Toby Keith's 'Gun' Fires at No. 1 on Billboard 200
Toby Keith's 'Gun' Fires at No. 1 on Billboard 200

Toby Keith says that when he first wrote and recorded "Made in America" -- his latest hit on the Billboard Country Songs chart -- his first inclination was to leave it off his upcoming "Clancy's Tavern" album.

"About a year and a half ago, me and Bobby Pinson were writing that song and I said, 'Man, I might have to put this thing on the back burner for awhile," Keith tells Billboard.com. "I've got 'Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue,' 'American Soldier,' I just did 'American Ride' (in 2009)...a lot of America songs. They're just coming daily; if I did 'em all, that's all I'd record. I thought I should leave about three or four years between 'em and let the last one breathe a little, y'know? I figured ('Made in America') could wait for the next (album)."

But Keith says the reaction from the musicians and engineers in the studio, as well as those at his label, convinced him otherwise.

"I was in the booth singing the scratch vocal, and everyone was going, 'God, what a smash. That is awesome, pal!' Keith recalls. "Everyone was high-fiving and carrying on. I wasn't about to pop everyone's bubble and say, 'I ain't putting it on the album.' So I said, 'Alright, y'all win. Put it on there.'"


Toby Keith's 'Gun' Fires at No. 1 on Billboard 200

"Made in America's" theme, of course, hits a particular bullseye with current events and the mood of the country, but Keith isn't taking credit for prescience.

"I couldn't foresee two years ago that our country was going to have its credit rating reduced," he says. "We're songwriters; we're not that good. But when you sing about something that strikes a chord with something that's going on right now and the timing is perfect, it affects everything and just makes it more right to have it out there."

"Clancy's Tavern" is due out Oct. 24 in both standard and deluxe editions, the latter including four new "Incognito Bandito" tracks recorded live during a 2010 club show in New York City. "Made in America" is the 29th No. 2 country single for Keith, who Forbes magazine recently named country's highest-paid star with $50 million from royalties, tour revenues, a Ford Motor Company sponsorship and his 11 I Love This Bar & Grill restaurants.

Keith's latest extra-musical endeavor is Wild Shot Mezcal, which Beverage Media magazine recently dubbed the top premium mezcal in the U.S.. It's currently on sale in 32 states, and Keith is holding a bottle signing party on Sept. 24 at Binny's Veverage in Chicago.

"Mezcal's a very small market," says Keith. "The retail liquor world doesn't consider mezcal to be tequila; it's its own category, so I'm not competing with Patron or any of those. So I saw an opportunity there. I could've had a whiskey or tequila, but everyone's got one of those. So I said, 'Let's do something that's really unique and see if we can't have some success with it,' and it's going really well so far."