Tim McGraw Reflects on a Spectacular Year

Latest Accomplishments Will Be Highlighted During 2013 CMT Artists of the Year Special

Tim McGraw is certainly no stranger to awards and accolades and 2013 has proven to be yet another pivotal period for the superstar. On Dec. 3, he’ll join Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Hunter Hayes and Florida Georgia Line as the honorees at the CMT Artists of the Year special.

He began the year with the release of Two Lanes of Freedom, his 12th studio album and his first for Big Machine Label Group.

“I always want to go in and try to make the best record that I can make — no matter what the circumstances are,” he told CMT Hot 20 Countdown . “But I felt like in this situation, I could go in now and see some light. I knew that the record was going to get put out when I wanted it put out. There was going to be a system and a plan. So I really felt that I had a chance to really do something after the music was recorded. Going into it, it felt like there was sort of a sense of freedom to go in there and record because you knew what was going to happen after.”

Two Lanes of Freedom netted the current hit single “Southern Girl,” as well as “One of Those Nights” and “Highway Don’t Care.” The latter is a collaboration with fellow country heavyweights Taylor Swift and Keith Urban.

“They bring so much energy to the song,” he said. “When you have someone like Taylor — who is probably one of the biggest stars in the world — and Keith — who’s right up there with her — the energy that they both bring with the crowd and how they react to it, it’s always something pretty special.”

In early November, “Highway Don’t Care” won McGraw his 13th and 14th CMA Awards, including music video and musical event of the year. He also knew “Southern Girl” was sure to be a fan favorite.

“I think we played seven or eight songs off the new album on the tour this summer,” McGraw said. “And that one just really stuck out with the reaction we got from fans. More than anything, it just felt like summertime. We knew it would be playing on the radio right at the end of summer when it was really hot and everyone was going back to school. It just sort of fit the time that it would be out.”

After his Two Lanes of Freedom tour wrapped this summer, McGraw and his superstar wife Faith Hill returned to Las Vegas for additional performances of their Soul2Soul show at the Venetian.

“We had a good time doing it,” he said. “We weren’t sure that we would go back just because of how busy our life was, but they made it so easy for us and they treated us so well. Ultimately, I get to sing with her for 10 weekends, which we don’t get to do very often anymore. This is really the only chance we get to sing together, and I get the best of both worlds.”

Along with McGraw, this year’s four other honorees include Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line. For the first time, the CMT Artists of the Year special will premiere live on CMT and CMT.com. The show airs Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. ET.

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