Tim McGraw has more than a golden touch with a song. The country music superstar has a platinum touch– several million times over. He makes every album a journey and listeners never want the trip to end.
His latest album, “Here On Earth,” reverberates with the simple, priceless joys of home, family, and small-town life in songs like “Hallelujahville” and “Gravy,” while providing the perfect pandemic escapism to the California coast in tracks like “L.A.” and “Sheryl Crow,” so rich in musical crush memories.
Another song, “I Called Mama,” is connecting with fans on a deeply personal level during these troubled times of quarantine and uncertainty at every turn. Tim McGraw confessed in a Yahoo feature last week that he still cannot play the song for his wife of 24 years, the multitalented Faith Hill, without crying.
Tim McGraw is so comfortable in his own skin that any song he picks to sing seems like it came from his own being. The artist explains to CMT Edge why he seldom records the songs he writes and how artistic integrity makes him his own harshest critic.
Only seven of his own songs have made the cut, says Tim McGraw
“I Called Mama” is still moving millions to tears but in the very best way. The ballad was written by a great buddy of Tim McGraw’s, Lance Miller, along with Marv Green and Jimmy Yeary. Miller and McGraw bonded way back in 2007 when Miller was the opener during the Bread & Water post-show sessions.
“Those that know me know that I write, but I rarely cut the stuff I write,” Tim McGraw admits bluntly. His reason: “If I write something, I’m pretty hard on it.” The man who made his name in country music with his 1993 self-titled effort declares that he writes for every album, but his own songs seldom fly over the high-bar he sets for artistry.
“I always put the song first,” he insists. “The song’s gotta win and that’s just the way I am,” Tim McGraw asserts. The man who made Lori McKenna’s moving “Humble and Kind” into a movement, is pretty mean to himself when it comes to something he puts to paper.
Tim is one tough critic
He said his songs are “gonna have to really scratch my eyeballs out to make the cut it, cause I’m so hard on myself with it.” Tim McGraw never needs any counseling over being too big-headed.
Since 2007, only seven songs co-written by Tim McGraw passed his rigorous test to go on record. “Train #10,” “If You’re Reading This,” “I Will Not Fall Down,” “Over and Over,” “I’ve Got Friends That Do” (a bonus track to his Greatest Hits Volume 2), “My Little Girl,” which also became a best-selling children’s book, and “Keep on Truckin’”
Despite the singer’s critique, millions of fans, and YouTube views, speak to how these songs stand up right along with those of Music City’s most lauded composers. Tim McGraw knows how to pick a song. He also knows how to give a song purpose beyond a message, including his own compositions.
For Tim McGraw, the song is not about self
With almost three decades of timeless songs under his belt, most of his fellow artists credit the song selections of Tim McGraw on the same level as his ability to make them hits. For his part, the singer deflects that “I don’t know that that much is different about the way I pick songs or write songs.” He espouses that life experience and learning what an artist feels comfortable singing make the difference.
“As you get older, you realize that you’re not singing about you in particular,” McGraw noted in an interview with CMT a few years back. “You’re singing about everybody else that’s out there.”
Tim McGraw tries to focus on a character that is in every song, and make it uniquely his own, but not about his own story. His gift for making some of his most powerful songs part of the “deep cuts” on an album is treasured by faithful followers. “You Had to Be There” is just one prime example.
The most lasting of country music talents understand how their songs help people cope with the struggles of everyday life and the wounds of the past. “You can’t get stuck on what’s about you” Tim McGraw cautions.
The family talent lies in the ladies, according to Tim McGraw
Anyone who thinks Tim McGraw is tough on himself as a songwriter should hear his evaluation of himself as a singer. He rightly acclaims Faith Hill as “one of the greatest singers in the world.” The couple’s devotion and combined vocal prowess on the last Soul2Soul Tour got Tim in perfect shape to record “Here On Earth.”
The proud papa has joined their eldest daughter, Gracie, onstage with her alternative rock band. In late August, he had fun showing off a sweet video clip of middle daughter, Maggie, leading the family dog, Stromboli, in a command performance. “I’m the worst singer in the house,” Tim McGraw insisted. The word is already out that youngest daughter, Audrey, has her own heavenly voice.
The three daughters definitely have a blessed vocal legacy. Having devoted parents and a dad named Tim McGraw who can pick, sing, and write songs that stay in the country music consciousness isn’t bad at all.