Man of Many Talents

If nothing else, country superstar Tim McGraw has earned the right to record the music he wants, when he wants and with whom he wants.
Sure, his lengthy career is proof of his overwhelming success, including numerous trips up the music charts with hit album after hit album, and tours that have been experienced by millions of fans, but there’s no doubt the pressure always has been there to do more and more.
These days, McGraw takes pleasure in his time spent in the studio, making his kind of musical art, simply for the joy of making art. He also likes that the music isn’t sitting on a shelf waiting to see the light of day.
Case in point, his latest singles, “Thought About You,” and “Neon Church,” from the album of the same name were both recently released.
“I love that there are no rules anymore and I can give fans more music at once,” he said. “I really felt that both these songs were ready to be heard and will absolutely give a sense of where I’m going with my next project.
“They’re meaningful to me and show the diversity of what I’ve been working on musically,” he added.
The lead radio single “Neon Church” was written by Ben Goldsmith, Ben Stennis and Ross Ellis. From the opening line of “I need Jesus or I need whiskey” listeners will immediately get a sense of a classic country theme, still relevant even in 2019.
“There’s not a misplaced word in ‘Neon Church,’ ” explains McGraw.
The second track “Thought About You” was written by Lee Thomas Miller, Brad Warren and Brett Warren. The lyrics take the listener on an emotional journey about lost love and opportunity weaving McGraw’s signature vocals with a powerful message.
“If anything’s going to set up a story, ‘Neon Church’ will,” McGraw said about the song.
“‘Neon Church’ paints a picture of sort of the hard-charging that this album has,” McGraw said about the new tones and sounds his fans will hear on the next batch of music. “We pushed the envelope a lot on it, but I think it also sets the mood for great storytelling. That’s what this album is really full of.
“And sonically, we wanted it to sound really big and cinematic. But we also wanted to tell great stories and have these great vignettes throughout the album.”
“The cool thing about ‘Thought About You’ is that it brings something, or someone, different to mind for everyone who hears it,” McGraw said. “It might be a loved one you saw yesterday, an old friend you haven’t spoken to in years or someone you know you’ll never see again.
“For the lyric video, we worked with art director J.P. Robinson who helped us find stories of friendship, love and loss that we could follow over time. There are some really special stories in those photos,” McGraw added.
McGraw also recently released the highly anticipated music video for “Neon Church,” first premiering in New York City’s Times Square on CMT’s Billboard and the CMT Hot 20 Countdown.
The video, directed by Shane Drake, brings the song’s lyrics to life. Viewers are introduced to a mysterious town where the local residents find solace from the isolation of their daily lives in the community of the local bar. Poetically guided by McGraw’s performance amidst a cascading barrage of neon lit signage, the church-like rituals unfold. When the locals disperse back to their solitary lives, the video reveals something magical about who these people really are and what lies beneath the surface.
“Shane and I talked a lot about the depth and meaning of ‘Neon Church.’ The song has a lot of grit, and there’s a darkness to it. So we wanted the video to carry some of that darkness and moodiness,” McGraw explained. “But you also have the neon… the light. Neon light is literally the calling card to a bar — you also have the human light that calls people to be together. We’re all a little broken, but that doesn’t mean we don’t each carry some light.”
McGraw’s strong work ethic always has been at the core of everything he does — recording poignant music that means something to his fans while creating music that tells the story of the common man — all the while traveling the world to deliver his songs to the people who can’t seem to get enough.
McGraw most recently spent two years touring with his wife, Grammy Award-winning artist Faith Hill, on the blockbuster Soul2Soul Tour in support of their first-ever album together, “The Rest Of Our Life.”
From barbecue stains on white T-shirts to highways that don’t care, McGraw has built his career on chart-topping country songs that celebrate the sights, sounds, and stories of American people.
He’s a singer, a performer and a storyteller who pulls his audience into a world where the green grass grows, the wind blows by, and the stars go blue. It’s been a few years since his last studio album, “Sundown Heaven Town” released in 2014, so it was time to put out new music.
It’s been 24 years since McGraw scored his first No. 1 hit with “Don’t Take the Girl,” a song that kicked off a string of multi-platinum albums, 54 Top 10 singles, multiple ACM and CMA Awards, and millions of concert tickets sold across North America. “Sundown Heaven Town” pays tribute to those two decades, putting a new stamp on all of the sounds — the revved-up country rockers, the nostalgic ballads, the down-home numbers — that have made McGraw one of the best-selling country artists of the modern era.
Taking his devoted fans in different directions as he explores his own musical journey, McGraw often makes stops off the beaten path, mixing old sounds with new twists, organic with the electric, but it’s still a country record for all generations — something fans have come to expect from someone who’s been at the top of the genre since 1994.
A family man and devoted husband, McGraw also shines a light on his softer side. McGraw may look larger than life while standing onstage. But when he sings about heartache, he sounds just as vulnerable as the rest of us. Maybe that’s why bringing out the storyteller on this latest project was crucial to his evolution as an artist.
More than anything else, it’s proof that artists can sound contemporary without chasing after current trends. After all, trends don’t last — but songs do, and McGraw has an arsenal of hits that have become classics of the country and pop music genres, which probably surprise the big guy himself.
Ten of his albums have reached No. 1 on the top country albums charts, with his breakthrough album “Not a Moment Too Soon” being the top country album of 1994. These albums have produced more than 50 singles, 25 of which have reached No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs or Country Airplay charts. Three of his singles — “It’s Your Love,” “Just to See You Smile,” and “Live Like You Were Dying” — were the top country songs of 1997, 1998, and 2004 respectively. “Just to See You Smile” also set a record for the longest run on the country charts at the time, at 42 weeks.
McGraw recorded two duets with his wife, in the late 1990s, both of which appeared on her albums. “Just to Hear You Say That You Love Me,” off of her multi-platinum 1998 album “Faith,” which reached the top five of the U.S. country charts, while her follow-up and 1999 album “Breathe” featured “Let’s Make Love,” which won a Grammy Award in 2000 for Best Country Vocal Collaboration.
McGraw has won three Grammys, 14 Academy of Country Music awards, 11 Country Music Association awards, 10 American Music Awards and three People’s Choice Awards. His Soul2Soul II Tour with Hill is the highest-grossing tour in country music history, and one of the Top 5 among all genres of music.
In 2016, McGraw and Hill were selected as part of a group of 30 artists to perform on “Forever Country,” a single and video mash up of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You. The project was in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Country Music Awards.
McGraw’s talents don’t stop in the world of country music. He has ventured into acting and has surprised even some of the toughest critics with his believability in the variety of roles he has tackled thus far.
His first acting appearance came in a 1997 episode of “The Jeff Foxworthy Show,” where he played Foxworthy’s rival.
McGraw played a sheriff in Rick Schroder’s independent release Black Cloud in 2004. Later in the same year, McGraw received critical acclaim as the overbearing father of a running back in the major studio Texas high school football drama “Friday Night Lights.” The Dallas Observer said the role was “played with unexpected ferocity by country singer Tim McGraw.” The movie went on to gross more than $60 million worldwide at the box office, and sold millions in the DVD market. Recently, it was named one of the Top 50 High School Movies of All Time (No. 37), by Entertainment Weekly.
McGraw’s first lead role was in the film “Flicka,” which was released in theaters in October 2006. He played the father, Rob, costarring with Alison Lohman and Maria Bello. The family-friendly movie debuted in the top 10 list and has grossed more than $25 million at the box office. McGraw again achieved critical acclaim for his acting and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006. His star is at 6901 Hollywood Blvd. near stars in the sidewalk honoring Julie Andrews, William Shatner and the late Greta Garbo.
In addition to acting in “Flicka,” McGraw served as executive producer of the soundtrack album, which was released by his record label, StyleSonic Records, in association with Curb Records and Fox 2000 films. It featured the closing credit song “My Little Girl”, one of the first two songs that McGraw recorded that he also co-wrote (the other being “I’ve Got Friends That Do,” both of which were included on Greatest Hits Vol. 2). The song was nominated by the Broadcast Film Critics for “Best Song” in a film, and the movie was nominated in the category “Best Family Film (Live Action).”
Arguably one of his best roles was in the 2009 film “The Blind Side” as Sean Tuohy, husband of Sandra Bullock’s character, Leigh Anne Tuohy. The film is based on the true story of Michael Oher, a homeless African-American youngster from a broken home, taken in by the Tuohys, who help him fulfill his potential. For her performance, Bullock won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
In 2010, McGraw starred in “Country Strong” as James Canter, the husband and manager of the fictional country singer Kelly Canter (portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow). In addition to his appearance in the film, McGraw’s song “Southern Voice” was played during the closing credits.
So no matter what “role” McGraw tackles — singer, songwriter, actor, philanthropist, family man — it’s a sure bet he dives in with both feet and gives everything he has, having a hell of a good time along the way. Besides, it might make for a good story and the perfect lyric for a song sometime in the near future.


TIM MCGRAW

Laughlin Event Center

Saturday, Feb. 23 (8 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for ticket info