Tim McGraw talks candidly about his former label home, Curb Records, in Billboard’s cover story. He also discusses his new album, Two Lanes of Freedom, out February 5. His first project for Big Machine Records includes the song “Highway Don’t Care,” a song with Taylor Swift featuring Keith Urban on guitar. It’s a full circle moment for Tim and Taylor as Taylor broke onto the scene in 2006 with her single “Tim McGraw.”
“The first thing I thought was, ‘Have I gotten that old?’” Tim said of the first time he heard Taylor’s song. “I didn’t realize she was like 12 or 13 when she wrote it. It’s a great song. Taylor is really special, and she’s gotten exponentially better with every project. She owns her style now. Instead of searching for a style or trying to be something, she owns who she is.”
Tim had plenty of material to work with as he choose songs for Two Lanes of Freedom, crediting Nashville songwriters with penning ‘killer songs.’ He makes decisions not only on selecting the best songs but picking tracks he won’t mind singing for years to come. “I hear hits every day,” he said. “I pass on songs all the time that I know are hits. But I don’t want to just do hits. I’ll hear something and think, ‘I just don’t want to play that.’”
While in the studio, Tim takes an interpretive approach to recording. He dims the light, sings without a lyric sheet and works to convey the message of the song.
“I try to picture me sitting there on a bar stool right across from somebody, me just talking to them, trying to get a message across,” he said. “There’s a difference between singing at you and singing to you. A lot of what we do is telling you how we feel. But the real key, I think, is telling somebody else how they feel. Even better is if you can tell them how they feel and they didn’t even know they felt that way until they heard that song.”