Krystal Keith Interview: Toby’s Daughter on Blues, Ballads, Big Guns and New ‘Whiskey and Lace’ Album
The title track of Krystal Keith's debut album is about an exotic dancer, and even though it's the last of 10 aggressive blues/rock/country tracks on 'Whiskey and Lace,' it's the best place to start. Keith helped write the song. In fact, it was the Oklahoma born-and-raised daughter of Toby Keith who pushed her band and co-writing partners to be even more aggressive.
"The guys that played on the album said 'How hard to you want us to go?'" she tells Taste of Country. "And I was literally like, 'Go as hard as you can.'"
You'll struggle to find a more confident new female artist. "As hard as you can" describes a number of songs on 'Whiskey and Lace.' More than one is wrapped in barbed-wire guitar strings and soul, but others go hard in softer ways. This isn't a girl comfortable living in life's cozy middle. Before the conversation ended, she'd proven she can talk guns (like, serious guns) and guitars, as well as ballads and kitchen recipes (Keith is a serious cook, with a blog guaranteed to add 15 pounds). Her new album is now in stores and at digital retailers now. The married college graduate is already working on new material.
ToC: This album feels like 10 years in the making.
Krystal Keith: I know, it has been. My fans have been saying that they've been waiting for this since 'Mockingbird,' and I got to put music aside to focus on school, so for me it's been a three-year project but it's been a lifetime of waiting to get to do that project.
If you had recorded the album after high school, what would it have sounded like?
[laughs] Oh goodness. Probably like Taylor Swift when she first came out, but maybe not such good writing. She's a hell of a writer. She can make people connect with even songs that are written from a teenage girl's point of view. She can make adults connect to that with the way she writes.
At 18, I don't know that I had the life experience to bring that into my writing. I think that it probably would have been more songs from songwriters and I wouldn't have had as much to contribute to the album.
On 'Whiskey and Lace,' you wrote a song about a stripper.
Yeah, about a stripper. I think every good redneck girl needs a song about a stripper [laughs]. No, that was a really fun day of writing. (Co-writer) Rodney Clawson thought that I was 17 and and I said, "I wanna write a song called 'Whiskey and Lace,' I'd love for it to be my album title."
We were talking about story lines and they were like, "You can do the one-night stand thing ... You could do the longtime lovers that have lost their spark that are trying to get it back ..." And Rodney, being ornery, was like, "Well what if we just make it about a stripper?" I was like "Yeah!"
We got about a verse in and he goes, "You know your dad is gonna kill me for this!" I was like Rodney, I'm 25 and I'm married. The stripper is going to be the least of my dad's worries.
Who provided the firsthand knowledge of strip clubs?
[laughs] I'm not going to get Rodney and Lynn (Hutton) in trouble with their significant others, so I'll say it was all me. [laughs] No, we all contributed and did our part.
There's a great variety on the album. Did that come naturally?
We (Krystal and her dad) had a conversation three years ago before we ever picked one song for this project and I basically said … one of the goals was to make it kind of reminiscent of my path as a country fan. My interests as a country fan, so I wanted it to be very eclectic. I wanted it to show all of the phases that country music has gone through -- at least the ones that I love. There's been blues in country, there's been more rock, there's been a little pop. All the phases that it's gone through, I really wanted to show that I'm a fan of all that and I really love it all. I didn't wanna get boxed into a certain sound so that in certain projects it's not going to be frowned upon that I go a little bit more bluesy or I go a little bit more rock. Sometimes you get boxed in to a stereotypical type of music.
Is that you with a handgun on your Twitter page?
Are you a good shot?
I am, I carry at all times. I have a concealed carry license. I'm a pretty good shot, yeah. I've got a four or five-inch grouping. I'll nail 'em if they come in the house.
What's the coolest thing you've ever fired?
I bought my dad an AR-15 for his birthday one year, and that was pretty cool. That's a big gun. I have my own DPMS 308, I have a couple of different handguns and I have my rifle. But that's probably the biggest gun I've ever shot. And it left a hole in the tree that we shot at that was probably about three inches in diameter.
Have you ever been on the bus with Willie Nelson?
I have [laughs]. Not in a cloud of smoke. But I have seen a few trays of brownies pass by me as I'm taking pictures with him. I don't know what kind of brownies, they could just be regular brownies, but they looked really yummy.