Toby Keith Shares Stories Behind Each Track on ‘Hope on the Rocks’
Toby Keith's new album was written at a hunting ranch, in a booth at a cafe and maybe on the golf course. 'Hope on the Rocks' is a collection of ideas captured by a singer who is always tuned into the world around him, looking for a unique phrase or a familiar, memorable expression. Along with songwriter Bobby Pinson, Keith penned 10 new songs for this project.
The single 'I Love Girls That Drink Beer' is as rowdy of a country song as Keith has sung in recent years, and a few others, like 'Get Got' and 'Cold Beer Country,' fall in line. As Keith shares in this track-by-track explanation of the songs on 'Hope on the Rocks,' there are others like 'Missed You Just Right' and 'You Ain't Alone' that conjure up more poignant images. The singer's 16th studio album proves there is still no way to box him in.
Look for 'Hope on the Rocks' at iTunes.
Last fall I was driving out to my hunting and fishing ranch in southern Oklahoma. And all the way there I had a verse and chorus going that I'd had for a couple months. I knew it was dark out there, but I just couldn't let it go. I spent two days down there and the whole time, whenever I wasn't talking to anybody, I was working that song in my head. I just hammered on it; completely obsessed. When I finally nailed it, I played it for a couple guys and knew it was exactly what I thought it was. When I handed the album over to the label and management, it wasn't the first one that popped up, but it wasn't three days before it reared its head as the pick of the litter. Now when they're out playing stuff for radio, this is the one they're coming back on across the board. One of my favorite things I've ever written.
My dad used to say that line and I always thought it was funny. See a pretty girl and go, "Look out, boys. That's the size I wear right there." It's like when me and Scotty (Emerick) wrote 'As Good As I Once Was.' That's something my dad used to say, too. He also used to say, "I don't know what I'd do if your mama ever left me ... guess I'd just go with her." Me, Scotty and Dean Dillon wrote that one ('Go With Her'). Stuff like that is very intriguing to me and I had it laying around. Rivers took off on it and we decided it was about a couple buddies drinking. I had the "Five-foot-two, 95 pounds / Round in the places she's supposed to be round" and Rivers just flipped over it when I told him the idea. There was another little piece that didn't work, but Rivers fixed the chorus and then we wrote the verses. It's just comical.
When somebody sneezed my dad would say, "Scat, cat. You got gravy on your tail." I don't know to this day what it meant. But I was telling Rivers we needed to do something swampy-sounding and he came up with that great groove. We started writing about an old moonshiner and how the young guy was going to get out of there. Love the song, well-crafted and you can hear Rivers' bluesy Memphis thing all over it. Really paints a picture.
Ninety-nine percent of the women at the country club where I play golf, if they order an adult beverage will order something frozen or with an umbrella in it. I play with one of my best friends and his wife, and we'll be in there watching someone order vodka with a splash of orange juice and 7up with a twist of this or that. And my friend's wife will just go, "Two Coronas." So we got to calling her 'Beer Drinking Shari.' Her face got red and I went, "No, no. I like girls that drink beer." And then I thought, well that sounds like a song title.
When I was coming up, you could drink beer at 18, but liquor wasn't legal until you were 21 in Oklahoma. So there were a lot of places you could go into and have beer, so you'd see a lot of girls sitting around with longnecks. Now they've usually got a mixed drink or nothing at all. So we wrote it about a country club and this guy who moves out of the country into the city with his sugar mama. If anything, it kind of reminds me of Alan Jackson. Sounds like something he could have written. It's simple and so catchy. When I played it for the label it went to the top of the list immediately.
That's exactly how Bobby talks. We were at dinner one night and he dropped his fork on the floor. When he bent down to pick it up he had plumber's crack. Everybody at the table saw and his wife started laughing. She makes as much fun of him as anybody. He knew what everybody was laughing about and said, "Sorry, everybody. My jeans quit being jeans before my ass quit being an ass." Everything he says is that funky. So when he came out with, "Sometimes you get it and sometimes you get got," we just started in on the idea. We tried to come up with as many pieces of advice as an old man can give you. It's a well-crafted song and everything you kind of expect to achieve when you start out with a great idea like that. This probably has to be a single.
I had the verse and chorus and sang them to Bobby one afternoon. He took off on it immediately and we frolicked all the way through. It's funny to say and I think it will work great live. 'I got stoned this morning, but I haven't had a drink all day.' It's like justifying your high. It's just a wild, hard-driving, hard-hitting live song -- what you want to come onstage with. You want to walk on, lay that sucker out there and kind of say, "I'm setting the tone right here."
Bobby had the idea. You're gone and no matter what happens, I bet my last dollar I haven't seen the last of you. This was one of those where we got halfway through and weren't sure if we were going to be able to finish it. Then, all of a sudden, one of us opened a door and finished the song. It should be a single, but there probably won't be space for it when you think about having 'Hope On The Rocks,' 'Get Got' and one already out there ('I Like Girls That Drink Beer'). You have to think at some point down the road that somebody's going to find a song like this and record it. I may be 70 years old when it happens, but you can just feel what this cat's going through. He's really wearing his heart out on his sleeve and walking you through each step of his day.
Trailer Choir was signed to my label for several years and their lead singer Butter (Marc Fortney) wanted me to write with them. I agreed, but they were so busy on that tour doing the outside stage and running around doing promotions that we never could find time in the afternoon. And when he could find time, I'd usually have a writer with me. So I asked if he had anything he wanted to write, and this was one I loved. Once they were off the tour, he sent out a version that didn't fit what me and Bobby thought it should say. So we flipped it and wrote one from scratch, then sent it to him to tweak. Ended up being a little dandy. If you had a brand new artist who was country, had a smile on his face and could laugh at himself, you could put this one in his first three singles and it might actually break. It's just a simple little thing, kind of a throwback, but it's got that melody you want to sing along with.
This is one I had and threw on Bobby. When I explained it to him it was kind of like a puppy looking at you going, "Huh?" So I kept explaining about how I missed you at my sister's wedding and all these other examples. Finally, here comes Bobby with, "I missed you on your weekend whiskey." You don't get the feeling the guy's being an ass. It's not a slam at all. He had his feelings, but it all worked out the way it's supposed to. He's very happy and fortunate to be where he is, but he's nice about it.
We wrote that two USO tours ago. It's kind of a gallop ... a lope. We wrote one in this vein a few years ago called 'It Works For Me.' The music alone puts you in a dark room, and then you just come in on top of it with those lyrics. The first picture I had in my mind was of a guy sitting, looking out over the city at night and it's raining. She's gone, he's looking out the window and her stuff's all there. In every way it subtly tells you he's really alone. It's a great idea that, again, the wider world will probably never get to hear. But I could easily see this surfacing somewhere. The second Scotty told me the line my mind went right to that lonely guy looking out the window.