Toby Keith put on one heck of a show for us at the NRA Annual Meetings in Louisville, KY earlier this year. Now, 23 years after his first hit “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” topped the charts, the country music legend has released its unofficial sequel, “A Few More Cowboys”
Keith, who has had 20 No. 1 hits, is equally known for rowdy, barroom staples (“Red Solo Cup”) and patriotic anthems (“Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue”). He’s tough to figure: He’s a politically outspoken firebrand (his Iraq War-era public feud with the Dixie Chicks is the stuff of legend) beloved by many Republicans, who might be surprised to know he’s an Independent.
In a recent phone interview with The Chicago Tribune’s Allison Stewart, TK opened up about politics, this election cycle and how his fans would react to him playing a party for the DNC.
AS: The new single is really topical.
TK: Timingwise it is, but it’s a little bit all over the place. People only want to hear what they want to hear about it. The first line says, “If the White House was in Texas, we could get a straighter answer.” The second says, “If they’d let us smoke what we want to smoke, there’d be a lot less cancer.” It depends which side of the fence you’re on.
AS: You played a party for the RNC. How was it?
TK: It was just a paid party for the sponsors, just a private party for 1,200 people. When I start catching s— about it, I just say, “Look, I’m not a registered Republican, and they paid me a buttload of money to play this thing. And if the other side calls, I’ll go play theirs for that much, too.”
AS: Would you lose fans if you played the DNC?
TK: No! I wouldn’t lose fans.
AS: Do your fans think you’re more to the right than you are?
TK: Oh, they know I’m right of center. They know I’m in the middle, which makes you right of where the center is today. Twenty years ago, where I’m at would have been in the middle. It’s pretty much just a sparring match all the time. I just sit back and laugh. It’s almost like we subconsciously mess with them, you know what I mean?
AS: It’s human nature to want to put people in boxes.
TK: Right. I was a Democrat my whole life. They kind of disowned me when I started supporting the troops, then I went and registered Independent. I’ve never been a registered Republican. It just keeps people off balance. They don’t know what to think. They see you hanging out with Willie Nelson or Sammy Hagar, they go, “What the hell are these people thinking?” They don’t know you. They just want to label you.
AS: I’d never ask anybody who they’re voting for, but if you want to make any news…
TK: This election, I don’t think it makes a difference. I can’t believe there’s 300 million Americans in this country, and we’ve got these two as our final two. It’s absolutely crazy.
AS: “Made in America” would be at home at a Trump rally. Are you prepared for (that possibility)?
TK: I don’t care who adopts it. I hear all these people fussing and fighting over who can play their music politically. Anybody who wants to play my music, I just say play it. I don’t care.