Tim McGraw Talks 'Shotgun' Hit, Next Single and Hozier - Rolling Stone
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Tim McGraw Talks Hitting the Mark With ‘Shotgun Rider’

The venerable country vocalist marks his longest-running Number One in 10 years

Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw performs in Los Angeles in November 2014. His single "Shotgun Rider" recently marked four weeks atop the Billboard Country Airplay chart.

Mark Davis/WireImage

It’s been more than 20 years since Tim McGraw first scored a Number One hit with his Conway Twitty-esque ballad “Don’t Take the Girl,” and the success of “Shotgun Rider,” off of 2014’s Sundown Heaven Town, is proving the sun’s not nearly set on this country star’s radio domination. The song, written by Marv Green, Hillary Lindsey and Troy Verges, just claimed the top spot on the Billboard Country Airplay chart for the third week in a row (it’s been Number One on the Mediabase chart for four weeks) making it McGraw’s longest-running Number One in 10 years.

“It’s a good way to end the year, and a good way to start it off,” McGraw tells Rolling Stone Country, at home after a holiday trip with wife Faith Hill and their daughters that took them all through Europe — Salzburg, Vienna, Prague, London. “I always love a shuffle, and when you’re in the car driving it’s a good song to listen to — you like the story, you like what it says. It’s always been one of my favorites since I finished the album and it was one of my wife’s favorites from the very beginning.”

McGraw had been holding onto the tune for a while prior to recording it, listening to the demo hanging around before a show or during his famous workouts. Once he started crafting the vibe for Sundown Heaven Town, it fit perfectly. “The first thing that comes to me when I am developing an album in my head are sounds and colors,” he says. “There’s a breeziness I wanted this song to have.”

There’s certainly a windswept, twangy ease to “Shotgun Rider” that lends itself to both highway sing-alongs and arena choruses. Not only is the tune his 36th hit, it’s his 27th Number One on the Billboard Country Airplay chart, more than any artist — but he hasn’t had such a strong, consecutive-week reign since 2004’s Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman mega-smash “Live Like You Were Dying.”

The next contender? The slow-burning dusty ballad “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools,” a duet with his cousin Catherine Dunn that will be released as a single in the next few weeks. “It’s a good country song,” he says, “with a real bite to it.”

Duets have certainly brought McGraw much luck this past year — “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s,” featuring Hill, just earned two Grammy nominations. “When I heard it I fell in love with it right away,” he recalls of the song. “I played it in the pickup line in school picking up my daughter who is in seventh grade. I couldn’t wait to get back home and play it for Faith. I told her, ‘I am recording this song probably tomorrow I like it so much, and you’re going to sing it with me.’ And she agreed. It’s good to be married to one of the best singers in the world.”

As for new music, McGraw will probably start recording later in the year, but he’s hanging at home before his summer tour begins to spend the most time possible with his eldest daughter, who goes off to college in the fall. Still, he’s always writing and listening for new songs or inspiration — but not paying attention to country’s fickle trends. “I don’t play to them because I’ve been around long enough that I have seen quite a few come and go,” he says. “But I’m influenced by the things that I hear — whether I’m driving 16-year-olds to cheerleading practice or listening to radio, country or even classic rock. As an artist you ebb and flow all the time. I don’t really pay that much attention, though, to trends.”

That doesn’t mean he’s not staying current — he’s a big fan of Irish singer-songwriter Hozier. “That song that goes, ‘take me to church,'” he hollers as demonstration, “I love that record. It’s probably one of my favorites of the year.”

Though his next album likely won’t feature Hozier-style anthems (though you never know), McGraw is still intent on challenging himself, an ethos that’s contributed to his longevity over all these years. “I feel like I have a lot left,” he says. “I feel like I am a learning, growing artist that still wants to get better. And I want to prove that to myself. The minute I feel like I have done all I can do and don’t have anymore to learn, I probably shouldn’t do it anymore.”

In This Article: Tim McGraw


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