After enjoying major success together with hits such as “My Little Girl” and “Grown Men Don’t Cry,” Tim McGraw and songwriter Tom Douglas are continuing to expand their presence in the children’s book market with the recent publication of Love Your Heart.
The two co-wrote the book after publishing a similar project, My Little Girl, in 2008. Love Your Heart’s heroine is Katie, who hopes to win her school’s talent show. At the show, she drops out of the contest to help her friend, demonstrating that kindness is the best talent of all.
During a particularly lighthearted interview, McGraw and Douglas talked to CMT Insider’s Allison DeMarcus about working together.
CMT: Tell me a little bit about the book and an overview of the story line.
Douglas: What book are you talking about?
Douglas: Tim and I collaborated on a song in his movie, Flicka, and the song was called “My Little Girl.” And out of that has grown an entire industry. We’ve collaborated on a children’s book called My Little Girl that was the first, and then this is the second in the series — called Love Your Heart. It’s been a real fun collaboration for me. It probably hasn’t for Tim, but it’s been fun for me.
McGraw: Tom does all the heavy lifting. I get to throw in some stuff every now and then, but he really gets down. He gets out his Thomas Jefferson notebook and writes all the stuff down. But it has been a lot of fun. It’s fun to write something that fathers can share with their daughters — told from a father-daughter point of view. There’s not many of those books, especially books that you can read in a few minutes. So to have something like that — that a father can share with his daughter — was a big impetus for me to want to do it.
Did you know when you wrote the song for the movie that this would all come about?
McGraw: I think Tom probably had more of an idea. It was all his idea to do it.
Douglas: Well, we have a publisher, Thomas Nelson, who’s real helpful with conceptualizing it. And we had great illustrators, so the whole thing kind of takes a life of its own. You see the words come to life with the illustrations, and it is a chance for us as fathers to detach and turn off the technology and just have a one-on-one moment with our child. That really was kind of the impetus. Tim and I both love books. Our daughters love to read, so it’s been fun to be a part of that whole process.
In a children’s book you don’t really get to use a lot of words, but in songwriting you get to really paint this picture. Was that difficult for you since you’re used to songwriting instead of writing books?
McGraw: For me. Because I don’t know a lot of words. To not be able to use a lot of words worked out pretty damn well. Absolutely. (laughs)
Tell me about this character and kind of what she goes through.
McGraw: She’s a very unique little girl. She’s a very confident little girl, which, for me, is important. … Confidence is always a big issue with girls. And you want strong, confident daughters because they’re gonna have to deal with a lot. You want them to be prepared for it, so I think it was important to have a character who was very confident and comfortable with herself and her idiosyncrasies and her little strange things that she likes to do and her uniqueness. Katie is one of those characters. She’s a unique little girl. She’s very interesting and very interested in things and a very confident little girl.
Douglas: Yeah, she’s a combination probably. We’ve got five girls between us, so it’s probably a combination of all those little girls that we’ve known and loved.
How how does it work when you do a project like this? Do you e-mail back and forth? Do you lock yourselves in a room? Do you talk on the phone?
McGraw: I think it’s more talking on the phone, and when we run into each other, we talk.
Douglas: We’ve kind of developed a cool working relationship. We know each other pretty well. There are obvious similarities. I’m a lot more handsome than Tim, but other than that … . (laughs)
McGraw: It’s true, it’s true.
Douglas: No, but we kind of know how each other’s minds work. We’ve collaborated on songs and the first book, so it’s a pretty natural progression.
McGraw: Every now and then, I’ll get a manila envelope in the mail with some torn-out sheets from a binder notebook.
And that’s him? Not being able to sleep … writing down all his thoughts?
Douglas: When I’ve been institutionalized, I just write things. (laughs)
What are your strengths are as a team?
Douglas: Well, I just draft off Tim. I find the most famous person I can and just draft off the celebrity. That really has been the key to my success.
McGraw: I just suck all of the artistic integrity out of him.
So it all works?
McGraw:Yeah. It works. It’s a very symbiotic relationship.
Douglas: It works. It works perfectly. I keep making my mortgage payment, and the bank’s happy.