Country artists continue to recognize the music that shaped their lives with CMT All-Time Top 40: Artist’s Choice . One by one, the countdown of influential artists is revealed each week on CMT Hot 20 Countdown , starting with No. 40 and concluding with No. 1 in December.
Each influential musician or band is ranked based on an artist poll conducted by CMT among the biggest stars in country music. The ballot isn’t limited to just country artists, so over the course of 2014, CMT All-Time Top 40 will highlight artists from all genres that influence country’s biggest names.
McGraw arrives at No. 38 on the list.
“He’s a big influence on us,” said Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley. “He took us out early in our career, and we got to open up for him and kind of watch to see how it’s done. [He’s a] great example to us about constantly putting out great music. And he pushes the boundaries, too. He’ll take chances in his music. It’s changed over the years, and I think that’s an important lesson for us, as well, to constantly push ourselves and mix it up and not let the fans get too bored of us.”
The Band Perry also had the opportunity to open for McGraw early on.
“We don’t get starstruck by too many people,” said Neil Perry. “But Tim McGraw, he’s got that legendary feeling when you’re in his presence. He’s commanding.”
“I think Tim McGraw has golden ears,” Kimberly Perry continued. “The guy knows a hit song. And not only a hit song, but one that’s gonna last his entire career, lifetime and all of our lifetimes.”
Evans couldn’t agree more.
“I feel like he is the best song guy,” she said. “He chooses and/or writes the best songs and knows exactly what to release as singles. … He went into that really awesome phase where he did ‘The Cowboy in Me’ and then did ‘Angry All the Time.’ He’s very, very good at playing the bad boy, in terms of his songs selection and then how he portrays himself. Or maybe he is a bad boy, I don’t know, but he’s awesome.
“He just has it all, he’s the entire package. … He has great style. He’s very handsome. He’s authentic. You don’t feel like he’s faking it. … And then, in his live show, I think obviously the main thing is that the women just go crazy, you know? He’s got this great stage presence.”
For Gilbert, McGraw has embodied a true country superstar offstage, as well.
“Tim has actually been an influence on me personally,” Gilbert said. “This is not to take anything away from the star he is onstage, but the star he is in the public eye? He is a superstar in every meaning of the word. … I have a tremendous amount of respect for who he is on and offstage. [McGraw has] no shame about the way he does things. He’s upfront about it, and he knows a lot about the business. But, you know, he knows a lot about life, too. He went down a pretty rough road.”
But ultimately, Gilbert says only one thing matters.
“The songs don’t get old,” he said. “The style doesn’t get old. It’s Tim McGraw.”
Tune in to CMT Hot 20 Countdown each week to check out others on the list of CMT All-Time Top 40: Artist’s Choice. The new episode airs Saturday and Sunday (March 29-30) at 11 a.m. ET/PT.