Tim McGraw Talks New Songs, Brantley Gilbert's 'Swagger' in Tour Preview

Tim McGraw performs at Acer Arena on March 27, 2012 in Sydney, Australia.

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Tim McGraw is gearing up for his "Two Lanes Of Freedom" tour, which kicks off a week from today in Birmingham, Ala. At a press conference yesterday at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena following a rehearsal, the Big Machine recording artist said he couldn't wait for fans to hear what he's got in store for them.

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"It's summertime, and it's outdoors," he says with a gleam in his eye. "There's going to be some great stuff on stage. For me, the first thing is how it sounds. The band sounds great, and you're going to see some really cool stuff on stage."

When asked about how big the scale of the stage set-up was going to be, he said "When you're playing the sheds, it's kind of limited on how large the scale can be. We have a lot of stuff thrown up there – a lot of lights, and a lot of video. The main thing for me is just going out there and setting the speakers on fire."

One thing that concert-goers will be hearing during the shows is a lot of his newest record – also titled Two Lanes Of Freedom. McGraw is very proud of the project, and excited to showcase many of the songs during the tour.

"We're playing more new songs than we ever have before," he stresses. "Throughout my career, we've always tried to introduce new material and play new stuff off the album. This time, we're doing six or seven off the new album." McGraw also advises those in attendance to pay close attention between songs. "I think the thing that fans are going to see more than anything is the little moments that happen between songs musically. I think that's something we've always tried to do. This year, we're going to have some really cool moments in between the songs that people are going to remember."

Having had 49 top ten records on the Billboard Country charts since 1994, he said deciding what goes into a set list is definitely a challenge."That's the toughest part of putting a show together. You can throw the lights and video up, and all of those things, but to narrow things down is tough. We'll do twenty-four songs, which is a lot of music in a two hour period. You're not going to get all of them, so you're going to disappoint some of the people, but you find the ones that you like to play and have had the most fun playing, then try to mix it in with the ones you know everybody wants to hear, and the new stuff. Somewhere in the middle, you hope you please enough people."

McGraw is very confident that his opening acts will please the crowds. Love & Theft is an act that he has had an ear for quite a while. "They're just good guys, and I'm a fan. I love the organic-ness of their music," he says. "They remind me of the music I loved growing up." He's equally excited to share the stage with Brantley Gilbert – who reminds him of one of his biggest influences. "He's a hoss. He reminds me of Hank Jr. He walks out there with that swagger and that attitude that all artists wish they had."

Despite a career of over two decades, McGraw claims to learn as much from his opening acts as they do him. "I learn all the time. I feel like if I stop learning, I probably shouldn't be doing it anymore. Every act I see, every song I hear on the radio, or every video, I learn something from everybody. I don't think there's ever been an artist I've listened to where I haven't learned something. I like artists that come into the format and up the game for everybody. I don't think that anyone wants to stay status quo, and wants everybody to come in that way. You want artists to come in with fresh ideas and fresh music, and push us along."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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