"A lot of artists can tell you how they feel," says Tim McGraw, "but when somebody can tell you how you feel, and you didn't know it or couldn't put it into words, that's the goal. What you want to do as an artist is let someone discover how they feel from your music, in a really visceral way, from the inside out."
For 20 years, McGraw has been providing that kind of powerful connection with his audience. With Two Lanes of Freedom, his new albumand first release for Big Machine Recordsthe singer is covering his broadest emotional range yet, with a set of songs that looks forward and back, gets deep and gets loose, and reveals that even the biggest stars can continue to grow with consistency and maturity.
In his record-shattering career, McGraw has sold over 40 million albums, and dominated the charts with 32 No. 1 singles. Since the release of his debut album in 1993, he has won three Grammys, 14 Academy of Country Music Awards, 12 Country Music Association Awards, and 10 American Music Awards, while simultaneously maintaining a parallel career as a successful actor in such films as The Blind Side, Country Strong, and Friday Night Lightsas well as hosting Saturday Night Live, a rare honor for a singer in any genre. Tim has never been afraid of breaking new ground; over the years, he has collaborated with musicians from Nelly to Tony Bennett to Def Leppard and Ne-Yo.
"I feel like I've progressed in my work, and I've gotten better," says Tim. "On my last album, Emotional Traffic, I was discovering some new sounds and new things that I wanted to do, scratching the surface of the direction I wanted to head. This album was a way to reach a little further back, to all that I'd done throughout my career, and bring both sides togetherit's a combination of that discovery, along with some rediscovery."
Over the last few years, Tim has seen a transformation in numerous aspects of his career: changes in his management, his record company, and his band. "All of those things make you reflect on where you've been," he says, "and it's hard to think about where you want to go until you look at where you've been. When you listen to this record, there's a lot of that reflection that drives everything forward. It's almost like two magnets, the future and the past, and when they get close to each other, it pushes them away.
"I've always gone in the studio and tried to make the best record I could possibly make," he continues, "but to come into a situation where there's some weight lifted, some refreshment going on, you can feel that in the music. I think you can feel the horses gallop on this record, and where I might go and what I might do when my engines are revving."
On Two Lanes of Freedom, the sense of nostalgia comes through on such classic-sounding tracks as "Annie, I Owe You a Dance" and the hard-driving single "One of Those Nights." The reverie of those songs, though, is countered by the humor and joy of "Southern Girl" or the feel-good hangover of "Mexicoma." Tim maintains that it was the album's title track that really established the tone for the entire project.
"When we cut 'Two Lanes of Freedom,' there was such a freshness to it," he says. "The track has this sort of Gaelic drive to it, with a synthesized didgeridoo and hurdy-gurdy. The song sets a palette for the whole record because it's so visualit has that summery, hazy image, and I think that made the whole record open up for me."