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Interview:
Toby Keith likes being a write-ous dude
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Toby Keith figures that he's "boycotted all the music awards shows there are" during his 22-year recording career. But he was more than happy to attend his recent Songwriters Hall of Fame induction in New York City.

"That means the world to me, 'cause there's nothing crooked about it," Keith, 53, says by phone from Manhattan the day of the ceremony, where he was honored for sales of more than 40 million albums worldwide and 40 Top 10 country hits. "You're voted in by your peers. You're voted in by your enemies, even; there's a lot of people in the pop world and the Hollywood music world and stuff that don't support the troops and are mad at me for doing so.

"But I was a first-ballot guy, so I guess they said, 'Hey you got good enough numbers. We'll vote you in.' This is a big deal to me. This is the only thing I've ever wanted."

Keith, a former college and semi-pro football player and oil rigger, began writing songs while playing with older musicians in his native Oklahoma. He's primarily known as a recording artist for which he`s won four American Music Awards, seven Academy of Country Music Awards, a pair of Country Music Association Awards and was named Billboard's Country Artist of the Decade during the 90s. But songwriting, he says, has always been more important to him.

"If I never had a record deal, it's hard for me to believe that somebody wouldn't have recorded those songs," says Keith, who owns a chain of I Love this Bar and Grill restaurants (including one at Great Lakes Crossing in Auburn Hills) and is a longtime Ford trucks pitchman. "When you look back at 'How Do You LIke Me Now' and 'Who's YOur Daddy' and 'I Love This Bar' and 'American Soldier,' somebody would've recorded them. I'd have passed them around and somebody would've said, 'Hell yeah, I'm cutting that!'

"As a songwriter, I had a great vehicle to go bring my songs out, and I'm very fortunate and blessed it happened that way. But one wasn't going to stop the other. I'd have still been a songwriter either way."

The craft continues for Keith, who's so far released two new songs -- "Drunk Americans" and "35MPH Town," the latter of which is the title track to an album he plans to release in the fall.

"I just write what I write and I've got a great audience out there, and they'll find it," Keith says. "It ain't about setting any records or having those multi-platinum albums. With 'Red Solo Cup' I think we did 3.5 million, so you're gonna hit once in a while, but I'm just having a lot of fun and being in the business.

"No one's pressuring me to do anything. I can do what I want to do, and it's a great blessing to have this career and be relevant every day and go play your little sold-out shows and just have fun."

Toby Keith and Chris Janson

7 p.m. Saturday, June 27.

DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township.

Tickets are $89.50 and $72.50 pavilion, $29.50 lawn with a $99 lawn four-pack.

Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.


Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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