Tim McGraw is enjoying the opportunity to give his fans a taste of his embattled new album, "Emotional Traffic" -- live at concerts and via 13 shows that are being broadcast live during the summer on XM Sirius satellite radio.
"Any artist will tell you their favorite thing to do is play new music, and for us it's a double-edged sword," McGraw tells Billboard.com. "It's frustrating because we have this great new music that we want to get out to everybody and we can't, so the only way we can get it out is to play it live. So at least we're getting it out there."
McGraw is regularly playing a few songs from "Emotional Traffic": "Right Back At You," a smooth, pop-flavored song not unlike John Mayer; and a ballad called "Better Than I Used to Be." He's occasionally tossing in a third, "Halo," while "Felt Good On My Lips" was recorded for the album but also included on last year's "Number One Hits" compilation by McGraw's label, Curb Records.
McGraw, who owes Curb one more album, and the company are currently in court over the fate of "Emotional Traffic." In May Curb sued McGraw in Davidson County, Tenn., for break of contract, claiming he delivered the album too soon on the heels of its predecessor, 2009's "Southern Voice," in "a transparent tactic to attempt to fulfill his contractual recording commitment to Curb prematurely." McGraw filed a countersuit contending "Emotional Traffic" indeed fulfills his contract and asking for compensation, damages and a jury trial.
"Right now it's just a matter of letting the legal system handle this," McGraw says. "All I can do is keep doing what I do. I've always been a good, honest guy and done the work the way it needed to be done and fulfilled whatever I've been obligated to do. All you can do is hope our good faith pays off in the end."
McGraw describes "Emotional Traffic," named after a lyric in the song "Only Human," as "a really eclectic group of songs. It's one of those records that you want to put earphones and just turn it up and really listen to every part of the record. I think it's more of a groove, feel-good album than we've done in awhile. It's got a lot of depth to it sonically and musically. It's just a really cool-sounding record to me. It's one of my favorite records I've ever done."
McGraw's Dancehall Doctors band appears on one of "Emotional Traffic's" tracks, while Ne-Yo co-wrote and duets on "Only Human." McGraw's wife Faith Hill appears on another song, while guitarist Rusty Anderson and drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr. and Foo Fighters/Wallflowers keyboardist Rami Jaffee play on the set. "Those guys just melded so well into these songs," says McGraw, who co-produced the album with regular collaborator Byron Gallimore. "I think that's where you really find magic, when you work with people out of your comfort zone but at the same time finding things everyone can attach themselves to. I think everybody discovers different parts of themselves and plays differently than they ever have and would have on any other project."
Once "Emotional Traffic's" future is settled, McGraw plans to get on with his own future, although he says everything's up in the air at the moment. "Whatever is the best situation for me to move forward is what I'm going to do," he says, "and I'm gonna keep an open mind about it."
McGraw is also looking forward to the wide release of "Dirty Girl," his latest film project which premiered at last year's Toronto International Film Festival. The movie -- written and directed by Abe Sylvia and co-starring Milla Jovovich, Mary Steenburgen, Juno Temple and William H. Macy -- is expected to land in theaters during August, and McGraw says his role is "small but...very pivotal. I can't really say (what it is) because it'll give away too much of the story. But it's a really, really good movie. It's funny. It's got a lot of heart. It can make you laugh and cry. It's got all those great things in it."
As for future films, McGraw says that "there's a couple things juggling in the air for the fall. The tough part for me is I have tons of scripts and tons of offers, but I only have a short window to work in, so I have to find something I like, first, and then I have to find out if it's going to be shot in the time I have -- and if they even want me for the part. It's not like I can just pick a part and it's mine. I still have to go out and win it, so things have to line up in order for me to do a movie."