Toby Keith Shares Advice for Songwriters After Receiving BMI Icon Award

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by Erika Goldring/WireImage)

Award-winning county music artist Toby Keith has some advice for all the budding lyricists out there.

BMI handed Keith the coveted Icon Award earlier this month during a ceremony in Nashville, TN. The singer earned the trophy for the dozens of hits he’s written over his nearly 30-year career. Those hits include Should Have Been a Cowboy and I Love this Bar.

After the event, Keith sat down and shared some insight into what we deem as his legendary talents. But according to him, he’s a star because of hard work, not skill. And he believes that nearly anyone can make it if they put in as much effort as he does.

“The best advice I could give an up-and-coming songwriter would be to try to write something every day and try to finish as many as you can,” Keith said in a BMI Youtube clip.

“The only thing you can do, I mean, I feel like I wrote 200 songs. Then I wrote a good one, and then I wrote 150 songs, then I wrote another good one,” he continued. “Then, you know, I wrote 50 songs, and I wrote another good one. As you learn and network and you keep honing your trade, it will come easier for some people.”

Toby Keith thinks that people who are “more talented” than him can probably “shrink the margin” and accomplish the feat with fewer misses. But he said the trick is the same for everyone. Just write like crazy, and eventually, it will click, and writing classics will become second nature.

Toby Keith Says Songwriting is ‘the Most Important Part of this Whole Industry’

“Once you get down to where you understand how to write a song, then you’re just a great idea away from a great song,” he added.

And we’d say that Keith knows what he’s talking about. In all his work, he’s written more than 30 No. 1 singles. So fans clearly enjoy his work.

During the BMI acceptance speech, Keith even acknowledged that he’s a songwriter first and a performer second. And when he first decided to chase his dreams, he knew that even if he never got the chance to sing for sold-out crowds, he would at the very least be able to write singles for those who did.

“Since 1990 or 1991, I have been affiliated with the greatest organization in the music business, and that’s BMI,” the 61-year-old said. “They’ve been so great to me as a songwriter because I knew that even if I didn’t make it as an artist, then, maybe somebody would cut my songs. I always felt like the songwriting was the most important part of this whole industry.”