NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tim McGraw has chosen a new record label run by an old friend.
The country music superstar has signed a multi-album deal with Scott Borchetta's Big Machine Records, officially ending his acrimonious relationship with his only previous label, Curb Records.
McGraw made the announcement Monday at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. It's the start of the second phase of one of country music's most successful careers, and McGraw hopes he can regain some of the momentum he lost while fighting to end his "lifetime" contract with Curb Records. Though the two sides remain locked in a legal dispute, a judge last year freed McGraw to begin recording for a new label.
McGraw said in an earlier interview with The Associated Press that he and Borchetta sealed the deal May 9 at the Greyhound bus station in Nashville, marking the anniversary of McGraw's arrival in Music City with a guitar in one hand and a suitcase in the other.
"So 23 years after I arrived to town, I'm sort of in the kickoff phase of my new career," McGraw said.
McGraw enters that second phase as one of country music's leading men. The heartthrob in the black hat, the 45-year-old has reigned on the charts and in album sales for years and remains a force in the genre despite what he considered shenanigans by his longtime record label. He accused Curb of trying to prolong the length of his contract by releasing a string of greatest hits packages that frustrated fans and artist alike.
He's been recording new music and hopes to release a "landmark" album late this year or early 2013 "that's just going to sort of turn the knob over to 11."
"I feel like that I'm at a point now in my career I think there's more ahead of me than behind me," McGraw said. "It's time for me to look forward. It's time for me to look at my new partner in the business of making records and radio, and just sort of step on the gas. I think I'm at a great spot in my career and there's nothing but great things ahead of me."
There was much speculation about where McGraw might land. He remains a bankable star with more than 37 million albums sold, 30-plus No. 1 singles and strong touring numbers that will soon include his stadiums-only "Brothers of the Sun" tour this summer with old friend Kenny Chesney. He's also carved out an acting career, receiving favorable reviews for performances in "The Blind Side" and "Country Strong." And his marriage to Faith Hill adds its own star power.
In some ways, Borchetta had an inside track all along, however. Their lives have been intertwined since Borchetta's father, Mike, persuaded Curb Records to sign McGraw before the release of his first album in 1993.
"Nobody wanted anything to do with me, but he had a feeling about me and sort of stuck his neck out for me," McGraw said. "He actually threw me a party at his house when I signed with Curb Records, and I'm not even sure that anybody over there knew that he'd signed me."
McGraw and the younger Borchetta remained friendly and over the last several years McGraw has stopped in to sit and chat from time to time.
"And we just talk about things — 'What would you do here? What do you think about this? I want to play this for you,' you know?" Borchetta said. "We've been friendly for 20 years almost. So the conversations over the last few years and him hoping that this opportunity could happen have obviously been a little more pointed — 'Wouldn't it be cool IF we could work together and what would we do if we got that chance?'"
McGraw fills a hole on the Big Machine roster, which was in need of a headlining solo male star, and continues a trend of signing mid-career acts looking for a reboot. McGraw's arrival follows that of Rascal Flatts and Martina McBride.
The label's flagship artist is Taylor Swift — whose first single for Big Machine was "Tim McGraw" coincidentally. But Borchetta's label group also has helped break The Band Perry, the Eli Young Band and Brantley Gilbert recently as well and is home to Reba McEntire.
McGraw says that success was hard to ignore.
"You want to have a great partner when you're in this business," McGraw said. "You want to have someone you trust and are family that you trust, and a family that's got your back and a family that you know has sort of the same artistic goals that you have, and I feel now I have that. The past is the past. I've had a lot of success. I'm looking forward to more success. ... I feel like in a position now to even jump higher."
Follow www.twitter.com/AP_Country for the latest country music news from the Associated Press. Follow Entertainment Writer Chris Talbott at www.twitter.com/Chris_Talbott.