No matter how compelling Krystal Keith's voice, songwriting and debut album Whiskey & Lace may be, there's no getting around the shadow of a musical superstar in the room. Not that she'd want to, of course. Krystal's father Toby contributed several songs and co-produced the project with Mark Wright. "You can't have a better mentor," she says. "As a songwriter, as a vocalist – and he's also my dad, so I get the best of all worlds wrapped up in one person."
The concern, however, is that the uncommon opportunity and access afforded the daughter of a music icon could obscure the emergence of a truly remarkable new artist. Because what's most noteworthy about Whiskey & Lace isn't the artist's lineage, but her range. Vocally, to be sure, but it's much more than that. Put simply, the album's breadth reveals her to be incredibly adept in ways rarely seen on a debut. And that speaks to an amazing amount of passion, preparation and patience – traits that define Krystal Keith as a viable artist in her own right.
In its earliest days, Krystal's desire to be a performer exceeded her ability. "I don’t remember a time when I didn’t sing," she says. "My sister likes to tell stories about me singing at the top of my lungs and points out, 'That was before you could sing good.' She had to learn how to sing harmony just so she could hear herself over me. But I was always a little ham and sang pretty much everywhere I went.
"There are pictures of me as a three-year-old throwing a fit because my mom wouldn’t let me onstage with my dad, who was doing a Fourth of July BBQ show near our home in Oklahoma," she continues. "So they got me onstage and I was immediately freaked out when I saw all the people. I think I just wanted to sing with my dad, more than getting in front of an audience. But music was such a big thing in our household, always a part of my life and always the path I was on."
More than a general direction, however, music was a diligently pursued focus. "I started writing music when I was nine because I was taught that not everyone can perform and make it as a singer," she says. "I started singing in competitions when I was 13 and did a lot of local and regional competitions. And I recorded my first demo when I was 17, just to get used to being in the studio, working with studio musicians and working in a vocal booth."
Krystal made her national television debut in prime time as a teenager, singing "Mockingbird" with her father on a 2004 awards show. Despite widespread acclaim for her vocal abilities, she delayed the artist career she'd been working toward her whole life. "My parents really wanted me to graduate college, and my dad said he'd help me get started at that point," she explains. "So I went to the University of Oklahoma and got a degree in Communications with a Business emphasis. After graduation, I went full-time into working on my album."
The process only furthered her musical growth. "I’ve been songwriting for a long time, but only in the last couple years have I started co-writing," she says. "It's a new challenge I'm enjoying, and I've gotten a song out of every session I've done, which is rare. I’ve been writing with some of the most amazing, prolific songwriters in Nashville – Rodney Clawson, Chris Tompkins, Craig Wiseman, Bobby Pinson, Nathan Chapman and more. After writing solo for so long, having another creative soul to bounce ideas off of is a great experience."