Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com

Tim McGraw describes his ninth Curb album, "Live Like You Were Dying," as a "tapestry of life."

Indeed, the project is deeply woven with themes that reflect some of life's brightest and darkest threads.

"You can listen to this record, jump into it and kind of flow downstream with it. It kind of wraps you up a little bit," says McGraw, who recorded the album shortly after losing his father, baseball legend Tug McGraw, to cancer.

"It was probably therapeutic," he says of working on the Aug. 24 release. "Dad died the first week in January, and at the end of that month I was in the studio recording with all my best friends. It was a good chance to get up there and blow all that stuff off, blow it into the music."

With an NBC TV special planned for this fall, a hot-selling tour, roles in the upcoming films "Friday Night Lights" and "Black Cloud," and a slew of planned television performances, McGraw will be hard to miss in the next few months.

Like his previous album, 2002's "Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors," the Louisiana-born artist recorded this project with his band instead of Nashville studio musicians. All the members of the Dancehall Doctors have been with him for more than 11 years. Bandleader Darran Smith once again co-produced with McGraw and the singer's longtime producer, Byron Gallimore.

McGraw and the group spent eight weeks rehearsing the songs in a Nashville warehouse before returning to Allaire Studios, which is located in a 1920s mountaintop retreat in upstate New York.

McGraw says they returned to the studio with "confidence and some success under our belts. We didn't have to be so nervous this time. We thought we could go up there and do something that would be way better. We loved the [previous] one, but I thought we would have the chance to make a quantum leap."

Not that they had anything to be ashamed of the last time out. "Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors" has sold 3 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It spawned the controversial top five hit "Red Rag Top," as well as "Real Good Man" and "Watch the Wind Blow By," both of which spent two weeks at No. 1.

Since debuting in 1992, McGraw has placed 43 titles on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart, including 20 No. 1s. His chart-toppers include "Just to See You Smile," which spent six weeks at the summit; "I Like It, I Love It," "Please Remember Me," "Something Like That" and "My Next Thirty Years," which each spent five weeks on top.

His current single, the new album's title track, is in its sixth nonconsecutive week at No. 1. Penned by Craig Wiseman and Tim Nichols, the emotionally charged song speaks of a man diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and how it prompts him to reassess his priorities and approach to life.

McGraw says he didn't choose the songs on the new album because of any particular circumstances in his life but rather because they were the best he could find.

"I would have recorded [the track "Live Like You Were Dying"] instantly, no matter what was going on in my life," he says. "What I try to do is just sing the song and know that life is going to creep in and cover the edges."

Other introspective tracks include "Blank Sheet of Paper," "Drugs or Jesus" and "Kill Myself." But the album also includes such humorous fare as "Do You Want Fries With That." The Casey Beathard/Kerry Kurt Phillips-penned tune is about a fellow working at a fast food restaurant's drive-thru window who encounters his ex-wife's new flame.

Additionally, Rutledge Hill is publishing a gift book, "Live Like You Were Dying," written by songwriters Nichols and Wiseman. It will arrive the same day as the album.

The book will include a copy of the album's title track. Since it was never released as a commercial single, this will be the only place consumers will be able to buy the track alone.

McGraw recently wrapped his successful Out Loud tour of amphitheaters. On Aug. 19, the artist kicked off an arena tour, which continues through Oct. 10.

Now taking on film roles and a veteran of successful tours and albums, McGraw says that his success has surpassed his childhood dreams, and he attributes much of it to great tunes.

"I just try to pick songs I like, and I don't customize the record toward what I think other people will like or what the critics are going to like," he says. "I know sooner or later that my taste isn't going to be like everybody else's, but there's not a whole lot I can do about that.

"You learn probably a million things when you make a record, but the main thing to me is I've always pressed on about being better," he continues. "I feel like I'm just starting to get a hold of how to do this, and I've got some more in me to dig out."





Excerpted from the Aug. 28, 2004, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.

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