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Tim McGraw talks new album, Taylor Swift's 'Tim McGraw' and the tune that brought him and Faith Hill together 27 years ago

One track on McGraw's new album, 'Standing Room Only,' is called "Some Songs Can Change Your World." Here, the country star opens up about which songs changed his.

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Tim McGraw is sitting onstage with Yahoo Entertainment at the Whisky a Go Go, getting ready to play a special standing-room-only show promoting his 16th studio album Standing Room Only and upcoming tour, during which the country megastar will of course play venues much bigger than this 500-capacity Hollywood club. Just across town, Taylor Swift is playing a run of Eras Tour concerts at SoFi Stadium, and the subject of Swift inevitably comes up, since it’s almost easy to forget that when she was in her first era 17 years ago, she made her debut with a single titled… “Tim McGraw.”

“It makes me pretty proud. At first when she first came out with it, I thought, ‘Have I gotten that old that now that these new artists are singing songs of my name in it?’” McGraw chuckles. In that song, the teenage Swift, who McGraw calls “one of the greatest songwriters ever,” sang about memories of a boyfriend that were sparked whenever she heard McGraw’s music. So, which artist is Tim McGraw’s “Tim McGraw,” so to speak? Which artist makes him think fondly of his wife, fellow country music legend Faith Hill?

Faith Hill and Tim McGraw over the years. (Photos: Getty Images / Illustration: Aisha Yousaf)
Faith Hill and Tim McGraw over the years. (Photos: Getty Images / Illustration: Aisha Yousaf)

“Well, there's one song and it's really an instrumental, but there's one. I’m probably going to get in trouble for saying this. God, please forgive me, baby!” McGraw answers, grinning to the camera as he slyly, sheepishly addresses Hill. “It’s ‘Samba Pa Ti,’ by Santana. It's kind of our song. My uncle told me one time — my uncle Hank, old hippie who lives in Napa Valley — he played it for me one time years ago on the road. He loved that song too. He said, ‘I'm gonna tell you something.’ He says, ‘Never make love to a woman with this song on unless you intend to marry her.’ And so I didn't, until I did. And then I did.”

Apparently old Uncle Hank knew what he was talking about. McGraw and Hill have been married for 27 years now — “We always like to say we've been married 92 years in showbiz language; it’s like dog years,” McGraw jokes — and they’re in their second-honeymoon era, with all three of their daughters leaving home. “It was tough at first, like the first six months. I think it's always harder on Mom when the girls go away,” says McGraw. “It was pretty tough because it was empty and the energy of the house was sort of gone. And then after about six months, we sort of thought, when we got married, we had a kid right away — we had Gracie right away. And now we kind of like have our time to ourselves and it's kind of honeymoon time again. So, we’ve quite enjoyed it!”

Tim McGraw and wife Faith Hill kiss onstage in 2014.  (Photo: C Flanigan/FilmMagic)
Tim McGraw and wife Faith Hill kiss onstage in 2014. (Photo: C Flanigan/FilmMagic)

One of the standout tracks on Standing Room Only, “Nashville CA/L.A. Tennessee” — a collaboration with McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” co-writer Lori McKenna and longtime multi-instrumentalist Bob Minner — was inspired by McGraw and Hill’s daughter Gracie leaving the nest in 2018. “It came out of loading up my Cadillac Escalade, my 19-year-old Cadillac Escalade, taking all the seats out of it, loading all of her stuff in, and her and I doing a solo cross-country trip together to move her to L.A.,” McGraw recalls. “We had a great time on the trip, singing songs and playing music and stopping at cool places and spending time together. And then when I got [to Los Angeles], it was late at night and she was so ready to be here and so ready to get rid of Dad by that point! I unloaded all the stuff to where she was living, and she was like, ‘All right, Dad, I'm fine now! You can go.’ And I kept lingering around, kept trying to move things around, trying to keep as much time with her as I could. And she finally gave me a big hug and says, ‘OK, Dad, I need you to go now!’ And then I just broke down and just started crying. … So, that song was born out of that road trip.”

Another “very personal and very emotional and very honest song” on Standing Room Only is “Hey Whiskey,” a ballad about the destruction and regret that comes with heavy drinking. McGraw, who has been sober since 2008, tapped into his personal experience with alcohol abuse while cutting that track. “The vocal that we kept on that song, that was the very first run-through at about 10 o'clock at night, when my voice was shredded and I had no voice left,” he says. “That's the vocal we ended up keeping, because it was so pure and honest. … I'm so glad we ended up keeping the rawness that we did.”

Unsurprisingly, McGraw credits Hill with helping him maintain his sobriety for 15 years, saying, “She's always been my rock. She's my rock in everything that I do. I don't think I could stand up straight without leaning on her in everything that I do.” But he admits that even with Hill’s help, avoiding temptation hasn’t always been easy, “It is not a linear path,” he says. “There's setbacks and there's times you move forward and do great, and there's times you set back. And that'll probably a process throughout the rest of my life and something that I have to be diligent about and really continue to work at. And I think [“Hey Whiskey”] is helpful in that regard. It was very cathartic to me, in a lot of ways.”

And finally, there's another meaningful track on Standing Room Only, “Some Songs Can Change Your World,” which prompts another personal question: What is the song that has changed McGraw’s world? This time, in a full-circle manner, McGraw mentions a tune of his own.

“Oh, ‘It's Your Love,’ because it was the very first song that Faith and I ever did together,” McGraw answers without missing a beat, referring to their duet which won four Academy of Country Music Awards in 1997 for Single, Song, Video, and Vocal Event of the Year. “We were very early in our relationship, and it was just something that really just brought us together in a way that I don't know what else could have. And then I remember shooting the video, and we shot it here in L.A. and Faith was pregnant with Gracie. That was just such a special time and a special moment, the beginning of a long relationship. I always look back on that as something that not only changed my musical world, but changed my life.”

So, here’s to many more “showbiz years” of wedded bliss. “Ninety-two more years!” McGraw says with a grin. “I'll take it.”

Faith Hill and Tim McGraw in 2022. (Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for WarnerMedia)
Faith Hill and Tim McGraw in 2022. (Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for WarnerMedia)

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