Keith, who turns 52 on Monday, said he was invited to perform at Blake Shelton's “Healing in the Heartland” concert May 29 at Chesapeake Energy Arena but felt it was just too soon after the devastation. Plus, it was still twister season, and Shelton's televised show actually played out under a tornado watch.
“Friends of friends and friends of family were burying people and boarding up. My whole crew and both my sons-in-law were out with trucks and trailers. ... I was getting a million requests and trying to cover as much ground as we could but still get everybody boarded up. We were out with all my equipment from my ranch pulling people out of ditches and stuff from the floods. So we were just out, and our way of helping was kind of ... like, ‘We didn't get hit, so let's go,'” said Keith, who appeared in a video clip asking viewers to donate during the “Healing in the Heartland” show.
“All the money raised from all these concerts is great. We just felt like, instead of a TV show, we wanted to do more of an effort to say ‘This is a healing process' and have a great hot summer day in the sun at OU stadium with a bunch of really high-caliber acts.”
He didn't have to work too hard to put together a star-studded lineup. Although they don't know each other well, Keith said fellow Oklahoman Garth Brooks vowed, “I'm following your lead. You tell me when to be there and me and Miss Yearwood'll be there.” Underwood also wanted to help despite her prior commitment to the Grand Ole Opry, and his pals Nelson, Hagar and Dunn were quick to agree.
“Sammy Hagar and Willie and Ronnie and Garth — that's all just the first four or five people that I called. And I said, ‘OK, we got a show. Let's do it,'” Keith said.
Keith's set list will include his breezy new track, “Drinks After Work,” the summery song he was working on May 20 when the Moore tornado sent him winging back home. He had a deadline to finish the leadoff single for his upcoming album but was too busy in Oklahoma to get back to Nashville.
“I left the studio and came back and didn't do the final vocal on it,” he said. “They came to my house and brought a mobile unit ... and we recorded the vocals at my house — in between the sirens one night.”
That's right, the Nashville team was working with him at his home on May 31 — just in time to have a close call with another round of severe storms, including one that produced a record-setting EF5 tornado near El Reno. Although his house was struck by lightning and sustained hail damage, Keith said they got the song done, and he will triumphantly play it for the hometown crowd
“It's a wonderful opportunity. I'm a big fan of these people that are gonna be there. So I'm gonna get a big kick out of it, too. Getting to perform there is probably second to getting to watch these other acts perform. And boy, they're ready to go,” he said.
People like Jackson (Quick), they'll have that emotional and physical stuff to deal with for a long time and maybe for the rest of their lives. But he's alive, and I know his dad's grateful for that.”