Hope On The Rocks

Album: Hope On The Rocks (2012)
  • Toby Keith opens his sixteenth studio album with its title track, in which a bartender lists various customers who have fallen on hard times. The song evolved during a visit to his hunting and fishing ranch in southern Oklahoma in the fall of 2011. Keith explained: "All the way there I had a verse and chorus going that I'd had for a couple months. I knew it was dark and a little out there, but I just couldn't let it go. I spent two days down there and the whole time, whenever I wasn't talking to anybody, I was working that song in my head. I just hammered on it; completely obsessed. When I finally nailed it, I played it for a couple guys and knew it was exactly what I thought it was."
  • Regarding naming the record after this song, Keith said: "When I handed the album over to the label and management, it wasn't the first one that popped up, but it wasn't three days before it reared its head as the pick of the litter. Now when they're out playing stuff for radio, this is the one they're coming back on across the board. One of my favorite things I've ever written."
  • The song was inspired by some neighbors of Keith's who left a lasting impression. "Years ago, the first house I lived in, there was a couple a little bit older than me that were married and lived three houses down," he told Country Weekly. "They'd work, and on Fridays and Saturdays they'd have a big barbecue and play cards and drink beer. Once in a while, I'd go down there."
    Eventually the couple eventually split up and he lost touch with them. "I thought of all the people who come and go in your life, who don't give you a two-week notice when they're gone. And unless you're really close to them, you just forget about them," Keith explained. "I started thinking of that, and how my dad would go to the café every morning in town. He had his buddies he sat with .... and then just one day, they end up not showing up. You might ask what happened to them, but it's not really a big loss to you, because it was just trivial chatter: football games, I like your new truck, how's it going?"
  • The song pays homage to those who have been influential in Keith's own life. "Growing up in bars and having a grandmother who owned one when I was a kid and having played bars my whole life, I know how good neighborhood bars can be," he noted. "The bartender is also a baby-sitter, brother, father, mentor, guru, suicide hotline, everything!"
  • The song only reached #29 on the Country chart and only had moderate airtime on the radio, but Keith told Country Weekly that he won't change his music just to get more airplay. "It was a song that I just told the [label] staff, 'We're putting this out, so be ready to work it," he explained. "I gave you the ones that you wanted. You've had 'Made in America' and 'Beers Ago.' Now we're going to do one that I want.' And they had hell with it. They really struggled getting it played everywhere."

    Keith added that he acknowledged the song's lack of appeal to the younger generation was the reason for its poor chart placing. "You can sit on the bus and sing it to two or three people who have never heard it, and they'll just get goose bumps and go, 'Damn, that's powerful," he said. "But you start playing it to a twenty-something audience, and it's like, 'Naw, man, there ain't no mud on that tire. That ain't about a Budweiser can. That ain't about a chicken dancing out by the river. That ain't about smoking a joint by the haystack. That's about somebody dying and s---."
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