My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Spotlight Artist: Tim McGraw

This month we’ve decided to take a look at the career of one of contemporary country’s biggest stars, Tim McGraw.

Born Tim D’Agostino to a teenage single mother in Louisiana in 1967, Tim believed until he was eleven years old that he was the son of Horace Smith, who had married his mother Betty when Tim was a baby. Smith’s drunken abusive behaviour had led Betty to leave the family home with Tim and her two younger children. Tim disocevered from his birth certificate that he was in fact the son of baseball player Tug McGraw. They met soon after the boy’s discovery, but McGraw senior refused to acknowledge his paternity until Tim was 17. A relationship was forged between the two in Tim’s adulthood, and Tim supported his father through the latter’s unsuccessful fight against cancer.

Music helped take Tim to college, winning him a scholarship. After dropping out in his third year he taught himself to play guitar, and moved to Nashville with a dream. His father had not been there for him during his formative years, but he did help Tim get his career started. One of Tug’s fans worked for Curb Records, and Tug gave him a copy of Tim’s demo tape in 1990. This was enough to get the label interested, and they signed him to a record deal. He then got a band together and began touring small clubs. Curb, always happy to let a young artist develop slowly, released Tim’s debut album in 1993.

Success was slow to come, but eventually he made a breakthrough with smash hit ‘Indian Outlaw’, and his second album Not A Moment Too Soon became the top selling country album of 1994. He was named the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Male Vocalist, and soon became a fixture at the top of the country charts with a string of big radio hits and best selling albums. While he is not the best vocalist out there, and rarely writes his own songs, he has chosen his material well.

In 1996, Tim embarked on the well-named Spontaneous Combustion tour with Faith Hill, during which the pair fell in love. Faith had been engaged to her producer Scott Hendricks, but he was soon history, and she and Tim were married by the end of the year, with the first of their three daughters arriving the following year. They have toured together ever since, recorded a number of duets, and their marriage has proved one of the strongest in modern country music.

A side interest in acting has led to several film roles, most notably 2009’s The Blind Side which won co-star Sandra Bullock an Oscar. He also appeared in the country music themed Country Strong.

Tim’s solo career has proved consistently successful, and he has sold over 40 million records. However, by the second half of the 2000s, his relationship with Curb Records was increasingly fractious – and increasingly public. The label picked odd choices for singles, released a number of hits compilations apparently in an attempt to stave off the fulfilment of the contract, and delayed the release of Tim’s latest album. The conflict eventually reached the courts, with Tim and Curb suing each other. A trial is due to start this summer, but an interim hearing late last year cleared Tim to seek new recording opportunities, and in response to this Curb immediately released his latest single ‘Better Than I Used To Be’, with Emotional Traffic following at the end of January. His future may be uncertain, making this a good time to look back at his career to date.

9 responses to “Spotlight Artist: Tim McGraw

  1. Ken Johnson February 1, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Perhaps no one better personifies the decline in the quality of country music during the past two decades than Tim McGraw. His shrill, whiny voice was made acceptable only due to recording techniques allowing him to at least stay on key for an entire song. Anyone who has had the misfortune to attend a Tim McGraw concert has witnessed first hand his lack of any singing ability. Curb Records marketed him as some type of odd sex symbol despite his average physical appearance and premature receding hairline. Had he not adopted his trademark hat it is doubtful that he ever would have succeeded. Thanks to young tone-deaf female fans his career has flourished.

    Despite a long tenure in the genre McGraw has never made a long-lasting stylistic impact on country music and his songs are pretty much forgettable. Good thing that February is a short month.

  2. Andrew Leprich February 1, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Tim McGraw was one of my favorite country artists growing up, and while my opinion of him has tempered greatly as I’ve gotten older and expanded my horizons, I do still harbor a nostalgic appreciation for a great deal of his material, and a handful of his songs are genuinely excellent. Looking forward to this month.

  3. Michael A. February 1, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    Looking forward to this month’s coverage. He may not be my favorite, but, with a few exceptions, I’ve enjoyed his material.

  4. luckyoldsun February 1, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    I’m not a fan of Tim McGraw–I’ve bought exactly zero of his albums.
    But I have a feeling Tim won’t be too upset that someone named Ken does not find him sexy.
    And what the hell is a premature receding hairline? I think McGraw is in his mid 40’s and was close to 30 when he first hit.
    And I don’t know what kind of “trademark” his hat is when 80% of the male stars who followed George Strait for about two decades have worn it.

  5. Myra Robinson February 2, 2012 at 1:29 am

    AND WHAT DOES KEN KNOW ABOUT MUSIC OR HIS LOYALLE FANS? NOT A DAM THINGS. HE SINGS VERY WELL AND IF HE USES SOME HELP IT ONLY ENHANCES HIS MASCULINE VOICE. I love Tim and have been a fan for all the years he has been singing and he sings very nicely by the way. I have all his albums. no he does not have a whiny voice. you sound jealous.

  6. Paul W Dennis February 2, 2012 at 5:36 am

    Ken probably has forgotten more about country music than the rest of us (combined) ever knew

    I saw Tim McGraw & Faith Hill in concert in Orlando, FL about a decade ago. Their concert was the most disappointing show I’ve ever seen as it was apparent that Tim & Faith were just “mailing it in”. The only good thing about their show was the opening act, the Warren Brothers who put on a lively and energetic show for their 35 minutes portion

    While I don’t know that I’d regard Tim’s voice as whiny (I’d call it mediocre), he can occasionally sound whiny as he did that night in Orlando. When I first heard Tim (“Indian Outlaw”), I thought I was hearing John Anderson on a bad day.

    Very few recording artists sound bad on record these days, what with autotune and splicing together takes. In live performance, however, many reveal themselves as being products of the producer’s craftsmanship

  7. Ben Foster February 3, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    I’m definitely excited for this month. Tim McGraw is one that I had always enjoyed when I was younger, and I even saw him live with Faith Hill on a Soul2Soul concert on one occasion. Though he definitely has his vocal limitations, I’ve never considered his voice whiny. I always thought it had a pleasant, emotionally rich quality to it, which I still think.

    It’s hard for me to call myself a Tim McGraw fan these days, with the extremely disappointing Emotional Traffic album having just come out, but it will be nice to be reminded of all the great music he made back in the day.

  8. Jonathan Pappalardo February 3, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    One fact we left out – Tim McGraw was co-producer on label mate Jo Dee Messina’s first three albums. He’s partly to credit for the success she had with her I’M ALRIGHT album in 1998.

    I’ve read these comments over the last couple of days and cannot believe how much people don’t care for McGraw’s music. He’s an artist I’ve grown up with and I’ve loved a lot of his music over the years. I’ve chosen to review a few of my favorite recordings this month. In the 1995-2006 period, he had some really great material and songs I genuinely love.

    I think I grew to question his material choices only after hearing “It’s A Business Doing Pleasure With You” which I feel began his sharp decline. The recording techniques were awful and I couldn’t even believe it was him.

    He’s far from the perfect artist and I can see that, but for me he deserves his superstar status. My favorite McGraw singles (or cover songs, whichever you feel they are) would be “It’s Your Love,” “Just To See You Smile,” “Everywhere,” “Something Like That,” “For A Little While,” “Please Remember Me,” “My Next 30 Years,” “One Of These Days” and “Red Ragtop” plus all the singles from the ALL I WANT era.

    • Razor X February 3, 2012 at 9:49 pm

      The first time I ever heard of him was when the DJs from my local country station were in Nashville for Fan Fair in 1993 and interviewed him on the air. No one knew who he was at the time, but he got a lot of attention in the Philadelphia area because of his father. They played “Welcome to the Club”. I didn’t think it was very good, and to be perfectly honest, I didn’t expect to ever hear anything from him again. That particular record didn’t do much, but his career took off like wildfire shortly thereafter. He’s never been one of my favorite artists; I’d never even played one of his albums all the way through until I started prepping for this spotlight coverage. He has had some songs along the way that I have liked very much and some others that I haven’t cared for at all.

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