Toby Keith Was Never Nashville’s Poster Boy

Lessons Learned From 25 Years in Country Music

If you could go back 25 years and give yourself some advice, would you?

Toby Keith probably would not.

Keith told Billboard Country Update that he had some things to learn when he got his start in country music in 1992, so he wasn’t likely to alter the course of things.

“I probably needed the lessons,” Keith said. “I did what they asked me to do until about ’98. Even though we were having hits, it wasn’t impacting the audience like I wanted it to. There were other guys and other girls going right by me with less. …

“I was not going to be Nashville’s poster boy,” he said, “and I finally just said, ’I’m dressing out of my closet, I’m doing things my way, I’m singing my songs, and if you don’t like it, fire me,’ and they did.”

The Songwriters Hall of Fame member has also learned that crafting a song often comes from just living life.

“The ideas determine the outcome of my day on songwriting, but my radar’s always up, and I’m always absorbing life,” he said. “If I don’t write something for a month, I’ll be able to open (mental) files and pull stuff down. I let it do what it do.

“You just absorb life and then use it as you need it.”