Jason Moore Photography
Spontaneous combustion is the only way to describe a Toby Keith/Trace Adkins concert ... "TNT" coming at you with such force that you feel the earth rising under your feet.
The two larger-than-life country stars had such a good time bringing down the house on their 2009 America's Toughest tour that they decided to hit the road together once again, this time under the banner of the American Ride tour. It's a show not to be missed, as two of the most celebrated country stars in history pack in crowd after fascinated crowd each night.
During a stop on what could easily be called the Tall and Taller tour (but don't look for that stenciled on their buses anytime soon), The Boot asked 6' 4" Toby and 6' 6" Trace to sit down with us for a little exchange of fun, whimsical questions. The guys stepped up to the plate without hesitation, one-upping each other with their witty responses.
What mystery about women would you like cleared up?
Trace: Hmmm ... that they can drive. I don't really believe that they should be allowed to myself. They just ain't payin' attention to what they're doing. I can't stand to ride with my wife. I won't let her drive when I'm in the vehicle with her. [laughs]
Toby: Why do they all hesitate and say 'Huh?' when you ask them a direct question when they're trying to get around something? Like if you say, for instance, 'I didn't know we had these two credit cards.' [She says] ...'Huh?' It's like you have to repeat the question again to give them time to think.
You're a big star out on the road. When you get too big for your britches at home, how does your family bring you back down to earth?
Trace: My kids all just roll their eyes. Wives and kids have that subconscious ability to put you in your place.
Do you guys have a favorite gift over the years that your children have given you?
Trace: My kids have always given me such special things. My eight-year-old, Brianna, made a camouflage coffee mug for me in her little art class, and I use it every day. I got a lot of things like that over the years.
Toby: You know what, some of the best ones were just cards that they wrote out their feelings on that were real precious. Material things, I'm really hard to shop for. I never ask for them to get me anything, but they do. It depends on what the new gadget of the year is or whatever, but the little homemade things when they're little, little hand prints ... things like that are the best!
What's your favorite movie quote?
Toby: "That was money well spent, Jake. Both times." -- Gus McCrae (Robert Duvall) in 'Lonesome Dove.'
Trace: "I hate rude behavior in a man. I won't tolerate it." -- Woodrow Call (Tommy Lee Jones) in 'Lonesome Dove.'
What's your favorite Elvis movie?
Toby: 'Flaming Star.'
Trace: 'King Creole.'
Toby: You're going to stump me on that because every one of my vehicles has satellite radio in them -- my motorcycle, my boat, my plane, my cars, my trucks, everything -- and they're all on Roadhouse, which is '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s country. I haven't listened to modern radio for maybe five or six years, so I have no idea. I haven't even listened to myself!
OK, so what classic country song do you wish you'd written?
Toby: There's a million of them. I tell you, one of my favorite songs that I ever heard is not a classic country song but the Boz Scaggs song, 'Love, Look What You've Done to Me.' For a writer, it's so good. Classic country? I like 'Crazy,' by Willie Nelson.
Who's the most underrated singer in country music?
Trace: Other than me? [laughs] Everybody's starting to catch on now, but I think Randy Houser is one of the best singers I've heard in a long time.
Toby: I always thought Mickey Gilley was underrated. You hear him sing those ballads. They look at Mickey as just a honky-tonk, bar-owning, piano player and singer. He can really croon. There's another guy that I don't think got his props ... Mel Tillis. Mel Tillis is Bing Crosby smooth, you know?
What's the one thing you wouldn't do for any amount of money?
Trace: For any amount of money? That's kind of tough. I don't know anybody that's rich enough to be able to say that for except maybe the government. I'm not chomping at the bit to bungee jump, but I would for the right money. I'm not going to do it for nothing!
Trace, you're going to shoot a movie with Matthew McConaughey, where you play the leader of a biker gang. How'd you get that role?
Trace: I just read for it. I've got a great agent in L.A., and she looks for these types of things for me. When something comes along and I've got time to go read for it, and it's not a part that's going to consume a lot of my time -- if it's just a three or four day thing --I'll go do it.
You and Matthew both look good with your shirts off, so you have something in common there.
Trace: Well, I don't think the role calls for any shirt taking off. [laughs]
Toby, we heard you on a radio interview where you said you had Liberace on your iPod. What's the song?
Toby: [laughs] I don't have Liberace on my iPod. I was kidding. I've got about everything short of that.
What artist on your iPod would fans likely be surprised to hear?
Toby: There's all kinds of one-hit-wonders from the '50s. I don't know what they would be wigged over. [laughs] Oh, I got a song that was really difficult to find. And when I tell other people about it, they have a real difficult time finding it, but Jerry Garcia had a country band. It was called New Riders of the Purple Sage. They had a song called 'Red Hot Women, and Ice Cold Beer,' that's really, really hard to find.
What female recording artist would you kill to do a duet with?
Trace: Sheryl Crow.
Toby: I'm not jumpin' at the bit to do any duets right now. My favorite of all time was Tammy Wynette. And I've already done a duet live with my other favorite, Crystal Gayle. I did an event, Crystal Gayle was there, and we did 'Just You and I,' and 'Makin' Up for Lost Time,' the one that she and Gary Morris did. That was a great night.
Trace: What do you mean what do I do?
Do you flirt back?
And Rhonda wouldn't care?
Trace: She knows that I'm just an old porch dog. I bark at cars when they go by, but I ain't going to chase them down the road.
How about you, Toby?
Toby: Sure, I'd flirt.
Your wife wouldn't mind?
Toby: Naw, it's been too long ... I wouldn't do anything. [laughs] I'd walk away.
Have you ever told your wife you don't like something she has on?
Toby: I'm sure I have, but I kind of stay out of that one. I wear whatever I want to wear, so I'd have a little difficult time getting on somebody else.
Trace: Yeah, I have.
What does Rhonda do?
Trace: She gets mad and changes clothes. [laughs]
If you forgot your wedding anniversary, would there be a discussion about it?
Trace: Yeah, there would definitely be a discussion. [laughs]
Toby: I've done it before, and it's understood. We're out rockin' and busy all the time, so if I'm out working or something and forget that night ... it may be 10 o'clock at night, but I'll get there. I'll call before midnight. [laughs]
How hard is it for you to say 'I'm sorry,' if you're wrong?
Trace: I'm always ready to admit that and to ask for forgiveness. It's not a problem for me.
Toby: It's not too hard if I'm wrong, but if I'm right, I stand pretty strong. It's difficult for me to debate with people who can rationalize everything. They're just going to rationalize every single thing and break it down and take it apart, to where the world isn't always black and white. Sometimes it is black and white. If it is truly black and white, they'll break it down and paint all the gray areas.
There's nobody more masculine than Toby Keith and Trace Adkins. When was the last time you both tapped into your feminine side?
Toby: I guess it's in songwriting. If I tap into that, it's writing good songs. If I've got a great idea and a great melody, and I'm writing that kind of a song ... I've said for years and years -- and I'm not the only one that said it in these words -- but I think if you want to write a classic, smash love song, then you have to say something in that song that you would never say to a woman.
Trace: Lord, I don't know that I've ever tried to tap into my feminine side. I wouldn't know how to do that!
Toby, happy belated 49th birthday! Are you worried at all about turning 50 next year?
Toby: Age is just a number to me. I'm very grateful and really healthy. There's people that are old when they're 25. I have several friends of mine -- coaches at major universities and pro [athletes] -- that maybe their dad died in his '50s, and they're like, 'Man, I've only got seven or eight years left.' Their dads and grandpa both died of heart congestion or something, and they're already preparing that they've lived it up. I play full court basketball two or three nights a week, and I feel like I did when I was 30.
Trace, 50 is less than two years away for you ...
Trace: I'm not concerned about it at all. As long as I'm feeling good, I'm not going to worry about it. It doesn't make a difference. I'm not one of those people who's going to cling tooth and nail to youth. If my hair falls out, it just falls out.
Who do guys you call if you need a good laugh?
Trace: Blake Shelton. If I need a good laugh I just think about Blake Shelton.
Toby: I've got several guys ... Larry the Cable Guy, Rodney Carrington, Cletus T. Judd. One of the funniest guys – and they've all met him, too – is my bass player Chuck Goff. You can call him any time and get a laugh. He ought to have his own radio show. He's funny!
Trace, what, if anything, do you miss about singing in bars when you first started out?
Trace: The intimacy ... the connection that you have with those crowds. You don't really get to have that anymore once you get on the big stage with all the lights. You lose that intimacy.
What's your worst bar story?
Trace: My worst bar story would be just playing in one and then not getting paid. I remember showing up at a club one time that I was booked to play in for five nights, and the IRS had put a padlock on the front door the day before we got there. And nobody even told us. It was a long way to Lubbock, Texas, and the club was closed out. We had to go to Albuquerque the next week, so we just sat in Lubbock for a week.
What does retirement mean to both of you?
Toby: I've been in retirement now for about 10 years. [laughs] People think getting up on stage for two hours a night is work. People who think that that's work need to get a different occupation.
Trace: To me, retirement is doing whatever I want to do when I want to do it. That's retirement.
Trace Adkins' new album, 'Cowboy's Back in Town,' will hit stores on August 17. Toby's upcoming album, 'Bullets in the Gun,' will be released October 5. To check out the dates for their American Ride tour, also featuring James Otto, click here.
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