Tim McGraw doesn’t consider himself a traditional host, but his name is on a star-packed new music special.
The Academy of Country Music made him the headliner of “ACM Presents: Tim McGraw’s Superstar Summer Night“ Sunday, May 19, on CBS. Now touring in support of his latest album, “Two Lanes of Freedom” — with stops in Detroit, St. Louis, Chicago and Cincinnati in the coming week — McGraw is grateful the special was taped right after last month’s ACM Awards at the same location, Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“It was just one of those nights when everybody was excited to be there,” he tells Zap2it, “but it can be a problem on another level. Everybody’s really geared up for the award show, then after they’ve sort of shot their wad there, they’ve got to think about staying an extra day and doing something else. This didn’t feel like that at all, though.”
Many other artists were on hand to confirm that, including Mrs. McGraw, Faith Hill. Also present: Taylor Swift (whose first single was titled “Tim McGraw”), Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, the Band Perry, Florida Georgia Line … and several performers associated with other genres — Nelly, Ne-Yo, Pitbull and Creedence Clearwater Revival veteran John Fogerty.
“They’d asked me to do this months ago,” the easygoing McGraw says of the event benefiting the ACM Lifting Lives initiative. “They really wanted to change the format of what the shows had been in the past. And if I was going to be involved, I certainly wanted it to be a different sort of format as well. It wasn’t going to be a tribute show but a full-on concert of great music, [showcasing] what’s going to be on tour this summer.
“I didn’t really feel like a host,” McGraw maintains, “because I didn’t do a whole lot of talking. It was mainly performing and letting the other acts go out and do their thing.”
A winner of three Grammys and numerous country honors including 14 ACM Awards, McGraw likes the musical crossovers indicated by some “Superstar Summer Night” guests, noting that “years ago, I had a No. 1 urban record with Nelly (‘Over and Over’). I think there’s a history of that; I can remember Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias having a top record with ‘To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before.’
“I think that’s probably even more prevalent now,” adds McGraw. “My generation of musicians was exposed to tons more music than the generation before, just by the nature of how small the world has gotten. And the newer generation certainly has been. They’ve grown up in a time when you can go online and find any music you want, from anywhere in the world. We’re all swimming in the same stream; it’s just different little branches here and there.”
McGraw’s recent work with Swift also demonstrates that, her teaming with him and Urban on the “Two Lanes of Freedom” tune “Highway Don’t Care” a prime example. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Taylor,” McGraw says. “I’ve been sitting back watching her almost like a big brother.
“She opened for Faith and me on our ‘Soul2Soul’ tour, and what’s always struck me is not only her talent — and she’s that elite, one-in-a-million songwriter who comes along so rarely in this business — but her sense of style, her sense of herself and her sense of knowing, and owning, where she’s going as an artist. That’s something you don’t see as often as you’d like to.”