Toby Keith: Then & Now

The country superstar talks to Wine Enthusiast about owning three I Love This Bar & Grill restaurants and launching his own brand of mezcal.

Toby Keith has been a country western superstar since the mid-1990s. While singing and songwriting are major parts of his life, Keith has spent two weeks each year for the last nine years doing USO tours for American soldiers. His charity—the Toby Keith Foundation—benefits the OK Kids Korral and Ally’s House in Oklahoma, both supporting pediatric cancer patients. He also owns three I Love This Bar & Grill restaurants and launched his own brand of mezcal, Wild Shot, in April of 2010.

Favorite beverage when I was 6:
A Chocolate Soldier—[a regional bottled drink] like a Yoo-hoo.

Favorite beverage now:
I’ve drunk Jack my whole life. Now, I drink Wild Shot Mezcal. 

First wine experience:
Probably a screwcap bottle like Mad Dog 20/20.  

Epiphany wine experience:
I drank a $10,000 bottle of 1961 Margaux. That was it.

Favorite dish when I was 6:
My mom’s salmon croquettes and fried spare ribs.

Favorite or most memorable dish now:
I have Hatch Valley green chilies flown in from Southern New Mexico [and make chicken or beef enchiladas].

Favorite musical artist when I was 13:
The Eagles, Bread, Waylon Jennings, Bob Seger.

Favorite musical artist/genre now:
I’ve started to develop a taste for the nostalgic stuff—1950s to ’80s country.

Favorite toy when I was 6:
Johnny West. I had the whole collection. And Fort Apache was this little suitcase you could open up.

Favorite toy/gadget/tool now:
My iPhone is my existence. I have an app that’s a recording and cataloguing device. And I have a remote control for my computer room—I can mess with people like my son if he’s watching TV in there. I can change the channel from Budapest.

Posters/decorations on my bedroom wall when i was 13:
Farrah Fawcett and KISS. My mother had a velvet Elvis.

Favorite painting or other home decoration now:
An Aldo Luongo [contemporary impressionist]. 

What I wanted to be when I grew up:
A football player.

What I’d be if I weren’t a musician/singer:
I would probably be operating a nightclub.

Ideal vacation when I was 12:
Texas. Six Flags and Texas Rangers baseball—it was the highlight of my year.

Ideal vacation now:
Probably the same thing. And Mexico is still a favorite.

If I had an emotional meltdown when I was 6, it was most likely over:
It was probably just as simple as my brother and sister taking something of mine. “Leave my Fort Apache alone! I can’t find Johnny West!”

If I were able to rant publicly on a given subject today, it would involve:
The justice system. It just blows me away how evil people can be and how few rights people have. I want 20% or more of my nation armed. There’s nothing political about protecting your vessel—you’re everybody’s best friend and evil’s enemy.

If you could meet your teenage self, what advice would you give?
“Move to Nashville. And write lots of songs because the first 500 will suck. Then you’ll write a good one.” 

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