Over two decades into his record-setting career, Tim McGraw continues to add hit after hit to his resume. The Big Machine recording artist’s latest single, “Shotgun Rider,” has spent the past several weeks at the top of the Billboard Country Songs and Country Airplay charts. In doing so, the record has given McGraw his longest running chart-topper in over a decade — since 2004’s “Live Like You Were Dying.”
“I try my best to make great music,” McGraw tells Billboard about the quality of Sundown Heaven Town, the album which includes the track. “There’s a lot of great artists out there. I try to put my head down and make a record that I love. When I turned in this record to Big Machine, I told Scott (Borchetta) I didn’t care what you went with as a single. I felt like we we had eighteen great songs on it, and I would be happy with whatever we took to radio.”
And McGraw takes pride in holding his own in a marketplace full of younger artists — many of whom count him as one of their influences. “I’m a big fan of all these guys. There’s a lot of great artists that I enjoy listening to that are coming up. When someone tells me that, I am honored by it. Someone who has had any kind of success in this business and they look at you as an influence in some way, that’s an honor to me.”
Next up for the singer is the album’s fourth single, “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools,” which is a collaboration with a family member — but not wife Faith Hill. “My cousin, Catherine Dunn, is on the record,” he says. “She’s my mom’s baby sister’s daughter, and she’s a great singer and songwriter.” The song has a decidedly old-school approach, with McGraw says he relates to in a big way. “It’s a classic great country song. When you come across those kind of songs, and I’ve had a few of them throughout my career, like ‘Better Than I Used To Be,’ these songs kind of allow you to dig in, and they have a lIttle bit of country nostalgia, but also a modern edge. When I run across a song like that, I can’t wait to get into the studio and record it.”
After over fifty top 10 hits to his credit, McGraw still feels like he hasn’t achieved his full potential yet. “I don’t think I’m the best I can be yet. I still think I’m learning and growing as an artist. I think the minute that I feel that I have stopped climbing and reaching and wanting to get better, I should hang it up. I feel like I’ve got a lot of room ahead of me.”
McGraw will use much of 2015 to continue that growth. When discussing his plans for the year, he said “I’ve got a film, Tomorrowland, which comes out Memorial Day, and the tour starts this summer. There’s a couple of other movie projects in the works. We’ll have to wait and see how that shakes out.” But, there’s more on his schedule than just his career. “It’s my oldest daughter’s senior year. She’ll finish high school in May, and then will start college this fall. Then, my middle daughter will start her senior year. I’ve got two seniors in a row, so I have to work to pay for college,” he says.
As a football fan, we couldn’t help but ask Tim about his thoughts about the post-season. In handicapping the NFL playoffs, he said “I think Green Bay is playing really good right now. Aaron Rodgers is a very good quarterback. I could see them doing really well, but there are a lot of good teams out there right now,” he says. “Everybody is peaking at the time they should be. It should make for some interesting football.”