Toby Keith Brings Out the Big Dogs
He's sold 30 million albums, starred in a big-screen flick, owns a record label and a restaurant chain, and now Toby Keith can add "producer" to his illustrious resume. The country superstar releases his 12th studio album this week, 'Big Dog Daddy,' which is his first self-produced effort.
Keith gave us a track-by-track commentary of his new record, sharing his personal stories behind every song on the album. Listen to 'Big Dog Daddy' in its entirety as you read along. Then tell us if you agree with the critics, who are already hailing this his best album yet!
High Maintenance Woman
Toby Keith/Tim Wilson/Danny Simpson
My manager T.K. met his ex-wife years ago when she was the head cheese at an apartment complex in Nashville. They had a basketball goal outside for the residents and T.K. would shoot baskets with the complex's maintenance man Curt while waiting for Betty to get off work. Curt eventually asked T.K. how he could get into the music business and, long story short, he's now one of the head guys at my booking agency Monterey Peninsula Artists.
The three of us were at dinner one night and got to talking about Betty, who was just a country girl back at the apartment complex, but is kind of a high maintenance chick now. Likes her Dolce & Gabbana. T.K. said something about having known her for 20-some years, and Curt mentioned he'd known her a lot longer since they'd worked together before T.K. was in the picture. I asked Curt if he ever dated Betty and he said, "No, she was too high maintenance for the maintenance man."
So I went and wrote the song, played it for T.K. and Curt, and everybody laughed. I got to the studio and played it for the session guys and they said, "Aw, man. There's a comedian named Tim Wilson who's got a skit about that and has a little ditty song that's kind of the same thing." I said, you're kidding me. But that kind of thing happens all the time. I wrote a song called "Alcohol of Fame" a long time ago and was real proud of how original it was until I played it for someone who said there are about 15 with that title registered with BMI.
Tim's a friend of mine, so I called him and told him about my song and what the session musicians had told me about his. I said I wouldn't even record mine without his blessing, which he gave. And just because I don't want anyone to ever think I copped his song, we threw him a small share of the writing and put their names on it.
As for the song itself, you could call it a stalker song, I guess. He sees her every day and wants to know everything she does, but the end result is she's just not going to fall for the maintenance man.
Love Me If You Can
Craig Wiseman/Chris Wallin
Very few times do I record a song I don't write. I can probably count on both hands the number of times I've done that in my whole career. This song wasn't written for me, but it sounds like I wrote it for myself.
Every word Craig wrote tells it like it is for me. There are a lot of homeless people out there who are lazy, drunk or hooked on drugs, but there are some who might just be down on their luck. So I may feel like the homeless should just get up and go to work, but I won't stop giving money to charitable organizations that help people on the street. I do sometimes think war is necessary, but if we could push the big red peace button and make it all end I think every single one of us would.
This is the other one I didn't write. Curt, my booking agent, sent me some Fred Eaglesmith songs three or four years ago. I pulled two or three songs from those albums and put them on my iPod. I do a lot of running and as I run I listen to a lot of songwriter type songs. This song is such a great story and the beauty of it is there are no White Rose filling stations in the U.S., only in Canada. But it doesn't change the meaning one bit.
The White Rose is the filling station in your neighborhood. If you grew up pre-Eighties, you remember gas stations where they bumped your tires, checked your oil, did your windows and filled your tank. Everything now is plug your card in and do it yourself. The memories you first have of driving a car and teenage romance -- those places stick with you. Ours was called The Derby gas station, and it's forever gone. I've been wanting to cut this for the last four albums and didn't, but I wasn't going to wait any longer. The session guys just killed it.
Get My Drink On
Toby Keith/Scotty Emerick/Dean Dillon
We were on the bus one night and somebody asked if anyone needed anything at the store and someone said, "Yeah, pick up some beer. I need to get my drink on." Might have been me, I don't remember. Dean, Scotty and I sat down a few days later to write and I told them this title. They loved it and Scotty started working on the groove. It fell out in about 45 minutes. If you're gonna sing it you better have your mouth and tongue loosened up because it's a word salad. They all get chopped up in there. They're coming and you better be ready because they can get by you quick. The instrumentation on this is the best on the album, I think.
Wouldn't Want To Be Ya
Toby Keith/Scotty Emerick
These are the kind of songs I learned to sing and play in bars when I was a kid. The people who wrote and cut these kinds of country songs were the ones I gravitated to. We crafted this title into a song a little bit differently. Usually you'd hear "See ya, wouldn't want to be ya" as derogatory. A slam. But I'm proud of the way we laid it out where the girl says it because she feels like he's a tortured person. She feels sorry for him. You've always got that longing and itching to go. And then we turn the phrase a little when he comes back. Now it's kind of funny. Simple country music with some fine craftsmanship. It's got a classic, almost retro early Eighties vibe to it.
Big Dog Daddy
Ford has been my tour sponsor for years and they asked me to come to the Texas State Fair in Dallas to unveil their new F-450 Superduty for a bunch of media. I walked up on it, got it in and one of the Ford guys said, "Well, what do you think, Big Dog?" And I said, "This is a Big Dog Daddy." Everybody busted out laughing and they said when you go out there, say that. So when I drove it out for the media I said, "I'd like to introduce you to Ford's new Big Dog Daddy." And that became the deal.
Every year I'm looking for a new tour name. Unleashed. Throw Down. Hookin' Up & Hangin' Out. Ford suggested I call this year's the Big Dog Daddy tour, which was alright with me. I got to thinking about it and realized, that's a great title maybe I'll write a song. I started driving on the top of a guitar and putting rhymes together. We add horns when we do it live to give it even more bump.
I Know She Hung The Moon
Toby Keith/Scotty Emerick
I was playing a show in Memphis five or six years ago. I'd never been to Elvis' house and decided I needed to sneak over and see it. The limo driver who picked us up asked me to sign something for his daughter. "She thinks you hung the moon," he said, "but she's a daddy's girl and she knows I'm the one that held the ladder." I thou
ght that was very clever and started trying to figure out a way to write that. It's hard to say that to someone you love because it doesn't fit: "Baby, you hung the moon, but I'm the one who held the ladder."
So I thought, wouldn't it be neat if this guy has a pretty wife and everywhere they go people look at her then look at him and go, "He out-kicked his coverage on this deal." But he's comfortable because he knows she's true to the bone. I cut it five years ago for another album, but we had so much stuff I knew would be singles I didn't want this to get lost. Finally, this song's time is now.
Toby Keith/Bobby Pinson
I fell in love with Bobby Pinson's music over the last couple years. He really digs into songs the same way I do, and I don't write with many people like that. Come to find out that Bobby was born in Oklahoma and raised in the Texas panhandle. I was born out by the panhandle on the Oklahoma side. His dad coached football in Wheeler, my dad was working in an oil field in Wheeler when I was born. We'd both worked in oil fields. There are a lot of similarities in where we came from. We hit it right off like we'd known each other forever.
We sat down to write and he said, "There's never been a song written about a pump jack." Pump jacks are those black horse head-looking oil pumps. So this isn't a song where you wonder if anyone will play it. It's a song that needed to be written.
It's about the pipe dream mentality of wildcatting in the oil business. And it's just like any other addiction. These guys are gamblers. They just keep on saying I'll quit some day. The truth is, they could strike it big and they'd just go back and invest twice as much in it.
Toby Keith/Scotty Emerick/Dean Dillon
I'm a night owl, like to party all night. When we're out running around I'll say that phrase sometimes. "Come on, let's get dinner over with and get out there. We're burnin' moonlight." This is another one I wrote with Dean and Scotty at the same time as "Get My Drink On." We went into the story of a couple who met years ago and had their first sexual experience together and even today it's still burning hot for them, which happens to very few. In this context, burning moonlight means they're making time and stealing away hours for each other at night.
It's very graphic in detail, "Jeans hit the floor and my cold bare feet pressed up against the door." Very well crafted. These kind of things happen when you've got three guys who've had the success we've had. Any line won't do when you've got three guys like us in a room.
Walk It Off
Toby Keith/Scotty Emerick
I went to Scotty with this idea. When you fall down and skin your knee they tell you to get up and walk it off. I've never heard a great version of it for when you get your heart broke. This has a very old style, poetic feel. It gets a little deep, maybe too deep for typical country fare. Is he talking to himself or is someone giving him this advice? You were born to run, so deal. At the end we close out with some wonderful lyrics. Not typical of what we do, so a breath of fresh air on the lyrics side. Very proud of it.
Toby Keith/Craig Wiseman
There's about five different ways people say "Hit it." Hit a joint, hit a shot of whiskey, even sleeping with a girl. Craig had this funky groove going and asked if I had anything that's just balls-to-the-wall attitude and I told him about this idea. It's kind of southern rock with a rap feel. You just keep on rhyming. Even when you're out of rhymes you keep on throwing them out. I love the humor Craig brings to the table. I'll blame some of the lyrics on him, he'll blame them on me. "The money was on the table, my eyes out of their socket, she calmly bent down in front of the bar..."
The whole first verse is talking about Jack Daniels, which is what I drink. Now here's this girl in miniskirt and heals. She bends of the table and "calmly sinks the eight ball in the corner pocket." She hit the shot, but there's another meaning there, too. Wiseman says that's how you dance around the edge all the time. He does that as well as anyone, but he blames it on me.
Toby Keith's 'Big Dog Daddy' Full CD listening session