Toby Keith Reveals How He Really Feels About The Current State Of Country Music

The Songwriters Hall of Famer admitted he’s been writing less “because I have nowhere to go with it.”

By

Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

August 21, 2023

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Toby Keith; Photo Courtesy Suzanne Cordeiro

Toby Keith, 61, shared his thoughts on the current state of the music industry and revealed why he isn’t writing as much as he used to. 

During an interview with The Oklahoman at his 19th Toby Keith & Friends Golf Classic, Keith shared an honest response about why his songwriting has slowed down in recent years, telling the publication, “because I have nowhere to go with it.”

Honest Opinion

The Songwriters Hall of Famer was brutally honest when he elaborated on his response. 

Toby Keith; Photo by Richard McLaren
Toby Keith; Photo by Richard McLaren

“You can get it … streamed, and you’ve got your fans who’ll play it. But as far as getting airplay, what we do and what I made my hall of fame living doing, they don’t want that,” he said, referring to radio. “So, you’re kind of wasting your time.”

A Country Radio Icon

With 32 No.1 singles and 40 million albums sold, Toby Keith is no stranger to Country radio. He is often regarded as one of country music’s biggest hitmakers as he wrote a chart-topping hit every year for 20 consecutive years. 

But according to Keith, things have changed. 

Photo Courtesy Toby Keith
Photo Courtesy Toby Keith

“All those years of owning it, and being that guy where you just put it out and they’ll automatically play it, well, none of us are that guy anymore,” he noted. 

Thoughts On New Artists

The “Oklahoma Breakdown” singer pointed out that new artists don’t seem to have much longevity these days. 

“Even the new people don’t seem to last as long: They come and go pretty quick because it’s flavor-of-the-month stuff,” he stated. 

Never one to succumb to trends, the BMI Icon Award recipient promised to stay true to himself and his songwriting. 

Toby Keith accepts an award onstage from BMI VP of Creative Nashville, Clay Bradley and president and CEO of BMI Mike O'Neill; Photo by Erika Goldring, Getty Images for BMI
Toby Keith accepts an award onstage from BMI VP of Creative Nashville, Clay Bradley and president and CEO of BMI Mike O’Neill; Photo by Erika Goldring, Getty Images for BMI

“I’ve just never been that guy — and I’m not going to change and write that kind of stuff. … But with all the songs we got, I could play four hours of straight hits,” Keith pointed out. 

His latest single, “Oklahoma Breakdown” was one of the most-added songs at country radio upon its release, however, the song did not chart. It appears his latest song to climb the charts at Country radio was “Happy Birthday America” in 2021. 

Hopes To Return To The Road

The singer/songwriter has remained relatively out of the spotlight for the past year due to his ongoing battle with stomach cancer, however, he recently shared a promising update and admitted he was “feeling pretty good.” In fact, he hopes to return to the road this fall. 

“I feel better; I’ve got more wind. And I’m thinking about bringing the band in and setting up, playing two or three days somewhere just to see if I can get through two hours,” Keith said in early June, adding, “And if I do, (I’ll) be out on the road this fall. All I got to do is see if I can get through two or three nights of work and get a little break in this chemo, and we’ll go back to work. I’m ready.”

He made his return to the stage in July with two pop-up performances at his Hollywood Corners venue in Norman, Oklahoma.  

A post to Toby Keith’s official social media accounts read, “Toby‘s first rehearsal turned into a 2 1/2 hour pop-up show. He sang all the hits plus the Bus Songs…Toby is back.” 

The superstar has yet to release any official tour plans. 

Upcoming Honor

Toby Keith’s iconic career will soon be recognized when he receives the Country Icon Award at the inaugural People’s Choice Country Awards, which will take place at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville on Thursday, September 28. 

“We’re overjoyed to honor legendary artist Toby Keith with the first-ever Country Icon Award,” said Cassandra Tryon, Senior Vice President, Entertainment Live Events, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming. “As a talented songwriter and powerhouse performer, Keith has touched the hearts of fans across the globe. His illustrious career and passion for philanthropy has cemented his place as an icon in country music history.”

Fellow Oklahoman and country superstar, Blake Shelton, will be on hand to present Keith with the award. 

Hosted by award-winning group, Little Big Town, the People’s Choice Country Awards will air live on Sept. 28 at 8 p.m. ET/PT across NBC and Peacock.

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Lauren Jo Black

Written by

Lauren Jo Black

Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for Answers.com and her work being featured on Forbes.com. She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.