Fighting words from Toby Keith -- one country star who will not be in the audience at tonight's CMA Awards.
"Your industry can get behind you and crank you up and make you a household name, help you get there. Or you can be abandoned like I was," Keith told The Boot, regarding his snubs by the CMA throughout the years. "I'm not going to leave it up to this industry that I'm in to give me any support."
Nominated for 27 CMA's, Keith has walked away with only two, and none since 2005. And so, this year, he will once again stay away from this week's festivities in Nashville, including the awards show. "I know everybody is going to say it's sour grapes, but I don't care – it's not,"he tells PEOPLE magazine. "I haven't been to a CMA Awards show in four years. They screwed me 'till I finally saw the light."
Keith seems to be doing just fine without the support from the CMA. His recent album, 'That Don't Make Me a Bad Guy' debuted at No. 1 on the country chart last week. His empire includes his own record label, clothing line, his own brand of liquor, a movie production company, and an acting career that includes a starring role in his movie 'Beer For My Horses.' Yet for all his success, his ongoing shut-out by country music's most widely-acknowledged accolade continues to elude the superstar.
Keith admits that he is not the only artist who has legitimate reasons to cry foul. Citing two of country's biggest stars, Rascal Flatts and Tim McGraw as examples of other artists that continue to elude the nominations (although Rascal Flatts is nominated for one award this year), he said, "You do your own math on that and figure out what you think about that show."
CMA spokesperson Scott Stern, while not commenting directly on Keith's criticism, did say, "We love Toby, we love Rascal Flatts and we love Tim. They are all superstars."
Keith, who made an astonishing $48 million last year, falls just behind Beyonce Knowles and the Police in earnings last year. And the richest country music star, according to Forbes magazine, has a much higher goal than a CMA trophy: "That's the one I want to win," he says, "I want to be the Mac Daddy of Forbes!"