Toby Keith with Kip Moore
In 1984, Keith turned to music full time, playing the honky-tonk circuit in Oklahoma and Texas with the band Easy Money. A demo tape made the rounds in Nashville, but there were no takers. After catching a show in Oklahoma, Mercury Records President Harold Shedd signed him to Mercury Records. His 1993 debut single, "Should've Been a Cowboy," went to No. 1 on the Billboard country singles chart, and his self-titled debut album was certified platinum.
When Shedd left Mercury for Polydor Records, Keith went with him. He released a second album, Boomtown, in 1994. The gold-selling collection produced the No. 1 hit "Who's That Man" and the Top 5 hit "You Ain't Much Fun." The platinum-selling Blue Moon followed in 1996, featuring introspective tunes like "Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine on You" and "Me Too."
When Polydor closed its Nashville operation, Toby Keith returned to Mercury Nashville, releasing Dream Walkin' in 1997. The bittersweet ballad, "When We Were in Love," went to No. 2, as did a cover version of rocker Sting's divorce ode "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying." The duet earned the unlikely pair a Grammy nomination, and Sting joined Keith for a performance on the 1997 CMA Awards telecast. Keith's Greatest Hits, Volume I followed in 1998, although its lead single, "Getcha Some," failed to crack the Top 10. (It has since sold more than 2 million copies.)
Unable to see eye to eye with Mercury, Keith moved to the fledgling DreamWorks Nashville label in 1999. There he worked with label head and producer James Stroud on the studio album How Do You Like Me Now?! The lead single, "When Love Fades," was a modest hit, but the title cut was a five-week No. 1 hit. Another single, "You Shouldn't Kiss Me Like This," also went to the top spot on the singles chart for three weeks.
The double-platinum success of How Do You Like Me Now?! also earned Toby Keith some long-awaited award nominations. Keith won two Academy of Country Music awards in 2000, for male vocalist and album. In 2001, he won his first CMA award, for male vocalist. His 2001 album, Pull My Chain, produced three No. 1 hits, "I'm Just Talkin' About Tonight," "I Wanna Talk About Me" and "My List." (The latter two spent five weeks each at No. 1.) He was also nominated for six Academy of Country Music awards in 2001, though he didn't win any.
On March 24, 2001, Toby Keith's father, H.K. Covel, was killed in a traffic accident in Oklahoma. Covel's truck was sideswiped by another vehicle, which caused his truck to swerve into another lane, where it collided with a charter bus. Within six months, the events of 9/11 prompted Keith to write "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)," a song about his father's patriotism that pulled no punches. As the lead single from the 2002 album Unleashed, the song peaked at No. 1 over the Independence Day weekend.
Kip Moore: Singer-songwriter Kip Moore combines a raw and rustic voice with compelling lyrics of honesty to create a unique sound that’s simultaneously hypnotic and edgy. His voice is weathered by life’s detours and disappointments and strengthened by his dreams and determination. His music is infused with relentless intensity, both of passion and frustration.
The boy who grew up daydreaming about life outside of the small town of Tifton, Ga., became a man who has been continually inspired by Bruce Springsteen and Kris Kristofferson to paint vivid portraits with his lyrics.
His music powerfully captures some of the contradictions that he grapples with personally. Although he’s from a large family and enjoys musical collaborations and performing onstage, he’s an introvert who is often more comfortable being alone. Despite its edge, his music remains desperately optimistic.
During high school, he secretly began playing his brother’s guitar because he was intimidated by the talent of his mother and older brother. “I would play when nobody was around, just figuring out stuff, watching his hands and trying to do the same thing.”
Kip moved to Hawaii on a whim with just a backpack, a surfboard and a friend. They slept on an airport bench the first night and then lucked into a hut that was $50 a month. They would walk or hitchhike the mile to the beach daily. After six months of this tropical paradise, Kip thought he had found his permanent home until his friend encouraged him to pursue songwriting as a living.
He drove to Nashville on Jan. 1, 2004 in an old black Nissan truck that contained one bag and his guitar. He immersed himself in the songwriting community, observing songwriters’ rounds for two years and honing his craft before gaining the confidence to join in. After four years of performing locally, he caught the attention of Creative Artist Agency’s Mark Dennis, who called Universal Music Group Nashville’s Joe Fisher. Not only did Joe’s encounter lead to his record deal with MCA Nashville, but it also brought about his introduction to songwriter Brett James, who produced Kip’s debut album.
He also found important relationships with songwriters Dan Couch, Scott Steppakoff, Westin Davis and Kiefer Thompson, two of whom didn’t have publishing deals when he began writing with them.
And different his debut project is, as evidenced by the album’s first single, “Mary Was the Marrying Kind,” the story of the one who got away. The dreamy and spell-binding song is the true story of one of Kip’s friends, who returned to his hometown after about six years and saw the once tall, lanky girl who had since come into her own and become a model.