Tim McGraw On Top of the Charts (1995)
Originally published in the October 10, 1995 issue of Country Weekly.
Everyone thinks Tim McGraw has discovered a secret formula for cranking out the hits. They’re right.
Tim’s last album, Not a Moment Too Soon, scaled the heights of country music stardom by selling more than 5 million copies and topping Billboard magazine’s Top Country Albums chart for more than 26 weeks. It also earned Tim Album of the Year and Best New Male Vocalist honors at the 30th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in May.
“If you had told me that I would sign a major record deal and that my second album would sell 5 million copies, I’d still be laughing,” a modest Tim said. “When I first moved to Nashville in 1989, I fully expected a long ride. I thought I’d try to learn as much as I could about the business and learn more about the music. I jumped in head over heels right at the beginning and just got lucky quicker than I thought.”
Luck certainly plays a part in his success, but so does incredible talent and a knack for picking the right songs.
Tim decided to share with COUNTRY WEEKLY readers his secret formula and how he chose the songs for his newest album, All I Want.
“If I can sing it, then it’s got a shot,” he joked. “Actually, I look for a song that I can’t hear another artist record. If I hear something that I think is a hit for somebody else, then I don’t want to record it.”
He also let his audience help decide which songs made the cut on All I Want.
“Before we recorded, we played most of the stuff live for awhile. Just getting feedback from the audience on the new songs is probably the biggest gauge we have,” Tim explained. “You usually can tell if you’re losing them on something and boring them, especially if you feel you’re losing energy when you’re doing a song.
“You also learn to duck real well,” added Tim with a chuckle.
His standards for songs are so high, even songs that he wrote himself didn’t make his his own albums.
“I wrote a song for the album, but mine wasn’t as good as everybody else’s, so it didn’t make it,” he confessed. “I’m real picky about that issue. I feel like I don’t have to throw my hat into the ring. There are a lot of great songwriters in Nashville, and they work their behinds off in the studios with other writers night and day to get a cut to make a living. I’d love to be as good as some of those guys, but just because I’m an artist and I have an opportunity to put a song on my albums doesn’t mean I should put somebody else out if [mine’s] not good enough.”
Sometimes, for no particular reason, a song just seems right and Tim goes with his gut instinct. Take for instance the chart-topping “I Like It, I Love It,” which was presented by two-thirds of the co-writing team of Jeb Anderson, Steve Dukes and Mark Hall.
“Jeb is a good friend and he played me a demo Steve made of the song,” Tim said. “It was just one of those sing-along radio songs I could see the kids really likin’ a lot ... and lovin’ a lot.”
Another album song, “I Don’t Want to Be Here,” was played for Tim by songwriter Tommy Barnes, who also wrote Tim’s first hit, “Indian Outlaw.”
“He played both those songs for me shortly after I arrived in Nashville at the Hall of Fame Lounge,” Tim recalled. “It just took me this long to record `I Don’t Want to Be Here.’ ”
As for his favorite song on All I Want, Tim says he has a hard time deciding between “Maybe We Should Sleep on It” and “The Great Divide.”
“ `Maybe We Should Sleep on It’ is one of those mid-uptempo groove songs. It has a real cool groove and it’s one of those songs where you just get on your guitar and strum. `The Great Divide’ is just a beautiful song that I enjoy singing.”
Tim said the heart-wrenching simplicity of the album’s second single, “Can’t Really Be Gone,” affected him deeply.
“Gary Burr is one of the most incredible songwriters around. It’s just one of those songs with a real beautiful melody and a simple lyric that really touches you in a lot of ways,” he said. “It’s one of those songs that doesn’t have to say a whole lot.”
Like “Can’t Really Be Gone,” Tim’s phenomenal success also quietly speaks for itself. The son of baseball legend Tug McGraw hit a huge home run of his own with last year’s album and hopes history will repeat itself with All I Want. Produced once again by the Not a Moment Too Soon team of James Stroud and Byron Gallimore, Tim is convinced that fans who loved his sophomore album will like All I Want even more.
“I love it and I’m excited about getting out there,” Tim said. “I think this album is better than the last one and I hope the next album is better than this one.”
Fans who enjoy the maverick feel of “Indian Outlaw,” the tender balladry of “Don’t Take the Girl” or the uptempo party groove of “Give It to Me Strait” on Not a Moment Too Soon will find a wider variety on All I Want as part of the overall McGraw game plan.
“We tried to put a lot of different moods and feels on All I Want, so hopefully people can walk away with a feel-good album. If that happens, we’ve done our job.”
Tim and former tourmate Martina McBride are also teaming up for a Kmart promotion as spokespersons for the retail giant’s salute to the Country Music Association.
“It’s going to be a cool deal,” Tim said enthusiastically. “I’m proud to be associated with Martina, who is one of the classiest singers out there.”
As Tim discovered when the two of them were together in Montana recently, Martina is also a wizard in softball.
“She’s a pretty good athlete,” he admitted. “Her crew and band and my crew and band put together a softball game and we played the
local Jaycees. She ran by me one time and said that she can’t remember the last time she ran when somebody wasn’t chasing her.”
Tim is currently fronting a North American tour package that includes BlackHawk and 4 Runner; Tim said his switch from opening act to headliner has been a piece of cake.
“The coolest thing about it is that you’re guaranteed a sound check every time,” he said. “Being able to close it gives me a little bit more leeway in what kind of show I want to do. I feel like we’re just out there having a good time and I don’t think there should be any pressure.”