Tim McGraw has been a star long enough that he can look back on his early music and laugh a little bit. That goes for his hairstyles as well; ask him about the music video for "Indian Outlaw" and he'll tell you about what he calls "the mullet days." But that hit from his second album, along with the track "Don't Take the Girl," put his music career on a whole different trajectory.
Since then McGraw has won countless awards and secured a spot as one of America's country music superstars. He's on tour this summer promoting a new album called Two Lanes of Freedom; he discusses it here with NPR's Rachel Martin.
On how a song takes shape in his head
"You think about it in colors, almost. You start thinking about all these different textures and layers that you want to have on your record. So when you go into a studio you sort of have this idea built into it and you start shooting for those things in your head. You can't actually translate exactly what it is, but you start getting close — or you can go better than what you had."
On his state of mind while making Two Lanes of Freedom
"There's a fresh energy, and a little bit of acceleration. I think, when I went in the studio, I felt like I was in a head space and a career space and a life space for it. I felt like I was just getting my feet under me. After all these years of doing what I do, I felt like I'm just now learning how to be good."
On his expectations at the start of his career
"This business, I think, in a lot of ways, is sort of a two-lane highway ... One is, there's this huge insecurity that comes along with being an artist. So you never think that you're gonna accomplish anything; you never think you're as good as the next guy. You work really hard and you hope that you can just make a living at it. On the other hand, there's this school of thought that you have that you're the best there's ever been, and what you have in your head is gonna blow everybody away."
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