy Joel sound in a tune. Was that on purpose? Did you want to bring new things to your music, or did it just happen that way?
I don’t listen to radio that much. I listen to my iPod or I listen to Roadhouse on satellite [radio]. The channel never gets switched. It’s in my plane. It’s in my motorcycles. It’s in my boat. It’s in my house. It’s at my pool. It’s in my bedroom. It’s in my truck. It’s everywhere.
I haven’t listened to more than 20 minutes of modern radio in five or six years, so I’m mainly influenced by the old traditional stuff, but I still make my own music. Maybe my thinking is traditional. Maybe I’m a little bit more Southern rock instead of being more pop-rock or hip-hop rock. I’m a little bit more Lynyrd Skynyrd than I am Jay-Z. And I’m a little bit more Billy Joel than I am Michael Bublé. I’m a little bit more Haggard than I am … whatever. But I’m still influenced by so many kinds of music that they just cross-pollinate all the time.