Memorial Day weekend is just around the corner, and before families fire up their grills to celebrate the brave veterans who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom – Tim McGraw sat down with Big Machine Label Group to pay respect and to reflect on his 2007 patriotic single, "If You're Reading This."
The country music genre is filled with tribute tracks such as – Brooks & Dunn's "Only In America," Toby Keith's "American Soldier," The Chicks' "Travelin' Soldier," Dolly Parton's "Welcome Home," "Ragged Old Flag" by Air Force vet Johnny Cash, and more. However, there are very few melodies from the perspective of a fallen soldier.
The legend told BMLG that an intriguing magazine article inspired him to write the letter-like single alongside Brad and Brett Warren.
"I remember I was on an airplane, and I think it was a Time magazine article – and it was early on during the Iraqi war – and there was a story called 'If You're Reading This,'" McGraw explained. "It was about soldiers writing letters and puttin' 'em in their pockets in case something was to happen."
After flipping through numerous dairy entries submitted by courageous men and women overseas, McGraw's creative wheels began to turn.
"When I got home, I called Brett and Brad, and they came over, and we sat in the living room and spent a day and wrote that song. And it impacted us when we finished writin' it, but you're so close to it when you write it."
The touching subject matter tugged at their heartstrings, but the group of songsmiths were curious to see if the powerful lyrics would resonate with others. Without any hesitation, they turned to the closest individual for an unbiased opinion.
"Our nanny at the time, Jojo, was at the house, and we asked her to come in," shared the hitmaker. "We said, 'Will you come in and listen to this song and see if it's as good as we think it is?' And then she just started crying when she heard it, so we felt like that we really had something special."
McGraw debuted the tender tune at the Academy of Country Music Awards in 2007, and there was not a dry eye in the audience. A string quartet backed his soulful vocals, as he delivered the powerful single that details unimaginable scenarios. Throughout the heartbreak ballad – the veteran gives his wife his blessing to remarry, declares that he will miss the birth of his daughter, and confirms that he is "in a better place."
"If you're reading this |Halfway around the world | I won't be there | To see the birth of our little girl | I hope she looks like you | I hope she fights like me |Stand up for the innocent and the weak," he sings. "I'm laying down my gun | I'm hanging up boots | Tell dad I don't regret that I followed in his shoes."
Towards the end of the soul-touching performance, the spotlight exposed relatives of 32 fallen soldiers who fearlessly fought for United States of America. As the resilient families and McGraw stood in memory, the fans gave the group a thunderous standing ovation.
Following the memorable act, "If You're Reading This" peaked at No.3 on the Billboard Country chart and became a radio hit. While McGraw typically doesn't deliver "If You're Reading This" on tour, it's the perfect track to have on repeat during holidays like Memorial Day.