He’s won every major award in country music, but Tim McGraw wants more.
“I’m only about 30 percent as good as I want to get in music,” the 44-year-old says. In an effort to expand his artistic boundaries, McGraw has released a crossover hit with Nelly (“Over and Over”), co-wrote a single for Def Leppard (“Nine Lives”) and hopes to work with Bruce Springsteen one day. The self-described “Blue Dog Democrat” has also hinted at running for governor of Tennessee one day, but he’s not sure why.
“I was probably drunk when I said that,” he laughs. But, like any skilled politician, he’s careful to add, “But I’d never say ‘no.’ It’s not something that I’m going to chase by any means—I have too many skeletons in my closet.”
Meanwhile, as an actor, he appears in Friday Night Lights, Flicka, Country Strong and Milla Jovovich’s soon-to-be-released movie, Dirty Girl (fellow countryman Dwight Yoakam also appears in the film). While acting might seem like a deviation from singing, McGraw says the two go hand-in-hand.
“They’re sort of like kissing cousins in a lot of ways,” he says. “Every song is sort of like a mini movie: You’re singing this song and what you’re trying to do is create empathy for this character; you’re sort of singing everybody through this scenario.”
Still, McGraw won’t accept a role if it conflicts with touring or studio time. And, as Billboard’s No. 1 country touring act of 2010, he’s on the road a lot.
“I wouldn’t be having all these other opportunities if it wasn’t for music,” he says.
When he appeared on the small screen last month, it was to join American Idol champion Scotty McCreery onstage during Idol’s grand finale. The two performed a tag-team version of McGraw’s Grammy Award-winning single, “Live Like You Were Dying,” which spent 10 nonconsecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 2004.
With all that he does, McGraw’s schedule can be grueling. “I’m trying to lighten it up a bit,” he says, referring to the mood, not his workload. “On my Emotional Traffic record—which hopefully will come out soon—there’s a lot of fun on it.”
Still, McGraw wouldn’t have it any other way. “Music has given me everything in my life,” he says. “That’s my horse; I’m going to ride it.”