In a resurfaced video from 2005, Swift discussed performing her songs for the late singer before getting signed by the label
The “Anti-Hero” singer, 34, first made her mark on the music industry with the 2006 release of her debut, self-titled album after striking a deal with Big Machine Records, which Keith had worked closely with at the time.
The record label had been formed in 2005 by music executive Scott Borchetta, and had partnered with the country music star’s own label Show Dog-Universal Music. At the time, a 15-year-old Swift had moved to Nashville to kickstart her music career, and had been one of the talented hopefuls wanting to score a highly coveted contract with the new label.
In a resurfaced 2005 video from Nashville’s WSMV4, Swift can be seen discussing her first meeting with Keith for Big Machine Records and what it felt like to perform her songs for him.
“You’re in the room with him and you can feel it, there’s a power there,” Swift told the outlet at the time. “And you’re just like ‘Oh my God.’ ”
She added, “I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point where I don’t see him and are just like, ‘Oh my God that’s Toby Keith.’ ”
WSMV4 reported that Keith liked the songs she played for him and she was eventually signed by the label. The report described the pair as “partners” in this new music venture. Borchetta also played a major role in signing Swift after hearing her perform at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville in 2004, according to Rolling Stone.
Big Machine Music and Keith’s Dog-Universal Music worked closely together for a few years, with Borchetta even “encouraging” people to think of them as “one label with two A&R sources” in an interview with CMT Insider. “Toby’s the lead act, and we’ve got an incredible opportunity with all the resources that he brings and the music that he loves and his vision for what he wants to do,” Borchetta said at the time.
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However, the partnership broke up in 2006. But Keith still continued to own minority positions in Big Machine Records, according to Rolling Stone.
Swift went on to produce five more albums under Big Machine Records — including Fearless (2008), Speak Now (2010), Red (2012), 1989 (2014) and Reputation (2017) — before completing her six-album deal with the company in 2018. A year later, Scooter Braun’s company, Ithaca Holdings, purchased the label, along with the rights to Swift’s songs, which led to a public feud between the pair and to the singer rerecording her albums from the label.
"Toby Keith passed peacefully last night on Feb. 5 surrounded by his family, the statement read. “He fought his fight with grace and courage. Please respect the privacy of his family at this time.”
While Swift has not yet released a statement on his death, several of Keith’s friends, including Blake Shelton, paid tribute to the country star. On X (formerly Twitter), Shelton described Keith as “the toughest man I ever met.” He added, “Thank you for being a friend, a hero and an inspiration. There will never be another Toby Keith.”
Carrie Underwood wrote, "We’re gonna miss you, Toby, but my heart has no doubt that you are standing in the presence of our King right now!!" she added. "See you again someday, friend."
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