Visitors to the new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum can enjoy lots of extraordinary film footage, both new and vintage, in the $37 million facility. Kicking off the debut of the museum’s Star Experience Theater is a behind-the-scenes film that looks into the life of country superstar Tim McGraw .
Shot last year during McGraw’s Soul 2 Soul Tour with wife Faith Hill , "Star Experience With Tim McGraw" features interviews with the singer, concert footage and offstage scenes of the superstar with his wife, children and band members. Interviews with McGraw’s road crew — including a traveling chef — give viewers an insider’s understanding of the vast amount of work and expertise necessary to mount a major arena tour. Also captured in the film are the family-like closeness and backstage humor of McGraw and his entourage.
Most revealing of all is footage of McGraw and Hill on the road with their two young daughters, Gracie and Maggie. The blond toddlers are shown in candid scenes with their superstar parents, and in one instance, little Gracie herself mans the video camera, resulting in some spontaneous kid’s footage.
The film was produced by Kim Palmer and directed by Thom Oliphant of The Collective, the Nashville-based film and television company Oliphant runs with his partners Susan Bowman and Steven Goldmann. (The Collective also is responsible for "This Moment in Country," another film in the museum.)
McGraw was the perfect subject for the insider’s story he wanted to film, Oliphant says. "We wanted to have something that really went behind the scenes of a star that we hadn’t seen before," he explains. "When we heard that Tim and Faith were going on tour in the course of the summer, we found that they essentially take their family life on the road. We thought that would be an interesting approach, to have the concert stuff, the road stuff, but also get into what his family life is like, what it’s like to live out there for months at a time. It was really about trying to let Tim and Faith tell their own story, to let Tim give his point of view of what it’s like to be a dad on the road who also happens to be a superstar."
Oliphant says he was struck by McGraw’s and Hill’s dedication to preserving family life even while on tour. "They had one whole truck that was just dedicated to couches and rugs and toys, things that would make their kids feel there was a sense of normalcy on the road," he explains. "Of all the concert stuff I’ve shot in my life, I’d never seen that before. It was amazing to see one whole truck dedicated to replicating their home life as much as possible."
There’s plenty of concert footage of McGraw — including a clip of him and Hill dueting on "It’s Your Love" — as well as McGraw cavorting with his crew members during a game of pick-up football. But most touching are scenes that show the famous parents interacting with their children, from eating together as a family on the road to importing a petting zoo for Maggie’s birthday party.
"It’s so much a part of who Tim and Faith are and what they’re about — it’s not an act," observes Oliphant. "Of course there’s the side of the fan that thinks Faith is beautiful, and the other side of the fan that thinks Tim is sexy. But the underlying magic of both of them — it’s certainly what made that tour work with them together — was the fact that there were so many signs in the crowd that said ’Say Hi To Gracie.’ People know that Tim and Faith are married people, that they’re parents on the road, and fans can absolutely identify with it. It’s a real testament to how to make your work life and your family life work together. I think there’s a lesson in it for nine-to-fivers like all of us."
The 23-minute film, which runs continuously throughout the day, manages to capture both the professional and private sides of an entertainer’s life. For Oliphant, the fact that McGraw and Hill have risen to the top of the country world without sacrificing their personal life is a unique testament to their marriage. "I was really struck by the energy of Tim’s music, the electricity that was in the arena as he performed," Oliphant says.
"But also, I really was amazed by how two people can carry on a relationship and raise a family with essentially every aspect of their life in the public eye, and seemingly do it very, very normally — not affected, not with an army of nannies and handlers to take the responsibility on. They really seemed to do it as real parents, and then for two hours a night [they] stand up there in front of 20,000 people and just let it out. That was really amazing."