When Tim McGraw says he’s always been a fan of album covers, I have to wonder what he thinks of his own. Like, does he treasure that image of himself on the front of his 1993 self-titled debut album the same way I do? The one where he’s totally owning that deep red sport coat (possibly with shoulder pads — go ’90s!), a white T-shirt, a black hat, jeans and a Western belt? With a moustache and a mullet?
If you look up and down the timeline of McGraw’s albums, it’s like a photo album of the last two decades of country music styles and influences. He gets that, and it sounds like that’s exactly why he puts so much thought into each one.
“You know, they say don’t judge a book by its cover. But a lot of times an album cover is something that you’ll remember and something that’s iconic and also makes you remember the music and also makes you think of the music and all those kinds of things,” McGraw said in a recent interview. “I think I’ve always been a big fan of album covers, and so I’ve always tried to put a lot of work into that throughout my career.”
He called album covers “statements” and said that each one can be a “piece of art.”
“I don’t want anybody to look at that and say there’s not some effort that was involved in that,” he said.
Of course, I remember the music on each album most of all, but the images on the covers are stuck in my head as well.
Not a Moment Too Soon: Puffy black blouse. Serious look in his eyes.
All I Want: He must’ve borrowed an outfit from Blake Shelton for this. Plaid shirt, faded jeans, and he’s looking off into the distance.
Everywhere: This was McGraw’s first extreme close-up, albeit one of only half of his chiseled face. It looks like it was taken yesterday. I swear, the man just doesn’t age.
A Place in the Sun: Classic McGraw. Blue shirt with black jacket and that pensive look on his face.
Set This Circus Down: Cool shot of an old circus tent in a field. But there was no photo of McGraw, so let’s never speak of it again.
Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors: Not much to see here. Just his stubbly chin and hairy chest. So perhaps the sexiest album cover of his career.
Live Like You Were Dying: He was channeling the man in black for this one. Shiny black — head to toe. And the first time since Not a Moment Too Soon 10 years prior where he’s actually looking into the camera.
Let It Go: Let what go? Your shirt? I’m sure there was a tank top on him somewhere, but in my mind, this was the album cover of his bare arms.
Southern Voice: If there was a universally-flattering look for every man on planet Earth, this would be it. A crisp white T-shirt, a black cowboy hat and smoldery eyes.
Emotional Traffic: Too dark, too many shadows and not enough McGraw. There’s a black hat, obviously, but that’s about all I can make out.
Two Lanes of Freedom: Black fitted shirt, black cowboy hat and the very first glimpse at the body he’d been working so hard on.
For his brand new album, Sundown Heaven Town, McGraw went back to basics. He is in virtually the very same outfit from Southern Voice, opting for a deep V-neck instead of a crewneck.
Which McGraw album cover is your favorite?