OFFSTAGE: The Emotional Highs of Being a Tim McGraw Protégé

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

Oh, to be 18 and have Tim McGraw steering your career. That’s the life Dakota Bradley is living right now. McGraw is producing Bradley’s debut album, due out sometime this summer, with the lead single “Somethin’ Like Somethin’.” That’s quite a step in the right direction, so I asked Bradley what it all felt like.

It was overwhelming when he first heard his song on the radio.

“I was just in the car, coming back from the beach down in Tampa,” he told me. “It was weird hearing myself on the radio at a random time. I’d heard myself a million times, but hearing it on the radio was very surreal. I got that feeling like butterflies in my stomach.”

He also had a similar experience the first time he performed in front of McGraw.

“When I first played for Tim, my heart was pounding,” he said. “It was so unbelievable. And I only played him two songs. And he looked at me and he was playing air drums, and I knew I had him going. That was the day that changed my whole life.”

Bradley was still anxious when he began recording with McGraw.

“The night before the session I couldn’t sleep at all,” he said. “I thought, ’My God. What am I doing? I’m only 18. I still live with my mom. What’s it gonna be like the second he walks in?’ But it felt natural because he just makes me feel like he’s one of the guys. He does not act like he’s Tim McGraw. That’s what’s cool about him.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.