Tim McGraw Interview Part II: Singer Explains How ‘Two Lanes of Freedom’ Overcame Distractions
Tell us about the Keith Urban and Taylor Swift collaboration (‘Highway Don’t Care’).
I’m a big fan of both of those guys. I think Taylor is just a really special artist for all of music. And she’s a real shining light in our industry. And I think Keith Urban is one of the most talented guys around. I’ve always been a huge fan of his as an artist and a singer, but his guitar playing I think is second to none. He’s one of the best guitar players out there. To have him play guitar on my record is just something special.
When I heard Taylor’s voice back — we sent her the track and she put her vocal on it — it just blew me away how great she sounded.
What is your wife’s favorite song on the record?
I think that would be right up there with one of her favorites. That one and ‘Friend of a Friend.’
When you were recording this album, how did you go about shutting off all of the noise coming from outside to focus on the creative process?
That’s just part of what I do when I go in the studio. I like to just sort of shut the world off a little bit and go in and make music and get lost in it. For me that’s the way it works. That’s the best way it works. You get sort of in an insular environment and put blinders on and just sort of become emotionally invested in it.
Is there more pressure on you for this album with it being the first from a new record label?
I don’t know. I think the pressure for me comes from just me wanting to make a better record than the last one I made. And I’ll feel that same pressure next time I go in the studio. I just wanna honor my craft and the way to do that is to try to get better as you go and get better at what you do. And that’s where the pressure comes for me.
Is there a chip on your shoulder, where you want to prove the old label wrong?
No. I’ve always been pretty confident with my music and my process and the music that I make. I mean, I want it to do well. I want everybody to like it as much as I do. But you can’t go in with that kind of … process. You just go in and make the music you wanna make.
Not all of your fans love when you expand into other genres — like hip-hop. There are those purists who wanna see Tim McGraw doing ‘Down on the Farm’ 12 times on every album. How do you deal with that personally as you continue to grow as an artist?
I don’t. I mean, I just try to make my music the way I feel I should make it at the time. I mean I think if you start trying to shoulder all of these …. “What does radio wanna hear? What do people wanna hear? What does this person wanna hear? What are the critics gonna say?” If you start thinking about that stuff than I don’t think you’re an artist so much anymore. I think you have to come from a place that when you go in the studio when you’re making the music … “What do I wanna say? What do I wanna sound like? What sounds good to me? What makes me progress as an artist?”
You want everybody to love it and you want everybody to enjoy it, but at the same time, you want to feel honest about what you’ve done. And I think that’s the only way to go about it for me.
Do you read reviews?
Yeah, I always read them. The problem is when you read reviews you tend to agree with the ones that are bad more than the ones that are good [laughs].
You said you need to make the music for yourself. Have you always had that mindset, or did you get there at a certain point in your career?
No, I think always. I think that’s why I’ve been able to make the records that I’ve made without any sort of rules. I don’t know any rules or know what I’m supposed to do. So I just have to go in and pick the songs that I like and make them sound like I want them to sound.
What’s one word that describes ‘Two Lanes of Freedom’?
I think “optimism.” There’s different themes throughout the record and there’s some heaviness to it and all those things, but I think sonically I think the theme throughout the record is … optimism.