As expected, Tim McGraw has filed a counter suit against Curb Records in response to the breach of contract suit the label filed May 13 relating to McGraw's "Emotional Traffic" album ( Billboard.biz, May 16 ). McGraw's counter breach suit seeks advance payment and recording-fund reimbursement, unspecified damages, and a jury trial.
The suit also asks that "Traffic" be deemed McGraw's last album due the label and for McGraw to be "free to begin recording for himself or any other party as of July 23, 2011."
Curb alleged in the May 13 complaint that McGraw's "Traffic" tracks were recorded too early prior to its delivery "in a transparent tactic to attempt to fulfill his contractual recording commitment to Curb prematurely in breach of the recording agreement."
Curb's position in the suit is that McGraw's recordings should be "topical and new" and that the artist had agreed that each new album be recorded "no earlier than 12 months and no later than 18 months" following the delivery of the previous album. The suit alleges McGraw began recording "Emotional Traffic" tracks "in 2008 or before," prior to the allowable period under contract, according to Curb.
In the expansive response filed May 23 in Davidson County Chancery Court in Nashville, McGraw says the material for "Traffic" was recorded and mastered in early 2009-2010 and Curb is holding the album "hostage from country music fans for the purpose of compelling Tim McGraw to serve perpetually under a contract that he has already fully and faithfully completed." The suit adds that Curb's "repeated serial releases of what it characterizes as greatest hits albums is obviously a naked attempt to create a perpetual recording contract, forcing Tim McGraw into a repressive environment of indefinite duration."
Curb attorney Jay Bowen tells Billboard.biz via e-mail that the label's 20-year relationship with McGraw has comprised three contracts, pointing out that McGraw has re-signed with the label twice. Bowen adds that, "In his long filing, McGraw never denies that he did not comply with the contract that specifies the period in which he must record for the album to count as the '5th option period album.' That's the point of Curb's position."
Between 2006 and 2010, Curb put out six compilations or variations on hits packages, the latest being "Number One Hits" last November. Curb has released a total of seven McGraw compilations.
Bowen maintains that there have been three "greatest hits" albums, plus the "Number Ones" album issued on McGraw from the label. "All other 'compilations' are packages put together for retail that combine some or or all of these releases," Bowen says.
Amid numerous charges of "bad faith," McGraw's response says that since 1997 Curb has never rejected any of the 108-plus master recordings he has delivered, and that Curb's release of compilations extends the allowable delivery period to 24 months.
The counter-suit also breaks down in great detail why the artist believes "Traffic" to be his final album due the label under contract. Among the allegations are that Curb "enticed agents for Mr. McGraw to present the unfinished rough mixes [of "Traffic"] under false pretenses....to avoid paying [McGraw] the advance" for delivering the album.
In addition to the breach of contract charges, the counter-suit charges intentional interference with business relationships, including with "various entities regarding his "Emotional Traffic" tour" and "created a void" of McGraw's music at radio.
McGraw is represented by attorney Rusty Jones of the Nashville firm Harris, Martin & Jones, who made good on his comment to Billboard last week  that "We are going to respond vigorously and promptly" to Curb's suit.