Toby Keith opened up about his lengthy career, which began 25 years ago with his first hit “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.” The singer said country music stars at the time said his music “was not country enough.”
“What's crazy about it is that when we were coming out, the old-timers were griping at us, saying we weren't country enough,” Keith told the Los Angeles Times. “But you compare it to country music today and my album is almost hillbilly-sounding.”
Keith, 56, said he would not do “hip-hop country” just for a quick hit because it “wouldn’t be true to myself.” The Los Angeles Times noted the singer has not had a No. 1 hit since 2011.
“It wouldn't be true to myself. Just because the songs that we've always written aren't working and aren't getting played right now doesn't mean that I have to go do something else,” he said.
“Everybody gets their window; everybody has their time. I'm not gonna rail against the machine. These kids got every right in the world to make their living. If that's what's selling, then that's what it is. [In the '90s] they were punching us in the face, saying we were too pop, and I swore I'd never be that guy,” he continued.
The “Made in America” singer said he feels understood by his fans but said people loved him “for the wrong reasons.”
“And as many people that have painted me in a corner, there's people standing in that corner ready for me to paint in there,” he said.
Keith, whose music relies heavily on nationalism, was known for his public feud with country band the Dixie Chicks especially after group member Natalie Maines criticized President George W. Bush regarding the Iraq War, the Washington Post reported.
When asked if he ever had “the urge to lay out his views as clearly” as he could, he replied: “That's a losing battle. You're never gonna reach enough people in any interview to avoid being misrepresented,” Keith said.
The singer recalled his favorite interview being with journalist Dan Rather of CBS News. Keith said Rather “bailed” him out of a question from his producers. The question was, “How do you feel about making money off the flag?”
Rather pointed out that American orchestra Boston Pops “play all patriotic songs on the Fourth of July, and people pay to get in to see that.”
When asked about “justifying gun rights in a world beset by mass shootings” Keith said he did not know how to fix the issue.
“That's one of those topics — and I'm not dodging the question — it's one of those things we live with every day. It's like one of the biggest struggles that I have on abortion is abortion. In my heart I don't like it. But in my mind I agree with a lot of the situations where it should be. I understand [the well-being of] the mother. And somebody says, ‘Hey, a 12-year-old got raped by a convict — you want her to carry that baby?’ It's such a big, gray world, and with those issues like that — I know how I feel inside, but I don't know how to fix none of them. I'm not that guy,” he concluded.