Tim McGraw Always Knew the Music Would Win

Transcending and Evolving at Country Radio Seminar in Nashville

Tim McGraw has been a country singer for just about half his life.

He is almost 50, and he’s been making country music for 25 of those years, since his self-titled debut album was released in 1990.

So on the last day of this year’s Country Radio Seminar in Nashville, when McGraw was introduced as “songwriter’s best friend” and “forever iconic,” it made perfect sense.

McGraw was the featured speaker at Wednesday’s (Feb. 10) panel titled “Transcending and Evolving,” and he started by talking about how his journey went all the way back to a CRS more than two decades ago.

McGraw was one of the CRS New Faces back in 1994. He performed “Indian Outlaw” and “Don’t Take the Girl,” and he gives that night a lot of credit for helping him get to the next level.

“I think that night was the most important night in my career,” McGraw acknowledged. “That set everything off for me. That night was just electric for me. You’re wanting to impress people, and you can’t get into the moment like you want to. But I remember thinking, ‘This was a good night.’”

When McGraw looks back at all his success since then, he said that the saying that rings true for him every day is, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”

He brings that work ethic into all the music he makes. Mostly because he has such a competitive streak.

“First and foremost, it always starts with a song. I still feel that way. But I’m competitive. I want every song to be the first single. I want to make an album that there are no skips in,” he said of the way some albums have those songs that make you push the fast-forward button.

And with all the years of being in the business, McGraw finds himself leading the business in a way.

“I feel a responsibility to make music I’m proud of. You can’t think about what radio thinks and what fans want to hear. That might last for a little while, but sooner or later, that strategy is flawed. It’s not that it doesn’t happen, but you have to be disciplined enough to pour yourself out of it,” he explained. “I don’t want to let myself down musically.”

Once in a while, though, he admitted there are obstacles. But for McGraw, that’s what motivates him.

“That can squash your creativity for a while,” he said. “But then you start trying to find a way around that roadblock. I lead with my heart and make the right decisions. I never wanted to do anything malicious because that never gets you anywhere.”

Then he added, “I think there were times where I had extraneous things in my life that were weighing me down,” he said alluding to some of his own personal and professional struggles. “But I always knew the music would win.”

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