Toby Keith opened up about his recent return to the stage and revealed if he plans to tour again in his first televised interview since revealing his stomach cancer diagnosis.
Keith sat down with CMT Hot 20 Countdown’s Cody Alan for a rare interview while at the 2022 BMI Country Awards, where he was being honored with the BMI Icon Award.
When asked about his plans to return to the road, the Oklahoma native said he’s hopeful for his touring future.
“Yeah, I’m thinking about… I’m thinking about getting back to fightin’ shape. I need a little bit of time to just rest up and heal up,” he explained. “It’s pretty debilitating to have to go through all that, but as long as everything stays hunky-dory then we’ll look at something good in the future.”
While his touring plans still remain unknown, Keith recently got a taste of live music once again when he performed a surprise, 60-minute set at Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse in Lexington, Kentucky. The pop-up performance marked Keith’s first time on stage since his diagnosis.
“It was good! I was over there for Breeders’ Cup. I’m an ambassador… one of the ambassadors of the Breeders’ Cup and we had all gone to dinner and they kept asking me, you know Jeff Ruby’s got a lot of Steakhouses and I’ve known him a long time… he kept asking me to get up here and I was like ‘ah you know, I said I think I’m just going to stay here with my friends,’ Keith recalled.
The 61-year-old shared that he caved into the peer pressure and decided to join Ruby on stage.
“Finally, late in the night, [Jeff] came over and he’s like ‘look, everybody in there is wanting you to get up and you and me have done ‘Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay’ at three of my bars, this is my fourth one. Let’s make the grand slam.’ I said ‘I don’t know’ and finally everybody was like ‘go do it.’ I said ‘alright,’ so I did it and hell it was on Good Morning America, it was all over the internet, it was on Billboard. It’s just one of those things, but it was really nice to see if [I] had any power in vocals left and we did alright.”
During the interview, the Oklahoma native also opened up about receiving the prestigious honor from BMI, his latest single, writing songs, and more.
Keith’s interview aired during CMT Hot 20 Countdown on Saturday, November 19th at 9/8c and will air again for an encore presentation Sunday, November 20th at 8/7c, exclusively on CMT.
Toby Keith was presented with the coveted award during the 2022 BMI Country Awards, where he was honored with special tribute performances.
Eric Church performed a unique rendition of “I Love This Bar,” while Carrie Underwood took the stage for a performance of Keith’s breakout No.1 hit, “Should’ve Been A Cowboy.”
The evening also included a tribute to Keith from his frequent collaborators Dean Dillon and Scotty Emerick, who sang “A Little Too Late.”
Toby Keith joins an elite list of songwriters who have earned the BMI Icon Award, including Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams, Jr.
“When I got to Nashville, they said, ‘You got to get affiliated,’” Keith shared from the stage during the star-studded event. “I said, ‘What does that mean?’ They said, ‘Well, you wrote these songs — you gotta get affiliated.’ So, since 1990 or ’91, I have been affiliated with the greatest organization in the music business, and that’s BMI. They’ve been so great to me as a songwriter, because I knew that even if I didn’t make it as an artist, that maybe somebody would cut my songs. I always felt that the songwriting was the most important part of this whole industry.”
“When you get older and you look back at your cassette tapes or your CD, it’s like everybody that rocked country, R&B, whatever it was, the artists that I had were songwriters,” he continued. “They weren’t artists that covered music. They were songwriter/artists. Something in my gut, down in my core, said that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t know if I’d make it as an artist, but I knew if I wrote as good as the next guy, that somebody might sing one of my songs.”
With 32 No.1 singles and 40 million albums sold, Toby Keith is regarded as one of country music’s biggest hitmakers. He wrote a chart-topping hit every year for 20 consecutive years, including “How Do You Like Me Now?!,” “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue (The Angry American),” “I Love This Bar,” “Beer For My Horses,” and “As Good As I Once Was.”
Toby Keith revealed his cancer diagnosis with fans in early June.
“Last fall I was diagnosed with stomach cancer. I’ve spent the last 6 months receiving chemo, radiation and surgery. So far, so good. I need time to breathe, recover and relax,” the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member wrote at the time.
He added, “I am looking forward to spending this time with my family. But I will see the fans sooner than later. I can’t wait.”
In 2021, Toby Keith released his 19th studio album, Peso In My Pocket. The project includes the fan-favorite track, “Old School,” as well as his brand-new radio single, “Oklahoma Breakdown.”