Toby Keith talked about Jimmy Buffett in an interview at Radio.com. As Keith told Radio.com in a phone interview last week, “Songwriting has always been important to me.” Which is an understatement; while many Nashville superstars rely heavily on outside material, Keith takes a few collaborators on a yearly songwriting retreat, and also writes all year long.
Tell me about “Rum is the Reason.” Before I read anything about the album I listened to it, and at during that song, I thought, “This sounds like Jimmy Buffett.” And then at the end of the song, you say, “C’mon, Coral Reefers!”
We had this idea that rum is the reason that pirates didn’t rule the world. So I said, “If pirates are known for rum, who would be known for whiskey?” Whiskey comes from Tennessee, so I thought, “Davy Crockett.” And then the song started falling together. Tequila and Poncho Villa. Hitler drank beer, and Stalin probably drank some kind of vodka. And so we started having fun with it, and we kept coming back to the idea that rum is the reason that pirates didn’t rule the world. And it had that Caribbean sound to it. And I called Mac McAnally, and he’s Jimmy Buffett’s right hand man [he’s a member of Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band]. I said, “Mac, come down and bring the Coral Reefers.” And he turned the Reefers loose, and put on the real steel drums, I didn’t want to have a synthesized steel drum from a keyboard, so we bought the real cats in.
And then you got Buffett himself on another song, “Sailboat for Sale.” Are you friends with him?
My bucket list was Roger Miller, Haggard, Willie Nelson and Jimmy Buffett. Well, Roger had passed away before I got to Nashville. But I did work with Willie, we had a big #1 hit with “Beer for My Horses.” I got to record a couple of times with Hag. I wrote a song that Merle recorded on his album. But I thought, “At some point, I gotta meet Buffett.” At some point I met him, we hit it off. My two biggest albums were recorded at his studio in Key West. As time went on, we had dinner a couple of times, and then he called me one day and said “I’ve got this song called ‘Too Drunk to Karaoke,’ and I want you to sing on it.” So we did that. And then I sent him “Sailboat for Sale,” and I said, “If you want to sing on it, pick out a part,” and he did. It’s kind of cool, I’ve checked off those boxes [ on the bucket list].
How did Buffett like “Rum is the Reason?”
He said, he wish he’d written it! And he’s as good as it gets.