Country superstar Tim McGraw has had many big-name duet partners, from his wife, Faith Hill, to Nelly. However, the singer, 48, was a little nervous asking a newcomer to share the microphone: the eldest of his three daughters, 18-year-old Gracie, who makes her debut on “Here Tonight,” a track off his new album for Big Machine, Damn Country Music (due Nov. 6).
Why did you enlist your daughter, an aspiring musician, to sing with you on “Here Tonight”?
When I first recorded the song, I had a suspicion that her voice would be great on it. But I was afraid she would think it was uncool to sing with her dad. It took a lot for me to get up the nerve to ask her. One day we were in the kitchen and I told her, “I’ll email you this song,” because I didn’t want to play it in front of her and have her turn me down. I asked her to sing on it, and I was shocked she said she would. And she nailed it.
So you had to pitch the song to her like people pitch to you?
Yeah, of course. She’s a real musician.
The album is deeply personal, particularly “Humble and Kind,” about giving advice to your kids.
It was at the right time in my life. We had just dropped Gracie off at college, and I went into the studio and I kept blubbering. I couldn’t get through the song — I’d fall apart. I had to leave to go to a volleyball game, and after about five miles I turned around and cried all the way back to the studio, because I wanted to get it out of my system. It’s such a great message.
You released your first album in 1993. What has been the biggest change in music since then?
When you think back to when Hank Williams was making music, you maybe had three stations you could tune in for different music. Your spectrum was a little smaller. Now, you can listen to any kind of music from anywhere, any- time you want to. You’re bombarded with it, and you’re soaking up different styles. You can hear someone like Mumford & Sons be influenced by country as well as pop and rock. And you can hear country and hear the influences from pop.
In addition to music, you’ve done some acting on the side. What’s next?
I have a few voiceover things — one called The Shack, based on the book [by William P. Young]. Down the road it would be fun to do something on Broadway. I wouldn’t want to do a musical; I would love to do a heavy, serious play with Faith at some point.
Do you prefer playing the bad guy, as you did in 2004’s Friday Night Lights, or the good guy, like in 2009’s The Blind Side?
I love playing the really nasty guys! The bad guys are more fun, for sure.
Listen to Tim McGraw and other artists featured in this week’s issue of Billboard.