Tim McGraw Doesn’t Need a Geography Lesson

"Portland, Maine" Shouldn't Be Taken Literally

There’s a song on Tim McGraw’s new album called “Portland, Maine.” It is not about Portland, Maine.

And no, McGraw isn’t really that indifferent about Portland’s location, despite what he sings in the chorus: “But Portland, Maine, I don’t know where that is/I don’t want to know, I don’t want to know.”

When his Sundown Heaven Town album was released mid-September, there was a lot of talk of this track No. 11 and that someone needed to get McGraw a map or some kind of navigation system so he could find the charming waterfront town.

But he was not about to sit back and let the world think that he failed high school geography or that he has no access to Google maps.

“No, it’s not about the city. It’s certainly not about me. It’s about the character in the song. I think it’s not to be taken literally,” he told Portland’s WTHT-FM and WBQQ-FM (99.9 the Wolf) when he called in on Friday (Oct. 3). “It’s about a guy who probably, in my mind when he’s singing, when he’s talking about Portland, Maine, he’s not even getting off his porch. He’s a guy laying around his house eating Doritos and doesn’t know where the next city down the street is.”

Wow. He sounds like a real catch, right? At least he’s being honest with himself and the girl who is leaving for Maine.

“See, I’m just saving us some trouble somewhere down the line/This kind of town you just leave behind/And you don’t know it yet, but you won’t come back/I ain’t going nowhere, and you know that,” McGraw sings.

How could anyone in their right mind take this song literally? The guy in this song — the lazy, careless, Doritos-obsessed good-for-nothing is so not McGraw. He even told the radio station this scenario could be playing out in any town.

“It is a metaphor for not wanting to commit to a relationship and commit to anything in his life,” he explained. “And Portland, Maine, just happens to sing really well.”

So all the song really needed was that two-syllable city, one-syllable state cadence and it would’ve been the same to McGraw. As long as it was in Maine, it could’ve been about any city. Kennebunkport was out, obviously, but he could’ve done it with Bangor, Lisbon or Saco, and it would’ve been that same exact song.

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