After a two-year hiatus to welcome her first child, Krystal Keith returns with a five-song EP built on the solid foundation of her widely acclaimed Show Dog Nashville debut album. The year-long development of Boulder expanded her creative circle even as it sharpened her focus as a singer, songwriter and artist. Along the way, it even created a bit of internal conflict with its title.
"On the first album I really wanted to show I wouldn't be boxed into one sound," Krystal says. "Whiskey & Lace opened the door wide enough for me to take a number of directions, and Boulder is more focused on exactly where I am and where I want to go now."
A new producer – Bobby Pinson, a more contemporary sound and showcasing her vocal abilities are part of this new direction, but the surprise may be in her approach to songwriting. "I have a great network of writers I trust and work well with, but I also love walking into a room with someone I don't know," she says. "Some writers like to start with titles, others with just a storyline. It's so easy to get into a routine if you write with the same people regularly, so I love challenging myself."
Similarly, she's up for challenging other's preconceptions with her writing. "There can be an assumption that I'm just an artist or just somebody's kid who wants to get a writing credit," she admits. "Once I get in the room, though, you see them relax as they realize I've been writing my whole life and I actually came to contribute."
Krystal isn't just anybody's kid, however. Her dad just happens to be 2015 Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Toby Keith, though she's not pushing to get a writing session with him. "We've written together here and there, but I've always tried to toe the line between daughter and new artist," she says. "He doesn't really care. He would write with me anytime, anywhere. But until I have accomplished enough to earn the right to write with someone of his caliber, then I'm not going to ask to put a song we've written on an album. There's a respect factor there I really want to honor."
She also has tremendous respect for one of her father's frequent collaborators in Pinson. "I’ve watched Bobby work in the studio with my dad for years," she says. "He's been at almost every one of my studio sessions just as a family friend offering help and suggestions. He is so talented, has such a passion for creating music and has a great ear for perfecting a track and bringing it to that next level."
Next level perfection wasn't just left to her producer, however. "I was more vocal this time," she says. "I wanted to showcase my ability with some big, rangy ballads Whiskey & Lace didn't have. I came in with notes, advocated for changes, added in bigger runs and gave thoughts on things that might need tweaks. Bobby and I agreed on the majority of those changes. It really was a great collaboration."
First out to fans and radio was her duet "Anyone Else" with label mate Lance Carpenter, which is generating significant streaming and airplay numbers. Carpenter (Kelsea Ballerini's "Love Me Like You Mean It") has become one of Keith's frequent co-writers, as noted below. Their collaboration gets Toby's stamp of approval as well. "'Anyone Else' is a great song because it’s written like a classic," he says. "I've been taking my songs in and listening to others' songs in Nashville for more than 20 years. This one's a first-time, sounds-like-a-hit, written-like-a-hit listen."
Still writing and recording for what will ultimately be a full album, Krystal co-wrote two of the five songs on Boulder.