CRS 2017: Toby Keith Does Things His Way

Toby Keith with Beverlee Brannigan and RJ Curtis during CRS 2017. Photo: CRS Official/Twitter

Show Dog Nashville artist Toby Keith helped close out the 2017 Country Radio Seminar on Friday (Feb. 24) with the panel “Toby Keith—My Way,” moderated by All Access Nashville’s RJ Curtis and Scripps/Wichita VP/GM Beverlee Brannigan.

BMI’s Leslie Roberts introduced Keith, whose songs have garnered 31 BMI Country Awards and 29 million performances. Keith was named BMI’s Country Songwriter of the Year in 2001, 2004 and 2006.

The panel was slated for the day of the annual New Faces of Country Music Show, and Keith recalled his own appearance as a new artist on the show back in 1994, a show that also included then-newcomers Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. From there, Keith discussed the importance of making his own career decision, trusting his own intuition, and the hit-making results that mindset has had on his career.

Brannigan asked about Keith’s decision to perform during President Donald Trump’s inauguration, despite opposition on social media.

“Every single time the White House– no matter who the President was — called, I’ve always said yes and went,” Keith said. “In the end, it just makes you stronger. If you don’t succumb to the pressure, it will make you stronger.”

Keith also discussed his strong support for the military and the USO, as well as the influence of his father, who died just months before Sept. 11, 2001.

Keith recalled how early in his career, he took direction from music executives, before he began calling the shots.

“If you look at those first photo shoots, they had me in suits,” Keith said. “Probably from 1993-1997, I put up with it.”

According to Keith, his label at the time wasn’t confident in his How Do You Like Me Now?! album, so he purchased the rights to the album from the label and took it to DreamWorks, which released the project in 1999. Keith advocated for the album’s title track as the first single, a bold choice for radio at the time.

“They were afraid of it, too,” Keith said, explaining that at the time radio favored female artists and more female-centric themes. “Male artists were getting pushed aside.”

When execs at DreamWorks decided to release “When Love Fades” as the lead single, Keith was less than enthusiastic. After “When Love Fades” stalled at No. 33 on the radio charts for three straight weeks, Keith took action.

“I just called up 30 radio guys and told them to go with, ‘How Do You Like Me Now?!,’” said Keith.

Keith summed his bold, independent approach to his career, saying, “I can live with it if I go down with my own ship. But if y’all are the captain, and my ship goes down, I can’t live with that.”

Keith would go on to launch the Show Dog Nashville label in 2005.

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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