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Toby Keith Wants Opening Acts Who Aren’t ‘Zombies Backstage’

Scott Legato, Getty Images

Toby Keith recently wrapped his successful Live in Overdrive tour, which included Brantley Gilbert and Thomas Rhett as his opening acts. While the Oklahoma native was thrilled with both of his show openers, it was Brantley’s campaigning to hit the road with him that sealed the deal.

“I always want somebody on the tour that wants to be there,” says Toby (quote via the Country Vibe). “That’s the guy that you want because it’s gonna be a long tour if somebody don’t want to be there. If they’re just there to help their career then you’ve got a bunch of people walking around like zombies backstage. You want somebody that you can mingle with, hang out with, maybe write a song with and that camaraderie and stuff, it has to be there and it makes the tour a wonderful thing if you can do that.”

The country superstar has learned plenty since his debut single, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” was released in 1993, but admits he’s not one to offer unsolicited advice.

“I’m not big on just walking over and going, ‘Hey, here’s what I think you need to do,’” he explains. “If they have a question like, ‘My label’s doing this, what should I do?’ then I’ll have a professional answer for them. Otherwise, it’s pretty much just hang out and be guys, leave the work on the stage.”

As it turns out, Brantley has already a great deal from his tour boss. “I became really good friends with a lot of Toby’s crew members, and they talk about how long they have been with [him], and how good he’s been to them,” Brantley told Billboard magazine. “That’s my goal. I want my crew to say that about me. That gives me something to shoot for.”

Toby may have his work cut out for him next year, when it comes to choosing opening acts. He hints that he’s planning something big for 2013, in honor of his 20-year anniversary in the music business.

“We’re thinking about doing something to commemorate it, tour-wise, but we still haven’t put a time on anything concrete yet,” he notes.

Toby’s next album, Hope on the Rocks, will hit shelves on Oct. 30.

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