Norman, Oklahoma- When a child displays a natural musical or performance ability, like Krystal Keith did at the young age of 5, the parents are often prone to getting their precocious one into classes, signed up with an agent, and making the audition rounds right away. But, Krystal Keith’s parents went a different route… the longer, tougher, and more grassroots route to get her where she is today, which is on the brink of releasing her debut country album on Show Dog-Universal Music.
“My parents didn’t just want to hand me everything. They taught me to work for it and work hard,” explains Keith. “So, I started singing in competitions when I was 13 years old. I always knew I was going to be a singer, but my dad taught me that experience is what would get me there, and this was a great experience. I learned a lot. I then started singing at the Oklahoma Opry, now the Rodeo Opry, every three weeks or so to really hone my craft.”
Keith would belt out her favorite female country songs, such as Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” and “Walkin’ After Midnight,” Reba McEntire’s “Little Rock,” Martina McBride’s “Broken Wing,” and others, week after week to flex that natural vibrato she has and learn how to perform for a crowd. “It was the best education ever,” she says. “I also started writing at a young age because I always knew the value of not just being able to sing, but to write as well and I love both equally. I wrote my first poem-song around age 9 for my parents, and wrote my first full song, ‘Just Between You and Me’ when I was 15 and recorded it when I was 17.”
Though teen stars are a dime a dozen these days, Keith’s parents still wouldn’t open those velvet ropes for her into the country world where her dad – superstar Toby Keith –is so successful. Instead, she had to finish college before she could be given the green light to move forward with her singing career… and get just a little bit more experience under her belt. She soon started getting booked to sing the national anthem at Oklahoma University games as well as odd signing jobs, and often headlining, at country fairs and local conferences. She finally got a little leg up from dear old dad when he’d have her sing the national anthem on some of his tours and recorded the song “Mockingbird” together, which the two performed on the Country Music Awards in 2004 when she was just 19 as her coming out party to the country music world.
“We used to sing ‘Mockingbird’ together when I was growing up so it was really special to get to perform it at the CMAs. It was like a teaser to remind me that this is where I can be if I just finish college, so that’s what I did,” explains Keith, who has a Bachelor Degree in Communications from Oklahoma University and even spent some time in the working world before putting a band together to start the process of writing and picking songs for her debut CD.
“I’m pretty much a hard-core country girl,” she says. “I grew up on Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings – the greats. My music is country but a little bluesier and I have some rock in me, some Janis Joplin, who I really love. I’m very ladylike but with some rough edges. I say what’s on my mind and don’t always have a filter.”