MTV Video Music Awards
Tim McGraw Song Debut And Q&A
Tim McGraw has a new album, "Southern Voice," dropping Oct. 20, and he debuted the title track and second single on Thursday night (Sept. 10) with a live performance at the NFL Opening Kickoff. Now, Billboard.com has another exclusive premiere from McGraw's anticipated release -- the third single, "Still."
"Southern Voice" is McGraw's tenth album with producer Byron Gallimore, a collaboration that has yielded tremendously successful results. In addition to the album, McGraw is gearing up a major arena tour early next year. He'll also co-star with Sandra Bullock in the new Warner Bros. film "The Blind Side."
This is busy, even by McGraw's standards, and enthusiasm runs high. McGraw's overall career has been one of the brightest in any genre for more than a decade, encompassing hit albums, lucrative touring and notable success generated by music publishing, films, TV shows and books. Since McGraw's career began in the early 1990s, he has sold more than 40 million albums, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and dominated the charts with 30 No. 1 singles. His trophy case groans under the weight of numerous industry awards.
Billboard's Ray Waddell caught up with McGraw in a rare break for the artist as he talks about the new record, balancing career and family -- he's married to country superstar Faith Hill, and the couple has three daughters -- and why, if you behave badly at one of his shows, you're liable to get called on it.
Billboard: Though "Southern Voice" isn't necessarily a departure for you, there are some pretty heavy themes on this new record.
Tim McGraw: There is a lot of weight to these songs. There's some light stuff, too. That's kind of why we put out [lead single] "Business Doing Pleasure with You" first. The singles that I've put out lately have had a lot of messages, so we thought it would be kind of cool to give them something a little lighter, knowing that when it got time to be heavy that we had plenty of that on the record.
I would say this record is populated with a lot of flawed characters.
I mean, let's face it -- I can't think of too many singers that aren't flawed. For us, and for me as an artist, that's the kind of thing that I gravitate to, and I think it's something that people can hang their hat on. The great thing about music is that everybody finds a way to relate to it.
Whose input do you rely on when going through the song selection process?
I always listen to my wife's opinion, although we don't always agree because we have different tastes in music. There's been plenty of songs that I've put on albums that she wasn't necessarily crazy about, and there's been songs that I thought she should have used or didn't use, and vice versa. But I always want to hear her opinion, and [producer] Byron [Gallimore's] opinion, too, of course.
Ultimately, for better or for worse, it just comes down to what I feel and how I think the songs are interpreted when I listen to them. If I start not relying on what I like to put on album, then it's not really my album anymore. I think there's a lot of danger -- and you can hear it on the radio or in people's careers -- where you start trying to please people instead of trying to please yourself.
You used your road band, the Dancehall Doctors, on this record.
The band is playing great. To me it's like, I did some great records before them, we did some great records together, and I'll do some other records without 'em. We'll go back and forth, which keeps it fresh and keeps it exciting for us. But when we're in the studio as a band, it's fun. We all have input. We're all sitting there in a room and doing guitar leads and talking to each other, let's try this, trying to fine tune. I think it's a lot like the way records were made in the older days.
The album also veers off in some interesting directions. For example, "Mr. Whoever" has a sort of "Desperado"-era, Eagles waltz feel to it.
My influences are all over the board. The Eagles were a huge influence for me. Seventies rock and roll was a big influence on me, and still is. I also love Merle Haggard, George Strait and Alabama, and so do the guys in my band. There's guys that come from a bluegrass background, guys that come from a rock 'n roll background, guys that come from jazz background, and I think you can hear that on the record. Through the years and the albums I've cut, not only do I think I've done diverse records all the way through, I think that within each record there's been a lot of diversity.
Thematically, you don't shy away from much.
[Laughs] I don't think I've ever turned anything down because of a theme or the subject matter. I just try to pick great songs. I like cotton candy as much as the next guy, but I also like music that makes you think a little bit, stuff that makes you second guess your ideals. You don't have to have necessarily lived a situation, but you certainly have to be able to identify with it and believe it.
With so many different projects going on at an given time, how do you balance the different aspects of your career and life?
First off, we dont work if it interferes with family. And I say this with a caveat, because I never want to offend people who don't have the capability or the freedom that Faith and I have to be able to say if we don't want to work. How many fathers out there would love to be able to say that and can't? But because of our situation, because we were both very successful before we got married, we are able to put a priority on family and say, 'This is the time we can work, these are the times that don't interfere.'
I coach ball, and all that stuff about when their games are, their practices are, parent teacher meetings -- all that stuff is scheduled out. There are times when it doesn't quite work out, but most of the time it does. That's a big testament to my wife because she's the best at it, she's very organized. I, on the other hand, am not organized at all.You've had some notable incidents with fans at shows, where you've pointed out someone misbehaving in the audience. Is that something you would have done earlier in your career?
I think I've always done that. I don't do it all the time, but I will if there's a woman involved or something. I'd feel kind of silly if someone in the audience is causing a stir and I ignore it, and then I walk over to the other side of the stage and everybody's still over there looking. I've got the microphone, so why don't I say something? If you're standing right there and a guy is being physical with a woman right in front of you, then you're gonna do somethin -- I don't care if you're on stage singing or walking down the midway of a fair. That's just who I am, there's nothing I can do about that.
You've accomplished so much in so many areas. What are your goals now? What motivates you?
Family. It really does. And legacy, maybe, for my daughters -- I want them to be proud of me. The older they get, the more they discover music and who they are as people, and they discover who we are as people even moreso, because they're starting to notice other things that go on around us. I think all of that motivates me to want to leave a legacy for them.
What do you think the next record will be like?
I've got some great songs already. I didn't write anything on the last album and I didn't even attempt much, because I was kind of busy doing movies and we're in the middle of building a house that we're almost done with. But I've been writing a lot over the last year and will continue to write. You always say the record you have out is the best record you've ever done, and it is, for me, but I think that we're getting into a place with this next album that will be a quantum leap for us.
What do you think you've done right, career-wise?
Songs. Music. I think that any bad decisions I've made, and I've made a lot of 'em, music has really sort of saved the day for me. Sometimes I wonder if it's a hindrance or a help, but I don't think I've been overexposed, really. You don't think you know everything about me. A lot of artists get out there and get too seen, too industrialized. I feel pretty good about having a little bit of mystique left.