In spite of being one of the biggest stars country music has ever known, Tim McGraw is an easy guy to talk to. That appealing personality is one of the reasons he's had such a lasting career. The other, of course, is his music.
McGraw marks the release of a new album, Two Lanes of Freedom, on Tuesday (Feb. 5). In the first part of this exclusive two-part interview with CMT.com, the entertainer chats about his new single ("One of Those Nights"), his tip of the hat to his adopted hometown and the response he hopes to get from fans.
CMT: What was it about the song "One of Those Nights" that pulled you in?
McGraw: That's a "making a memory" song. I think what's attractive about that song is that you've either had those memories or you're looking forward to making those memories. So it sort of grabs everybody, young and old. You can look back on your life and think about the times you felt that way. And as a teenager, you start thinking about all the memories you're going to make throughout your life.
Do you consider yourself a nostalgic person?
Sometimes, you know. I love history, but I don't spend a lot of time thinking about my past, in particular, because I'm really focused on trying to do the things I want to do in my life and live my life and move forward. I think one of these days maybe I'll get on a rocking chair and look back, but right now I'm too busy moving forward.
Speaking of history, "Nashville Without You" pays respect to the history of country music. Why was that an important song to include here?
I just loved the song. I like what it says. I really never heard something written from this perspective about this town. It's really true, though. Our careers -- the money that we make now and the success we have as artists -- were built on the backs of these trailblazers and the ones that came before us. They really made country music something that people turned on and listened to and made it such a huge, huge genre. Some of the music and these artists that have built our industry are just icons.
Do you remember the first country legend that you met?
Merle Haggard was a big deal to me. When I met him, it was one of those moments where you're speechless. You can't really say anything. He fills the room with his presence. He's very intense and very smart, too.
You've lived here a long time. Do you remember a time when the city of Nashville has been so much in the spotlight?
No, I'm so proud of this town. I've said this a million times, but when I moved here, I fell in love with Nashville instantly. I would have lived here no matter what. If I hadn't had a career in music, I would have found something to do in this town because I love it so much. The people are so fantastic, the history in this town, everything about it. I'm glad that people are starting to discover it, although you don't want too many people to discover it because you don't want it to change too much. Any friends that we've had come out from L.A. or wherever to visit, they always fall in love with Nashville, and everybody wants to live here. It's one of the last great places to raise a family. And to pursue a music career, for sure. Country music is in a great place right now with a lot of great artists.
Do you feel like it's bigger than it's ever been?
I feel like it's hitting another rebirth, I guess, like it did in the early 1990s. I feel like we're going through one of those. And it's because of the great new artists that we have coming out and the artists who are making great music. It's a great time for everybody in the business.
As an entertainer, what is the highest compliment that a fan can give you?
I think as an artist, you just want music to be a part of people's lives. When someone has an experience with your song, whether it's a sad experience or a happy experience or something that marks a time in their life, that's the thing as an artist that you like to hear.