When Tim McGraw and Faith Hill began planning a concert to raise money for flood relief efforts in Nashville and Middle Tennessee, they asked their friends to help. Those friends are gathering Tuesday night (June 22) for one of the biggest country music shows to ever hit Nashville.
The concert, Nashville Rising: A Benefit for Flood Recovery, will feature Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley Cyrus, Montgomery Gentry, Amy Grant, Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Martina McBride, LeAnn Rimes, Julie Roberts, Blake Shelton, Michael W. Smith, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and ZZ Top.
The sold-out concert at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena is projected to raise between $2 million and $3 million for the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee in its efforts to rebuild lives disrupted by the disaster.
During a Monday afternoon (June 21) interview session with syndicated radio reporters, McGraw and Hill said the devastation that hit Middle Tennessee also served as a reminder of the spirit of the community.
“It’s so tragic what happened to this city, but it couldn’t have happened at a better place — if it was going to have to happen — because the community in this town just pulls together in a way like I’ve never seen anyplace,” Hill said.
“It’s a very hardworking town,” McGraw noted. “Everybody works hard here. It’s grown a lot since I’ve been here, but it’s still a small town, really, at its core. When you’re in a small town, if you don’t know somebody, you feel like you do. The neighborhoods are so tight. Instantly, with no thought about it, everybody was helping each other. I think the reason there wasn’t a lot of press about it is that there wasn’t looting, people weren’t breaking into people’s houses. People were taking care of each other.”
McGraw said the fundraising concert was the one thing they knew they could do to help.
“It’s what we do,” he said. “We’re not brain surgeons. We’re not the smartest people in the world.”
“Speak for yourself,” Hill interjected with a laugh.
“Well, you’re pretty smart,” McGraw replied. “You married me. Yeah, right. … But what we can do is we can organize something like this. We’ve got great people who work for us who do a great job of organizing things. We’ve got friends who, if we call them up, will show up to do this. Plus, they live here, and they want to help their community, too.”
Regardless of anyone’s income or extent of their loss, fans and country artists have a shared experience as a result of the flood that hit the area in early May. Hill said the concert will reflect that.
“I think it’s going to unify this town even more,” she said. “I feel like there’s going to be a sense that we’ve all experienced something together. I know there’s a lot of people coming from out of town, but there’s also a lot of people from Nashville and the surrounding area that will be at the show. … Some of the people performing on the stage lost everything, equipment-wise. And the people in the audience, there’s going to be a lot out there who have lost a lot of things.
“So I think it’s one of those rare moments that we’ve experienced the same thing and can relate to something that has brought us all together. …. There’s a lot of hardships out there still, and there will be for months, if not years, to come for a lot of people. But we’re going to try to give them a great show. All of us love this town so much. I think you’ll see that great sense of pride and community.”
Although McGraw says they began initial plans for the concert while the flood water was still rising, they wanted to schedule the concert when it would be most beneficial to the community.
“We knew there were other things [fundraisers] going on, and we didn’t want to get in anybody’s way, of course,” he said. “It’s better to spread them all out so everybody can raise the most money. But we felt there would be a point where it sort of seemed like people might have lost a little interest. We wanted to be right at the edge of that point where we could remind everyone that there’s still people who need help out there.
“Also, it gives you a good idea of who’s falling through the cracks when you wait a little bit longer to raise money. You sort of see how it’s unfolding. There’s some FEMA help and insurance companies — who knows what’s going to happen with that — but there are people who are not going to fill their papers out right or they’re not going to get stuff turned in on time. There are going to be people who never filled out papers at all. They’re going to fall through the cracks. It’s probably a good thing that it’s a little farther away from the actual event so you can see what’s going on.”
All of the performers at the concert are expected to perform two songs each with backing from McGraw’s band, the Dancehall Doctors.
“They’re learning all these songs,” he said. “They’ve been rehearsing over the last two or three weeks at soundchecks while we’ve been on the road. When we’ve been off the road for a day or two, they went straight into rehearsal halls and learned songs. They’ve been working hard, and I’m proud of them.”
McGraw says his band members see the concert as their way to contribute to the cause, although he also suggests they could have an additional motive.
“They’re having fun,” he said. “They’re tired of me. They get to work with somebody else for a change.”