Nashville: "I`m in a great place right now," says country star Toby Keith, whose new album, "Bullets in the Gun," will be out October 5. "I probably wrote 40 or 50 songs in the last year, and the songs are getting more and more happy. I did some movies, too, but now I`m just kicking back."
But Keith`s version of kicking back doesn`t involve hanging out with a good book and a beer. He`s currently on tour and proving he can still rile up his fan base, noting that there were 42 arrests at a recent concert. Keith says he`ll keep touring through the fall, and even though his album hasn`t yet been released, fans are eager to hear new material.
"I open the show with `Bullets in the Gun` and always do (first single) `Trailerhood` and `Somewhere Else` (also from the new album)," he says. "I`m getting a great response when I play those tracks."
The 39-year-old singer-songwriter points out that his conservative reputation isn`t an accurate reflection of his viewpoint. "I`m a registered Independent, and I was a Democrat until a while ago. There is one conservative moment in my whole show, and that`s when I play `Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,` " he says. "And I don`t really consider that conservative -- it`s about supporting our troops, which is not a Democratic or a Republican thing, but something everyone needs to do."
The new album, which will be out on Keith`s own Show Dog/Universal label, contains a mix of originals about the joys of hanging out, drinking beer and true romance (one track includes the phase "totally flirtable"), and Keith is also including four covers of country classics on some special editions, which were recorded live at a secret show in New York.
"I have a side group called the Incognito Banditos," Keith says. "It`s a blues group with me and some great session players, and we decided to do a show in New York at the Fillmore. I called up the venue and told them not to spend a dime on advertising, just to announce the show, and it sold out in five minutes."
The quick sellout was driven largely by social media, which will play a big role in the upcoming marketing campaign. "We are doing a lot with his mobile fan club," says Sloane Cavitt, manager of sales, marketing and new media at Show Dog/Universal. "For instance, people are signing up for wake-up calls from Toby, so the morning of release, they`ll get a prerecorded message reminding them to go buy the album."
Keith has an iPhone app, which fans can use to buy tickets and sign up for text alerts. He also did an interview with Rhapsody where he answered questions submitted by Facebook fans.
Cavitt says Keith will play several TV shows and is scheduled to host an episode of World Wrestling Entertainment`s "Raw" on October 25. In addition, the label has produced a series of TV commercials and is working with a sports marketing firm to strike partnerships with different leagues and teams.
The one platform Keith hasn`t embraced is Twitter. Although he has an account, he uses it to announce tour dates and keeps it mostly business. He says, "It just attracts all the troublemakers -- all the people who are just looking for a headline -- and I have no interest in that."