By John Benson
There’s a story in the Keith family involving a 3-year-old Krystal trying to get on stage with her country singer daddy, Toby. Apparently, once the preschooler saw the size of the audience, she wasn’t crying to sing but instead crying to get off stage.
That’s not the case today, some 20 years later, as Keith follows in her father’s footsteps with the recent release of her debut album, “Whiskey & Lace,” which spawned the first single, “Get Your Redneck On.” As far as carrying on the family tradition, the Oklahoma native said she was provided opportunities of which other new acts would only dream.
Take for instance an opening slot on her dad’s “Shut Up And Hold On Tour,” which comes to Blossom Music Center on Sunday and First Niagara Pavilion on Aug. 9. However, Keith adds that such opportunity also comes with a greater scrutiny.
“Growing up, I was told, ‘You’re going to be critiqued really heavily just because you’re my daughter, so prepare for that,’” said Keith, calling from her Sooner State home. “‘So make sure you do everything you can to ensure that you put out good music, that you’re a good performer, that you connect to your fans and that you build your own relationships.’”
She added, “He can open doors but I have to do the work.”
Musicwise, that work includes a diversity and maturity rare for such a young artist. Keith co-wrote three songs on the debut including the popular “Daddy Dance With Me,” which was a surprise gift she performed for her dad on her wedding day. So far, the video has received nearly 2 million views.
Other co-writes include the hard-driving “Get Your Redneck On” and the heavy guitar title track. However, Keith said over the years she’s watched as new artists pigeonholed themselves into a certain style or sound and then find commercial difficulty years later trying to expand their palates.
That’s why she included a variety of songs on her debut, such as the grooving “Doin’ It,” the organ-accented “Can’t Buy You Money,” the vocal ballad “Beautiful Weakness” (with Toby on backing vocals) and the Latin-flavored “Cabo San Lucas.”
“I really wanted to make sure that right off the bat I put out there you’re not going to get just one thing from me,” Keith said. “And as I grow as an artist, I’m going to experiment and do different things. That’s just the way that I approach my music. I want to do things that are different. I have roots in old country and soul and rock, so you’re going to get a lot of those things from me throughout my career.”
As for her live show, Keith said there’s a secondhand- loyalty phenomenon that takes place involving her dad’s audience. However, that quickly dissipates into put-up or shut-up time.
“None of the fans are against me from the get go, but you can tell throughout the set that every song I sing their ears kind of perk, and they’re, like, ‘Oh, wow. OK,’” Keith said. “That’s my favorite part of the show and that happens in bar venues and smaller clubs. To me, that’s my job as an entertainer. No matter what their outlook is coming in, I want them to leave going, “I’m a fan of hers.’”