Toby Keith bringing the old school back on festival circuit

Toby Keith. REUTERS/Harrison McClary

Toby Keith. REUTERS/Harrison McClary

Jane Stevenson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:14 PM ET

Toby Keith, the country music artist who sang about Beer for My Horses in a famous 2003 duet with Willie Nelson, more recently sings about Drinks After Work in the title track from his 2013 album of the same name.

In fact, the 53-year-old Oklahoman, who's been known to hoist a Red Solo Cup -- also the name of his 2011 big crossover song -- during his live shows, is the first to admit that's an understatement.

"It's always drinks during AND after (work)," said Keith, who arrives to headline the Boots and Hearts Festival on Aug. 1 in Bowmanville, Ont.

"And a few before. I usually wait 'til about 15 minutes before we go to do our meet and greet and then I've got this smoke agave cactus mezcal -- it's called Wild Shot and we put it on the market in the States and it's done really well -- and I keep some in the freezer.

"So I pour me a little slug of that just before the meet and greet and get the pipes (cleared) out and get your head pointed toward partyville.

"And then I go do the meet and greet; come back; do another little bit and then walk on stage. And, then, of course I've got my red solo cup full of good stuff. And then I just kind of sip through the night."

We caught up with Keith, who has sold 40 million albums over the last two decades, recently down the line from his home in Oklahoma on a tour break before he gets to Canada in just over a week.

Are you excited about coming to Canada?

It's been awhile since I've done anything around any part of Canada. Getting to come to this festival is always a cool deal.

What can fans expect from your summer show?

My band actually surprised me this year for the first time in a long time. They went and really busted their hump and worked up four or five of the number ones that we had in the '90s that we haven't played in years ... So stuff like Who's That Man, Dream Walkin', You Shouldn't Kiss Me Like This and Wish I Didn't Know Now (What I Didn't Know Then) -- they got them all ready. So at any point in the show (if I) want to throw something in there that we haven't done in years ... (I) just pick it out and we can play it. So it's been really fun for me to go back and perform those songs.

I've also been reading that you're covering Ted Nugent's 1975 rock classic Stranglehold.

Ted sent me an e-mail going, "Don't hurt those country people."

Are you two longtime friends?

I don't see him all the time, but I've hunted with him a couple of times. And then I was at Sammy Hagar's 60th birthday party and I was down there (in Cabo San Lucas, Me.) and we jammed together there. He and Sammy and Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry all came down and played ... It was quite the experience. They about shut that part of Mexico down as they filed into the streets. It was great.

And your daughter Krystal Keith, who released her debut 2013's Whiskey & Lace, has been opening for you in the U.S.?

She has been and I don't know if she'll be at that (Boots and Hearts Festival). Sometimes she goes off and works on other things ... She made her debut at the Grand Ole Opry (earlier this month). It was pretty neat. Of course (it was emotional) ... she's starting to build her career; you look up, and she's out there.

It must be hard to walk in dad's big footsteps?

It's difficult ... even the ones who've made it really struggled early -- Hank Jr., Pam Tillis, just to name a few. You have to overcome some (obstacles), but (Krystal's) building her own deal. She writes her own thing, kind of headed in her own direction. So I just try and support it.

I've noticed that you're part of the Doobie Brothers' new tribute album featuring collaborations with country artists.

I did Long Train Runnin'. ... The first time I heard Black Water, it made me get up and go down and buy it, you know what I mean? I was like a kid and I was like, 'I got to have that.' They were very, very unique and something was very organic. I could hear the roots in their music.

What do you make of late-night host Craig Ferguson leaving his show? You two seemed to have been very close over the years.

I'm very sad. Craig, to me, he's the most underrated cat on the air. He does a fantastic job. His quirkiness really works. The first time you watch him, you're like 'Why'd they hire this guy?' You just keep on watching. And, man, you finally get it. You're like, 'This guy. He's outrageous. He's cut out of a different mold.' "


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