Just ask country hit-man Tim McGraw if he can spell E-X-C-I-T-E-M-E-N-T. Great chances are his answer will be a full-fledged “yes.” Then ask the 30-year-old Louisiana native to spell it quickly, and he’ll be able to do that, too.
If anyone has juggled the many thrills of excitement in a short amount of time, it’s this multi-million record seller — who’s now wearing the hats of entertainer, producer, husband and most recently, father. And with wearing more hats comes several additional responsibilities, all of which McGraw feels quite capable of handling just fine.
“Oh, I love changing diapers,” he admits, “and I’m good at it.”
It was following the steamy, publicized courtship with former tour-mate Faith Hill in 1996, during his critically-praised Spontaneous Combustion Tour, that the couple eventually made the official walk down the aisle. Soon afterwards, came another walk down to the hospital delivery room. Baby girl Gracie Katherine made her world debut on May 5 at 8:12 a.m. — arriving three and a half weeks early, weighing 4-pounds-14 ounces.
The quiet-natured McGraw is no stranger to such excitement entering his life. He’s already launched a string of hits and top-selling albums; garnered multiple industry accolades; and can boast having one of the hottest concert tickets in the business.
Another hot item in the world of music is McGraw’s latest Curb Records album, entitled Everywhere. The disc marks a first time for the artist to lend a hand in producing his own sessions — sharing the console with stellar producers Byron Gallimore and James Stroud. For his second time around, McGraw is again wearing the producer’s hat for label-mate Jo Dee Messina. The “Heads Carolina, Tails California” singer’s sophomore disc is slated for a late summer release.
As an in-demand entertainer, a producer and new father, McGraw is certain to feel the pressure of new responsibilities. He has, however, developed a coping plan that proves to be effective.
“I just really have to keep it all in perspective,” admits McGraw about everything. “I’ve just got a lot of great people around me–my band, my crew, my management and my friends. There’s everybody like that there. And all these people in my band and my friends were there even way back before I ever had a hit record. You just have to keep in perspective that it’s what you do for a living, rather than thinking it’s all just about you.
“Anytime I almost let my head blow up a little, there’s someone around who can knock it back down,” he laughs. “I’d say that didn’t happen much,” he laughs even more, “but some of them would probably tell you a different story.”
Although much of what brought this spit-fire entertainer to the party in the first place is still evident, there is a slightly different story to McGraw’s new Everywhere album.
“I don’t know if there will be any major surprises, but then there are probably a few on this album,” he explains. “We’ve always tried to stretch the envelope a little bit and experiment with what I can do vocally. I think the biggest surprise would be is that on some of the songs I’ve really gone back to my roots. I’ve done the stuff that made me first love country music and the kind of stuff that made me want to be a singer and move to Nashville. It’s songs that are more country than even some of the stuff that I usually do. I’m just real proud of it.”
McGraw should be proud. He’s quickly become one of the most sought out artists from both a fan and industry perspective. The anticipation for the release of his new Everywhere project fell right into the same pocket as one from perhaps Garth Brooks or Reba McEntire — highly anticipated. For McGraw, the real work is in trying to always be fresh and offer something new and different.
“I think the key is to always focus on the type of music that I want to make and the music that I want to hear,” he explains. “I love all kinds of music and I love a lot of the other artists that are out there. But I don’t concentrate on what they’re all doing. I just kinda keep a clear focus on what it is that I want to do and the music I want to make. So I look for songs that really fit what I do.”
The serious showman is also revved up about fitting in a new stage show this year as well. Once again, his enormous fan base can expect a few changes in what’s already one of the most explosive shows around.
“We’re going to be on the road all summer playing at all the fairs and festivals,” confirms McGraw. “Then in September we start touring with all of our new lights, a new stage and all of that stuff. Right now, we’re pretty much in the planning process of the new stage. We have a few things drawn up along with some new ideas. We don’t want to get away from what we’ve been doing, but it’s all going to be pretty exciting.”
Pretty exciting is an understatement regarding the response that McGraw is receiving from the new album’s first single, “It’s Your Love,” a power-packed ballad that features the explosive vocals of wife Faith. Both McGraw and Hill debuted the song live for millions of viewers during the 32nd Academy of Country Music Awards show. The single has since hit the No. 1 slot on country radio and continues to wear out stereo speakers across the world.
“It wasn’t really actually planned,” explains McGraw about recording the song as a duet. “I had the song for quite a while and had been doing it live when I was on tour with Faith. We’d been doing it with just an acoustic guitar. Then about a week before we started mixing the new album, we started playing around with the idea of Faith actually singing on it. The day before we started mixing the record, we only had about an hour and a half to go back in and finish it up. Faith was already seven months pregnant and could barely catch her breath, but we went on in and laid down the vocals. Afterwards, we all looked at each other and just felt like we had some magic there. It just wouldn’t have been the same record without Faith.”
With a long country music history which includes such famous guy/girl and quite often husband/wife duets, such as George and Tammy, Loretta and Conway and Johnny and June, McGraw is not committing to any future duet plans with his new singing partner. He’s not, however, ruling the possibility out either.
“We both have our own careers,” he admits, “and we’re both very focused on them and how we want them to progress. But we do realize that we are a couple. So if something else comes along that we like, then we’re not opposed to doing it. We definitely don’t want to make a career out of doing that (duets) right now.”
The singer is quick, however, to commit to his new family, despite a few inconvenient changes that may have rolled into the picture.
“I think those late nights being up with the baby is the main thing you have to learn to deal with,” he laughs. “Faith said the funniest thing when we first came home from the hospital. When we were leaving, she looked at me and said, ’Do you think they realize that they just let us walk out of that hospital with a baby?’
“But it’s been incredible,” he continues. “I’ve learned so much from watching Faith already. She’s just a natural at being a mother. And I think I love just knowing that somebody needs me so much — knowing that this little person couldn’t get along or even survive in this world without me or her mother. That’s just the most incredible feeling.”
With a new family, four multi-million selling albums and a hit-list that includes such radio wonders as “Indian Outlaw,” “Don’t Take The Girl,” “I Like It, I Love It,” “Not A Moment Too Soon” and “It’s Your Love” under his belt, McGraw is undoubtedly in love with life.
“I guess we all have this image of how we want our lives to be,” ponders McGraw. “Mine has very much exceeded any image I could have ever put together in my head. I just can’t imagine how I can be so lucky.”