Home FeaturesInterviews Tim McGraw on the music that brings people together

Tim McGraw on the music that brings people together

by Mallory Arbour
Tim McGraw

There’s no denying that Tim McGraw isn’t a bona fide country music superstar. He’s released sixteen studio albums to date and scored 25 number one singles. He’s won a countless amount of awards including three Grammy awards, 14 Academy of Country Music awards, 11 Country Music Association (CMA) awards, 10 American Music awards, and three People’s Choice awards. Not to mention that he has sold more than 80 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time.

In January, he released his collaboration single Undivided with Tyler Hubbard from Florida Georgia Line. The upbeat and heartfelt song currently sits at #21 on the Countrytown Music Network Hot 50 chart and was performed by the duo earlier this year at the inauguration ceremony for US president, Joe Biden.

Undivided will feature on the deluxe version of McGraw’s Here On Earth album, due for release later this year.

In January, you released your collaboration single, Undivided with Tyler Hubbard from Florida Georgia Line. The upbeat and heartfelt song about faith and unity was written by Hubbard (with Chris Loocke) while he was quarantining in his tour bus after testing positive for COVID-19. Do you have any personal stories or examples where music has brought people together?

I think music always has the capability of doing that. It’s done that throughout the ages. I wrote a book a few years back with historian and a great friend of mine, John Meacham called Songs of America. And what we tried to do was find connection points throughout American history where music played a part with politics – whether politics influenced the times and the culture of music, or vice versa – the music influenced the times and the culture of the politics.

And, we can see clearly along the way, that music played a huge part in things that were happening in a big way in people’s lives, all the way back to the Patriot song even before the American Revolution. It was a song that was popular and was making people understand or leading people to understand what was going on in the country.

Then throughout slavery and reconstruction, and into the early 1900s with the First World War and solid songs that were going on then – songs that were inspiring people and songs that were reminding people of the tragedy, the death of war – all the way through to World War II and through the civil rights movement when you had [sings lyrics to the Buffalo Springfield song, Somethings Happening Here] “a something happened in here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.”

I remember as a kid hearing Somethings Happening Here in particular on the radio in the early 70s, and it was an “Aha!” moment for me, realising that music is not just something that’s for enjoyment. Music has something to say and music can frame conversations. It made me really pay attention to songs in a deeper way and now, it makes me proud to be part of that industry that does that.

Music – especially country music – has always been associated with making personal and political statements. What was it about the lyrics to Undivided that made you feel like it was time to make a personal stand and statement?

I thought it was time for those words to be heard. When the song came to me, Faith [Hill, McGraw’s wife] and I were driving across country from Montana back home to Nashville. Tyler Hubbard sent me the song and I listened to it all the way on the trip. And it really hit me deep because it made me look in the mirror and think, “Okay, there are tough times going on now for everyone and there’s some darkness, and if I let the darkness overtake the light what kind of example is that for me to set for my family and my daughters who are out in the world now?” Am I letting the darkness overtake or am I going to try to shine some light and positivity on what’s going on?

There are plenty of things to rail against [and] plenty of things that are wrong. There’s no place for white supremacy in this world. There’s no place for racism in this world. There’s no tolerance to discriminate against people of different sexual orientations. There’s no place for any of that in this world, and people should fight against those things. But there’s also room to provide some common ground for people and I don’t think that those two things are mutually exclusive. That’s a conscious decision we decided when we decided we were gonna record the song. It needed to be timely. It needed to be put out

If any, what small gestures of human kindness, decency and together do you personally miss?

I think over the last year and a half, it’s been just personal contact with people has been a big deal. It’s so easy to start seeing people as two dimensional when all you do is you see them on FaceTime or on the news … you talk to people online and all of a sudden, everybody becomes two dimensional.

It’s so easy to not see the soul in people. And I think that that’s what we miss more than anything, is that human contact, that togetherness. Spending time together in groups and crowds of people that are different and finding each other’s souls. That’s the biggest thing that we’re missing!

That’s the perfect segue – as I was going to ask if you think social media and the internet is partly to blame? Because in some ways we’re more connected than ever, but it’s also been documented as a big cause of isolation and feeling alienated from one another.

I do think that it’s a big problem if that’s all you do, that’s where you’re stuck at and that’s the world that you live in. Fortunately, for me, I don’t really know how to do any of those things, so I don’t get caught up in it too much [laughs].

But I do think that it creates a false world, and anytime you create a false world you start discounting people. And when you start discounting people, then all of a sudden we’re headed down a wrong path.

So, I think there are some great things that social media has provided and there’s some great opportunities and connectivity that social media has provided, but I do think if you live on it and get lost in it, it can take you down some paths that are sometimes irrevocable.

Not only are we still in the middle of the ongoing pandemic but with the recent protests, mob swarming and riots at the Capitol, international conflicts etc. Do you think, realistically, that things can get better? And if so, what do you think needs to happen for us to actually make it so?

I do think it can get better. Anyone who has children has to be optimistic because you want to be optimistic for your kid’s future. I refuse not to be optimistic. I refuse not to believe that the world is going to get better. And I refuse not to believe that our better angels are going to conquer our demons. It is a matter of us making that conscious decision that that’s the path we’re going to go down.

Undivided will be included on the deluxe version of your Here On Earth album, due for release later this year. There’s a current trend to release double and triple albums and I’m always curious as to why. So, why did you decide to put this song on a deluxe copy of Here On Earth, instead of waiting to simply add it to the track listing on album sixteen?

Well, for a couple of reasons. I mean, I love this album! There are so many great songs on this album, and I don’t want to just move on to another record yet, because I believe there’s so many great singles left to go on this album. So many songs that I like, I mean, gosh, there’s 7500 OBO, L.A. – which is one of my favourite songs on the album – Hard To Stay Mad At …

And when we found the song, this wasn’t a song that was gonna wait. This wasn’t a song that you record, put on the shelf and put out a year later. This song needed to be out now; it was timely. It was something that was of the moment in the moment of the world in the world. We had to put this record out and the only way to make it make sense within a project was to put a deluxe version of the album out, and take a bunch of the songs that we had recorded for the album that weren’t on the original project that we still love and we’re trying to find a home for.

Putting up with a deluxe album gave us an opportunity to put the songs that we really loved on the same project. So, it was a matter of, we had these great songs, we had this song – which is timely and needed to be put out – and we didn’t want to throw this project away which we loved. So, it was a great way to combine all those things into one package.

And lastly – are you working on any new projects?

We’ve already started working on a new album. In fact, I was in the studio last week working on a new song and then I’ll probably be in in April working on some new stuff. I’m always writing, listening to songs, and finding stuff to record. I love being in the studio with the band, being creative, banging out records and trying to figure out what’s the best product. The whole process of figuring out how to make a good record and what makes the song sound good is something that really lights my fire.

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Image: via Facebook

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