He's seen the film and heard the Dale soundtrack CD, yet Brent Keith still isn't accustomed to having his music placed alongside classic tracks such as Brooks & Dunn's "Hard Workin' Man" and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama." Beyond that, the 27-year-old Ohio native also never expected to sing the theme song for the documentary that is the authorized film on the late NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Sr.
"I'm definitely honored to be on there with those guys," Keith told CMT's Lance Smith during a recent conversation in Nashville. "It's crazy."
Produced by NASCAR Images and CMT Films, Dale will air for three consecutive nights this week -- Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (Sept. 4-6) -- at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CMT, marking the only scheduled times the movie will air on television until its release on DVD in 2008.
Keith's performance of "Looking for a Road (Theme From Dale)" is the only new recording on the just-released soundtrack CD available from Wal-Mart. In addition to the Brooks & Dunn and Lynyrd Skynyrd tracks, the soundtrack also includes familiar material from Bruce Springsteen, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Motley Crüe, Alabama, Travis Tritt, George Thorogood and Charlie Daniels.
Teresa Earnhardt, widow of Earnhardt Sr., realized the importance of music in setting the tone for the film.
"I think the music is a very important aspect of evoking the right feelings and emotions," she said recently. "I honestly did not select any of the music, but I approved all of it. I think it's great music. I think it adds so much."
"Looking for a Road" made its way into the film through Keith's work with Chris Farren, a songwriter and producer whose production credits include Deana Carter's "Strawberry Wine." Farren became aware of Keith's talent when he saw him as a contestant on the second season of the Nashville Star talent competition.
Keith grew up in Blanchester, Ohio, a town located approximately 40 miles northeast of Cincinnati. After singing in choirs at his church and high school, he joined a rock band.
"I got tired of doing Metallica and Guns N' Roses and wanted to sing a little more," he said. "I know they sing ... but you know what I mean. I got a guitar at about age 18 or 19 and started teaching myself to play and got into country music."
The music video for "Looking for a Road" was shot at the Nashville Superspeedway in July with director Shaun Silva. Aware of his numerous awards and his work with Kenny Chesney, Keith was somewhat nervous to meet Silva.
"It was intimidating, but I got to meet him a couple of times beforehand, and he was a really cool, relaxed guy, so I got to get rid of the intimidation," he said. "I think we shot for about 11 hours. It was a long day, but it was great."
It was Keith's first video, but another first was when he heard his voice during a screening of Dale at a movie theater.
"That's a good moment," he said. "On the big DLP [Digital Light Processing] screen and the surround-sound speakers, that's huge. It was the first time I'd heard my voice on anything that big."
As for the film itself, Keith noted, "You learn a lot about Dale Earnhardt's life. I obviously knew who he was, and I've been a fan of NASCAR for a while, but you learn a lot of behind-the-scenes things, and you get to know of him as a person, instead of as just the icon. ... The last time I saw it, I took my wife with me. She's not a big NASCAR fan, but she watches it with me sometimes. She really enjoyed the movie because it's such a human story. She laughed and she cried, so she really liked it."
In the coming months, Keith will be working on his first album, although he admits that his story isn't a typical one for Nashville.
"You expect to get a record deal and do the usual steps that most people do," he said. "We've kind of come into it a little backwards, but we're very happy to be in it either way."