Toby Keith's sunshiny “Drinks After Work,” the title track to his new album, grooves to a different vibe from the venerable country superstar's past singles.
Blame it on the tornado. Mark Wright, his partner at Show Dog-Universal Music, had something to do with it, too.
“He brought it to me and he said, ‘Man, this song's really different. You oughta look at it.' So I was gonna cut it and put it on the album. Well, we would've found out if it would've been a single had we waited 'til we got the album turned in, but the tornado thing changed all that,” Keith said by phone last week from his Belmar Golf Club in Norman.
The Oklahoma native was in a Nashville, Tenn., studio finishing up his annual album May 20 when an EF5 tornado devastated Moore, where the water tower is emblazoned with the slogan “Home of Toby Keith.” He flew back to Oklahoma to check on his hometown, friends and family, including his sister, whose house was destroyed.
“I came back home here for a week and helped out and got my sister and everybody in my bunch squared away. I actually went back and finished it (the album) in that time that we were putting together the benefit concert,” he said.
On July 6, the Norman resident, his daughter Krystal Keith, Owasso residents Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, former Tulsan Ronnie Dunn, Moore native Kellie Coffey, Bethel Acres native Wade Hayes, along with Sammy Hagar, Willie Nelson, Mel Tillis and John Anderson, played the sold-out Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert at the University of Oklahoma's Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
“We really raised a lot of money and ... the artists all made that possible giving their time,” he said of the event that attracted more than 60,000 fans and raised $2 million for the United Way of Central Oklahoma's May Tornadoes Relief Fund.
Keith performed “Drinks After Work” at the concert.
Just a month earlier, Keith, 52, had turned in that first single for his 19th studio album, which he released Tuesday. With all the chaos around the deadly spring tornadoes, he only had two or three cuts done when the deadline to submit the initial single came up.
“I played it for my kids. I said, ‘Check this out. See if y'all think this is cool, 'cause I gotta have something turned in to run out this summer' ... and the kids loved it. I said, ‘All right, there you go,' so I just shipped it,” Keith said.
“It was a little out of box, but I still thought it was a different cool kind of a song. And the melody was infectious.”
The catchy synthesizer isn't the only thing that makes “Drinks After Work” a bit of a departure for Keith. Penned by Natalie Hemby, Barry Dean and Luke Laird, it is the uncommon single the award-winning singer and songwriter didn't write or co-write.