PUBLISHED IN COUNTRY WEEKLY, FEBRUARY 1997
By Nick Krewen
Like the song on his multi-platinum album Everywhere, Tim McGraw knows “Where The Green Grass Grows.”
“Yeah — as soon as we build our house,” jokes Tim, who is nominated with his wife Faith Hill for Best Country Collaboration With Vocals at this year’s Grammies.
“As far as my family life goes, I’ve got it made. I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I’ve got two beautiful girls to go home to. It’s amazing.”
The tireless entertainer and father of nine-month-old Gracie Katherine spoke to Country Weekly as he was preparing to visit Canada for a two-week cross-country tour.
“I’m getting some skis to come to Canada with,” he joked. “Just in case the bus breaks down or something. I don’t want to get lost in the wilderness and not have any way to get around.”
If he ever found himself stranded in the Great White North or anywhere else for that matter, and was forced to hitchhike, Tim would undoubtedly find a number of sympathetic souls offering to give him a ride. In just five short years, Tim McGraw has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top as one of country music’s most recognizable superstars, sailing on the wings of such unforgettable hits as “Indian Outlaw,” “Don’t Take The Girl” (from his five-million selling smash album Not A Moment Too Soon ); “I Like It, I Love It” and “She Never Lets It Go To Her Heart “(from his multiple-platinum All I Want) and “Everywhere” and “It’s Your Love,” the chart-topping, award-winning Grammy nominated duet with his wife Faith Hill ( from his multi-million selling album Everywhere) that spent six weeks lodged in the #1 spot in 1997.
“We had no idea that ‘It’s Your Love’ was going to be as big as it was,” says Tim. “It turned out to be the biggest record I’ve ever had and she’s ever had.”
“It’s Your Love” was named Country Vocal Event Of The Year at The Country Music Awards last Fall, and the couple who fell in love during their Spontaneous Combustion tour a few years ago are performing their song on this year’s Grammy program in New York February 25.
“It’s incredible just to be nominated for a Grammy!” Tim exclaims. “That’s the Superbowl of music! ”
Tim says his co-producer Byron Gallimore first called him about “It’s Your Love” at eight o’ clock in the morning.
“It had to be important for him to call me at eight in the morning,” Tim said dryly. ” But he called me as I was about to get up and go out on the bus. I lived way out in the country at the time, and he came out and played the song on the bus. It was just an incredible song and right away we knew we were cutting it.”
Tim says his wife was with him and fell in love with the song simultaneously, but the couple had no plans to team up in the studio.
“I started doing it acoustically during our show just to see how the reaction would be,” Tim says. “The reaction was great! When we cut the record we cut it as a song just for me. The night before we mixed I got a chance to put Faith in it to sing on it. And her voice was just magic. Nobody can match her.”
The son of baseball legend says there’s only one thing better than being nominated for a Grammy.
“To be nominated with my wife,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if I ever get nominated again or ever win one — to have a chance to win one with her is great.”
Even if they don’t win, Tim hints that on his wife’s upcoming album Faith, due in the Spring from Warner Nashville, he insinuated he’d be returning the favor.
“You might hear me on her next album,” he says coyly. “It’s done, but that’s all I can tell you. That’s my standard answer for the record company.”
McGraw says people are going to be talking about Faith once it’s released.
“Oh, it’s incredible,” says her obviously proud husband. “She co-produced it with Byron Gallimore and Dann Huff, and I think it’s a giant leap for her. People are going to be amazed, I think. She’s just only getting better and better and better.”
Tim also reveals he’s begun scouting songs for his own new album, and hopes to unleash some of them on unsuspecting audiences both in Canada and during his and Faith’s upcoming stadium tour with George Strait.
“We’ve got some new songs to play. We’ve got a few songs to try out to see whether or not they’re going to fit on the new album we’re working on a bit now. It’s a lot of fun doing stuff like that and seeing how the audience likes it.
“I don’t like putting albums out too often,” he continues. “I like to spend a little time finding the right songs. I don’t want to throw them right out there. But I’m always looking for a good song. I guess that’s just the nature of the beast.”
What’s even more impressive is that Tim chooses songs not only for himself, but for the other artists in his production stable, including Jo Dee Messina — whose current hit “Bye Bye Love” is racing up the charts — and the newest addition to his personal roster, The Clarke Family Experience.
And he admits that songs picked for one artist often end up in another’s pocket.
“There’s been songs that I had that Jo Dee’s taken that were pitched to me and vice versa,” Tim explains. “You find the right song for the right person. There are too many songs out there now that you can cut a track, play a song and put any singers you want on it. I think the key to being successful and making good records of longevity I guess — and keep making records — is to find THE song for you, and not just any hit song.”
As for The Clark Family Experience, Tim describes them as “miniature Tom Cruises.”
“They’re 11 brothers — six that can play — but they’re incredible musicians. They’re bluegrass, but the records that they want to cut and where they’re going with their music, it’s going to be a little more mainstream.
“I guess they’re calling it “hi-grass.” I can’t wait for people to hear them.”
Tim, who also owns his own management company, says he can only extend himself with a few more acts, but enjoys the challenge of having a multi-faceted career.
“I want to work, because I love producing and I love making records,” he tells Country Weekly. “I love being on the road. But I don’t want to get too busy with that. I’d like to find a few acts. I’m working with great acts now, and I have a great partner with Byron Gallimore and my production company. Things are going good, and I’d like to get to a point where I make a record every now and then, and maybe even make two records every once in a while.”
There’s also another, more personal motive behind Tim’s “work hard, play later” philosophy.
“We love kids. We want to have more,” he says, speaking on behalf of Faith. “Part of our whole life plan is to work hard while we can, and then raise babies. Fatherhood is incredible.”
He says having a wife in show business isn’t as detrimental as some may think.
“A lot of people thinks it puts us up against each other, but I think it takes all of that away,” he explains. “I think our marriage is more normal than anybody else’s because it cancels out everything that has to do with us making a living. You have to be so involved with it — the kind of business it is. That cancels it out completely.”
He also says the secret to a happy marriage is spending a lot of time together.
“We’re never away from each other for more than three or four days,” says Tim. “When we’re not working, I like to go out to the farm. We have a farm and I go riding. But we’re couch potatoes when we’re not doing stuff. We take short vacations — four or five day vacations — where we find a house somewhere and just `go’.”
A favorite McGraw hotspot is the Caribbean, and this past family Christmas was spent in Hawaii.
“Anywhere the sun is hot, we have fun,” he says.
Although he’s only 30, Tim was a late bloomer when it came to express his musical talent. He attended college on a sports scholarship, but realized early in the game that he neither had the drive or the discipline for an athletic career.
“I don’t think I had the dedication,” says Tim. “I found out real quick when I got to college that they take that a lot more seriously than they did in high school. In high school you could go out and play, and you didn’t care too much about coaching, and you didn’t care too much about doing anything right. You just went on natural ability. To get into college, everybody’s good. So I joined a fraternity and learned how to float kegs. That was my experience in college.”
He didn’t start honing what would eventually become his livelihood until his late teens.
“I didn’t start playing music until my second or third year in college,” Tim admits. “I started learning how to play the guitar, and my roommate would hide my guitar from me until I learned how to play it. Then when girls started liking it, and he wanted to impress a pretty girl, he’d make me bring out my guitar.
“Then I moved to Nashville, more because of the support of my friends and family. That was in 1989.”
Then it was trial by fire.
“When I first burst into Nashville I started playing clubs with the same guys I pretty much have on stage with me now. We had a van and a trailer and we played all over the country, pretty much tiny hole-in-the-wall clubs. We did that pretty much until “Indian Outlaw” came out.”
Tim admits he was lucky he wasn’t shunted off Curb after his 1993 self-titled album Tim McGraw landed with a resounding thud after its release.
“Labels don’t do that anymore,” he acknowledges. “If you don’t have a hit off the bat, the label drops you. I had a great label with Mike Curb who stuck with me and allowed me to do another record the next time around. I was determined to make it work.”
Work it did. Not A Moment Too Soon was a smash, and Tim said he got an inkling that things were changing for the better during a club date in Texas.
“I remember doing ‘Don’t Take The Girl’ at a club in Houston, and the fans started singing it and were drowning us out,” Tim recalls. “The band and I looked at each other and thought, ‘Well, this is going to be a hit.’
“But there isn’t a thing that’s made me think I’ve arrived . I think I’ll be in trouble if I ever get to that point.”
McGraw says the most effective career strategy when dealing with competition is to believe in your own strengths.
“It’s tough out there,” he says. “There’s a lot of people doing this, but you know good music’s going to be good music, what you want to hear. All you can do is go out there and cut things that you and your friends like and be you. Don’t try to be like other people. I think when you try to be like others, it doesn’t work as well.”
He also feels there’s too much fuss about the state of country music. “I think it should go where it wants to go,” Tim states. “Every generation of singers comes in with a different perspective, a different outlook, learning from different kinds of music. It’s always going to constantly change, but I think there’s room for everybody. The fans will let you know when there’s stuff that they don’t hear.”