Tim McGraw Prefers Mystery When Choosing Songs

The very first thing I do when I hear a song, especially one I love from the first listen, is track down its writers. But Tim McGraw is just the opposite — at least when he’s listening to songs that he may or may not want to record.

“I’m terrible with writers,” McGraw said in a recent radio interview. “For one reason, unless you’re friends with them, I never really pay attention to who wrote a song because I think you could be influenced by that when you hear a demo.”

That’s a good approach and one that prevents potential biases during the song selection process.

In 2005, when McGraw was featured on the Warren Brothers‘ CMT series Barely Famous, songwriters Brad and Brett Warren were pitching a song to McGraw. There was an awkward moment when McGraw was giving them feedback. They’re friends, which upped that awkwardness considerably.

McGraw has always said that even though he does write songs, they usually don’t make the album. And it sounds like he still maintains that Nashville songwriters are the better songwriters.

“I’ll write, too, but mine rarely make it onto the record because it’s all about the song to me, and it’s not about whether I wrote it or not,” he admitted. “So I’d rarely look at who wrote a song because I don’t want to be influenced.”

If you scroll through McGraw’s discography since his 1993 debut album, you’ll see a long list of Nashville’s best songwriters. He consistently cuts songs from veterans like Brett James, Craig Wiseman, Brett Beavers, Phil Vassar and others. And since 2002, when he first cut songs from the Warrens, he’s consistently cut their songs, too. “Highway Don’t Care,” “Felt Good on My Lips,” “If You’re Reading This,” “Blank Sheet of Paper” and more. So even though he doesn’t look at the songwriting credits, maybe McGraw can hear those credits when he listens.

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