Krystal Keith’s smoky, folksy voice wavers when she talks about her family’s hometown. Moore has been through a lot over the years — and it has come a long way in six months.
In July, she helped her dad raise nearly $2 million for the United Way of Central Oklahoma’s May Tornadoes Relief Fund. She performed for 60,000 people in Norman and with a lineup that included Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, Trisha Yearwood and, of course, her daddy, Toby Keith.
An Oklahoma native, her family has roots here that can’t be torn away by fame — or weather.
Her upbringing inspired her album debut, Whiskey & Lace, which drops Dec. 10. Her famous father helped produce the album — and wrote or co-wrote four of the 10 tunes. Krystal Keith’s work is also evident — she cowrote three tracks.
But what she talked about most during a recent telephone interview is the May tornadoes.
“I was driving through the neighborhoods yesterday that me and my husband did relief efforts in,” she said. “There are still slabs of concrete, but some of the homes are completely redone. Businesses are opening.”
She remembers the smell — that wet, raw, wooden smell of torn earth. She also talked about Fourth Street — “where I’m from” — as one of the hardest-hit areas.
“The trees are still bare and patheticlooking, and we’re still battling this, and it’s going to be a long road ahead,” she said.
She flashed back to her childhood, and her life came full circle.
“Oklahoma influenced this new album a lot,” she said. “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t sing. Everybody knew me as the singer … In Oklahoma, nobody cared that my daddy was Toby Keith. He might as well have been a truck driver.”
Before she filled up her iPhone with notes about lyrics and songs, she was filling up notebooks. There are too many to count.
The album name came from one of those notes on her phone — she types things into it all the time.
“A friend called me and said she bought this super cute shirt that said, ‘Whiskey & Lace.’ I wrote it down,” she said.
Eight months later, the words came back as she sat down with Rodney Clawson — who has also worked with Jason Aldean, Faith Hill and George Strait — to write a song.
“We started writing about a stripper. The style describes me,” she added and then laughed. “It’s not what you think.”
In other words, she can relate. “I’m girly, usually, and rough around the edges. I’m not always content,” she said.
The woman in her lyrics also has to pay her bills and puts on a smile every night to help her get on her way to a better place in her life.
“It became my favorite song (from the album),” she said. “And I mainly only drink whiskey.”
‘Manage a new life’
Krystal Keith also is not afraid to put on a smile and get to work. She stayed in Moore through May. The July concert showed her just how much communities can do — as well as the big names (including her father) who stepped in to help.
The record-breaking concert was a life lesson.
“Working with people who don’t have to do anything ... Garth and Trisha? They could write a check and be done with it,” she said. “Ronnie Dunn, he came in a day early and toured Shawnee.”
Brooks was raised in Yukon and lives in Owasso. Dunn launched his career from Tulsa. His tour bus was in Shawnee the day the storms raked the area.
She knew the damage all too well. Her aunt’s home in Moore was left standing, but they tore it “down to the studs” and started over.
“They were able to save a lot of memories, though,” she said.
Above all, Krystal Keith is grateful. “To see so many homes in the final stages of being rebuilt, the homes with the stickers on the windows showing that they’re still brand-new,” she said. “The next thing they’ll need to manage is a new life.”
Donations may still be made to the United Way of Central Oklahoma May Tornadoes Relief Fund. Visit unitedwayokc.org or mail checks to United Way of Central Oklahoma, P.O. Box 837, Oklahoma City, OK 73101 with notation for May Tornadoes Relief Fund. You may also call 236-8441.