Toby Keith isn't afraid to speak his mind – about anything. The 56-year-old hasn't shied away from plenty of tough subjects, in his songs or in real life.
Still, Keith admits when it comes to topics like gun control, especially in light of so many mass shootings, he sometimes has trouble articulating an answer.
"That's one of those topics — and I'm not dodging the question — it's one of those things we live with every day," Keith tells the Los Angeles Times. "One of the [other] biggest struggles that I have on abortion, is abortion. In my heart I don't like it. But in my mind I agree with a lot of the situations where it should be. I understand [the well-being of] the mother. And somebody says, 'Hey, a 12-year-old got raped by a convict — you want her to carry that baby?' It's such a big, gray world, and with those issues like that — I know how I feel inside, but I don't know how to fix none of them. I'm not that guy."
Keith's debut single, "Should've Been a Cowboy," shot to No. 1 when it was released in 1993. Since then, the Oklahoma native has learned that some questions are best left unanswered, especially in a public forum.
"Whatever topic they come up with, they know how they want me to answer it," Keith says. "Whether they're for it or against it or whether they believe like I do, they say, 'I'm gonna ask this question because I think I know how he'll answer it." And then when you don't, they're like, 'What the hell?'"
Keith is spending much of the year on the road, headlining his Should've Been a Cowboy XXV Tour, in honor of the 25th anniversary of his first hit, and reminding himself how far he has already come.
"What's crazy about it is that when we were coming out, the old-timers were griping at us, saying we weren't country enough," Keith says. "But you compare it to country music today and my album is almost hillbilly-sounding."
Keith's last Top 20 hit was "Drinks After Work," released in 2013. Although he plans to keep making music, and keep touring, he isn't about to complain that there's a younger generation of artists claiming the top spots on the charts.
"Everybody gets their window; everybody has their time," Keith says. "I'm not gonna rail against the machine. These kids got every right in the world to make their living. If that's what's selling, then that's what it is. [In the '90s] they were punching us in the face, saying we were too pop, and I swore I'd never be that guy."
Find a list of all of his upcoming shows on his website.
Photo Credit: Instagram/TobyKeith