Toby Keith is "about half done" with his next album, "American Ride," which he plans to release this fall. But the album's title track first single is already taking its ride onto country radio and up the charts.
"I've only ever done, like, four or five songs in 16 albums that I didn't write, and this one sounds like I wrote it," Keith tells Billboard.com about of "American Ride," which was penned by Joe West and Dave Pahanish and was called "American Life" when it was submitted to him. The song, which debuted at No. 38 on the Hot Country Songs chart, "makes fun of all the wackiness that goes on in this country" and gives Keith a chance to approach his own status as "a political lightning rod" with some levity.
"They sent it to me to listen to and said 'You're the only guy in the world that could get away with cutting it.' I held it for about a year; it was so different I thought I'd be tired of it. I just left it on my iPod and kept listening to it, and it never got old."
Keith and partner Bobby Pinson wrote the bulk of the rest of "American Life," including "Drive It On Home," "a real modern, hard-drivin', truck drivin' song" and a ballad called "Tender as I Wanna Be." The album also includes "Cryin' For You," Keith's tribute to his friend and fellow Oklahoman Wayman Tisdale -- the basketball star turned jazz bassist who passed away in May from cancer -- which features bassist Marcus Miller and saxophonist Dave Koz.
Keith expects to have "American Ride" wrapped up in another six weeks. Meanwhile, he's in the midst of America's Toughest Tour with Trace Adkins and is prepping for his first-ever European jaunt, which begins Nov. 9 in Scotland and was prompted by his last album, 2008's "That Don't Make Me a Bad Guy," going platinum in Norway.
"The powers that be just came and said, 'You're selling product all over Europe, why don't you do a tour?' so we're going over there," Keith says. "I've stayed in Dublin. I've stayed in Spain...in Germany. I've been all over. They like beer. They like a good time. They like to kick back and do what they do, so there's no difference. I think they'll like what we do just fine."