"Clancy's Tavern" is still open for business, but Toby Keith already has its follow-up in motion.
The country star tells Billboard.com that he's "got about 14 or 15 things recorded" already for what will be his 17th studio set and is in the process of putting down finished vocals and selecting a first single, which he'll release after "Beers Ago," the third single from the gold-certified "Clancy's Tavern," finishes its run.
"I don't really know what 10 or 11 (songs) are going to make the album yet," Keith says. "I just go in and get a good vocal on everything and then I'll start seeing which three or four gravitate to the top and I'll start building the core of my album right there, and then I'll fill in what I don't have."
Keith's songwriting collaborators on the new material include regular partners such as Rivers Rutherford, Bobby Pinson and Scotty Emerick. Among the contenders for the album is the good-humored "I Like Girls That Drink Beer." "Everybody heard it in the studio and was like, 'You've got to release that at some point,' " Keith recalls. He also has another song about golfing that he says "kind of puts everything into perspective for all the golfers in the world. It lets you know if you're not on TV, you're not a very good golfer. I've played it about four or five times in public and got rave reviews on it."
Generally, Keith notes, "It's the same stuff I usually do. It's my world. It's really difficult to put my finger on what I write about because I don't really sit down and try to force anything. I only sit down and write when I have a good idea, and it can be about anything so there's never really a theme or a preconceived idea of what I want the album to sound like. I write all year and then I go in, and I always over-cut."
Meanwhile, Keith says he's pleased with the showing of "Clancy's Tavern" and particularly the single "Red Solo Cup," a platinum hit that crossed over to No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and logged 20 million video views online.
"I've done things like that before and they've gotten big with my audience but not big in the world," Keith notes. "This was one of those deals where it just went to that next level, and you can't foresee that; if you could, then everyone would be successful like that. Somebody came up to me at the CMT Awards," which Keith co-hosted, "and said, 'I doubt if you added all the winners up tonight they got as many hits total as ('Red Solo Cup'), and I laughed because I don't know how close to the truth that is, but it may just be, you know?"
While he's getting the next album together, Keith is also enjoying the successful run of his Wild Shot mescal, and he's helping his daughter, Krystal, with her debut album. Keith is also eyeballing the 20th anniversary of his first album -- and the start of a career that's seen 19 No. 1 country hits and a dozen platinum or better albums -- in 2013.
"We're thinking about doing something to commemorate it, tour-wise," Keith says, "but we still haven't put a time on anything concrete yet."