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.”