Toby Keith on the Deadline That Almost Stopped His Career

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Toby Keith didn’t get to where he is today by caving to any shred of self-doubt. He still has the same hunger to be the best in his craft that he had when he first started.

“I tell people pursuing anything in music, ‘Dream big, and go for it,’” Keith told CMT.com on Wednesday (Dec. 12). “But try to be as realistic as you can.”

There was a time in Keith’s early career when it almost became a hobby. He was in his late ‘20s and signed with a record label that was going to shelve his first album before his career had a chance to begin. At the time, he told himself that if he didn’t get his big break by a certain age, he would have to find work elsewhere.

“I had an album, and I just believed in it to the point of asking the label to drop me, which is completely unheard of,” Keith said. “I got an album rejected, was really struggling and was in a tough spot. I asked, ‘Can I take my album with me? They said, ‘Well we’ve got a lot of money tied up in it, but I guess you could buy it.’ Nobody had ever asked.

“Everywhere I went I was writing songs, and even though I had no Nashville success or anything big enough to make a good living,” he adds, “I still believed in what I was doing, and I thought my songs were better than everybody at my level. I really did. I just always prayed that if I hadn’t made it by 30 years old that I was going to go do something else. Fortunately, it happened for me right at the 11th hour.”

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