Music Row turned out Wednesday (Sept. 5) to applaud Tim McGraw and the two writers of his latest No. 1 single, “Grown Men Don’t Cry.” At least that was the focal point. But many also came to toast McGraw’s top-ranking summer tour, just ended, and his three Country Music Association award nominations. A luminously pregnant Faith Hill accompanied her husband through the nearly four hours of gripping and grinning.
The celebration began with a press conference and a reception at the offices of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the performance rights association, and then moved across the street for a cocktail party at the competing Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) complex.
McGraw arrived 10 minutes late for his meeting with reporters, breezing into the ASCAP conference room without an entourage. For the occasion, he wore Levis, a white, form-fitting Rolling Stones Steel Wheels Tour T-shirt and a light blue ball cap. Like the young Garth Brooks , McGraw seemed totally unaffected by his own considerable celebrity. He was low-key, self-deprecating and willing to chat and pose for pictures with anyone who approached him.
McGraw told reporters he was “very proud of the [talent] package” that made his “Tim McGraw on Tour” tour the biggest country draw of the 2001 season. “It felt like a good formula for success,” he said, alluding to a concert lineup that included Kenny Chesney and Mark Collie . “We’ve all been friends for nine or 10 years. … It was almost like a fraternity reunion.”
Now in the running for the CMA entertainer of the year award (as well as for male vocalist and best album), McGraw said his perception of an ideal entertainer is someone who knows how to have fun on stage while feeding off the crowd’s energy. He cited among his favorites Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, Aerosmith, George Strait , Celine Dion and Elton John.
“I think I’ve got my hands full right now,” McGraw said in response to a question about whether he wanted to branch out from music by acting, writing a book or taking up some other activity. He noted he will be “spending a lot of time recording” next year. He added that he still isn’t doing much songwriting. “The best song I’ve written,” he explained, “was with Faith and [daughters] Gracie and Maggie on the back porch.”
He said he and Hill don’t know if their third child will be another daughter or their first son. But he did promise that if it is a boy it will not be named Tim Jr.
McGraw declined to rise to the bait when asked about his quarrel with his label, Curb Records. “I’m not at odds with them,” he said. “I just like to do things my own way.” Last year, McGraw complained publicly about Curb releasing a greatest hits package instead of his new album, Set This Circus Down, which the label held up until this spring.
Told by a reporter that People magazine will list him as one of its “best-dressed” celebrities in an upcoming issue, McGraw said he had not heard about the honor but that it was “cool.” He attributed any improvement in his dress to his wife.
Turning to the subject at hand — his success with “Grown Men Don’t Cry” — McGraw said, “It’s hard to talk about that song without tearing up.” Following the press conference, ASCAP officials presented awards to Steve Seskin, co-writer of the song, his publishing company, McGraw and McGraw’s co-producer, Byron Gallimore. “I want to thank Tim,” Seskin said, “for singing the song like he meant it.”
Hill, her hair cropped short, stood unobtrusively at the edge of the crowd during the presentation. Looking very casual, she wore a light-blue sleeveless, knee-length dress and pink flat shoes.
Tom Douglas, Seskin’s co-writer on “Grown Men Don’t Cry,” took the spotlight at the BMI ceremonies. BMI representative David Preston explained that Douglas had asked that the celebration of the song going No. 1 be delayed until McGraw had finished his tour. After accepting his own award for the song, Douglas and his two children presented ornamental Mexican plates they had made to McGraw and his support team.
James Stroud, who co-produces McGraw with Gallimore, offered the celebrants an upbeat assessment of the state of country music. “We hear these goofy, sad stories about our business,” he said, “and then our heroes [like Tim and Faith] show up … We have the best artists, songwriters and producers in the world.”
McGraw wrapped up the proceedings by praising the songwriters who “every day … write their lives, write their feelings, write their hopes and dreams down.” After a final round of handshakes and snapshots, McGraw and Hill stood for a moment talking together at the BMI entrance. Then he drove off in his black jeep and she in her black Mercedes.