A version of this story appears in Friday’s Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.
Like father, like daughter: Krystal Keith releases debut album
The daughter of Oklahoma country music superstar Toby Keith scored her first hit almost 10 years ago, but “Whiskey & Lace” marks her first LP on her father’s label, Show Dog-Universal Music.
Krystal Keith had just finished recording a new song when she heard one of the studio musicians quip through her headphones, “Dang, there’s some family going on in here.”
“I’m basically a female version of my dad. I am completely ornery and … I’m girl enough that my dad still doesn’t understand me all the time. But I’m enough of a hardcore edgy personality that we mesh really well together,” the Oklahoma singer/songwriter said in a recent phone interview from Norman, where she still calls home.
“People ask me all the time if it bugs me that fans come to my shows and through the meet-and-greet lines … that are like ‘I’m your dad’s biggest fan,’” And I giggle because I know that a lot of the fans that I have built in over all these years come from my dad’s fan base. That’s just a natural transition for them,” she added. “I couldn’t be more proud of him and where he’s at in his career and his success. So it doesn’t bug me at all. I’m as big a fan of him as they are.”
Almost a decade after she scored her first hit – a cover of “Mockingbird” done as a duet with her famous father – Toby Keith’s daughter has finally released her debut album. “Whiskey & Lace” bowed earlier this month on her father’s label, Show Dog-Universal Music.
“It’s real exciting to finally have it out there,” the younger Keith said. “I’ve waited a long time to do the project, but so many people say, ‘I’ve waited since “Mockingbird” for this.’ I got to go to college and step away from music for that five years, and they still were like waiting. They feel like I’ve been working on this project for the whole 10 years.”
Pause for college
In 2004, Toby Keith and his teenage daughter released a remake of the old tune “Mockingbird” that made it to the Top 40 on the Hot Country Songs charts. They even performed it live during the 38th Annual Country Music Association Awards.
“After high school, I was like ‘Nashville, here I come.’ And he was like, ‘No, I said college.’ I was like, ‘No you didn’t. You just said graduation,’ and he’s like ‘college graduation,’” Krystal said in a May interview. “The only knock-down-drag-out we ever had was over college. … He definitely knew what he was doing. I can’t tell you how immensely important the experience of college was on my life.”
After graduating from the University of Oklahoma, Krystal, now 28, went to work on her first album, recording the initial tracks in February 2010 and then taking time to write and seek out additional songs.
“Then, we’d go back in, record three or four and then kind of live with it to see if it was the vibe we wanted to give. And then we’d write and choose some more songs. So, it was a long process just because I had no reason to rush. It’s my first album. … I had no reason not to take my time and make it exactly what I wanted it to be,” she said earlier this month.
“I really took my time because I had a specific style that I wanted to portray. I didn’t want a stereotypical, cookie-cutter album where everything sounds the same. I wanted everything to sound different ‘cause I didn’t want to get boxed into a certain sound right here in the beginning of my career.”
Dance with daddy
Toby Keith and Mark Wright, his partner at Show Dog-Universal Music, produced “Whiskey & Lace.” Toby Keith also wrote or co-wrote four songs on the album, while Krystal Keith co-wrote three tracks.
“She’s got every trait I got. I mean, she’s got a chance to be a fantastic songwriter. She’s already proving it. She’s already writing some stuff that’ll knock you out,” the elder Keith said in that May interview.
Among the songs she co-wrote are the heartfelt ballad “Daddy Dance with Me,” the father-daughter dance for her wedding that this year became a viral video hit with more than 1.5 million YouTube views, and her first single, “Get Your Redneck On,” which she belted in front of more than 60,000 people at her father’s July 6 OK Twister Relief Concert.
“It does help to have one of the top songwriters in the industry literally downstairs on your living room couch to go consult with. Everything I’ve ever written I run by him … so we’ve basically worked together for forever. He shares his new songs and stuff he’s in the middle of writing with me because I have an interest in music and I’m the other musician in the house. It was just like that but there were more people around,” she said.
She also worked with several top country songwriters, including Rodney Clawson and Lynn Hutton on the title track. While she felt the phrase “Whiskey & Lace” fit her personality, the trio turned it into a rocking story song about a single mom who works as a stripper to pay the bills.
“I think Rodney thought I was 17, and he was like ‘Your dad’s gonna kill me for this.’ And I was like, ‘Rodney, I’m 25, I’m married, trust me … he’s ornery and he’s completely inappropriate almost all the time. My dad will not care at all,’” she said laughing.
But it was the ballad “Beautiful Weakness” – penned by Toby Keith’s longtime backup singer Mica Roberts and songwriter Sonya Rutledge – that gave the father and daughter the chance to match their voices again.
“We were in the studio and I was recording my final vocals on several different songs and I had to take a break for a minute … and he was like ‘You know what, I’m gonna run in and I’m gonna lay down some background vocals on “Beautiful Weakness” and just see how it comes out.’ And I was like ‘OK.’ And he did and it came out so awesome,” Krystal Keith said.
“It’s kind of cool that he got to make a cameo, and it’s exciting for his fans that have transitioned over to being my fans as well.”