By Larry Nager
The Cincinnati Enquirer
In the pantheon of modern country superstardom, Tim McGraw stands just behind George Strait and Alan Jackson. In these days of multi-artist package shows, he's one of the few guys in Nashville with the box-office clout to do a national arena tour all by himself.
That's what he and his band, the Dancehall Doctors, will do today, bringing his "One Band Show" tour to U.S. Bank Arena with no opening acts and a 21/2-hour set. He spoke to the Enquirer just before his tour began March 7 in Birmingham, Ala.
You've got a new title on your resume, "best-selling author." How did the book "This is Ours" (Atria; $25) come about?
IF YOU GO
When: 8 p.m. today
Where: U.S. Bank Arena
How much: $39.75-$59.75 at Ticketmaster outlets and arena box office.
There's more: Even 21/2 hours isn't enough for Tim McGraw & the Dancehall Doctors. After their March 11 Nashville concert, they did what they call a Bread & Water show, a club date benefiting the Red Cross.
They may do one in Cincinnati, but these shows aren't announced until the arena show is under way. If they do one, expect it to be announced about 9:30 p.m. Monday on Tristate country radio stations.
Admission to Bread & Water shows is $20. Requests for specific songs are $100. All proceeds go to the Red Cross.
I'm not gonna win any Pulitzer Prizes, I don't think, but we got a little book that was fun.
It was an extension of our album jacket. When we did the album (Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors; MCA/Curb Records) we were doing it in a cool place (Allaire Studio in upstate New York). It was such a cool project for us to do we kind of wanted to document it.
After we got it all documented, we thought it really enhanced the making of the record. It really showed the heart and soul that went into making this record and how it was just a different project than your typical record.
You're a little bit of a traditionalist and a bit of a pop-rocker as well. How do you keep a foot in both camps?
I grew up listening to a lot of music. I grew up in Louisiana, so, of course, I grew up with a big country influence. The area I grew up in (Start, La.) is a real musical area. You got Delta blues and zydeco music. And I grew up listening to classic rock and everything else.
And I just try to make records that appeal to me and stuff that I like. Not really paying attention to whether it's too pop or too country - that doesn't even enter my equation. When I sing it, it's gonna be what it is. It's gonna be me. So I got a little leeway there, because when I sing, you know it's me and it's not gonna get too far out there.
There's a new Grammy in the McGraw household, courtesy of your wife, Faith Hill (Country Female Vocal for "Cry") . Will she be joining you on the road?
She's the best. I'm a huge fan of my wife. She'll be out a lot with me, but she's got three kids she's gotta be taking care of, too, so she probably won't have much time to be up there clowning around, making a fool out of herself singing like I will.
I've got it made. She's gotta baby-sit. I get to go onstage and play.
How do you get in shape to sing for 21/2 hours onstage every night?
I come from playing five hours a night in clubs up until I had a hit (1994's "Indian Outlaw"). Even now, when we go out and jam in clubs, I can go four or five hours and keep singing. I don't worry about that as long as you take care of yourself pretty good.
I'm actually looking forward to it. We got a lot of songs to play, and I just couldn't see how we could do a show in an hour and a half. We just wanted to go out and do 21/2 hours - no breaks, nothing, just jam. We're gonna do, like, 30 songs.
You've been at it full-tilt since you moved to Nashville in 1989. Do you see yourself slowing down after this tour?
I like doing what I'm doing. I'm not going to be totally to-the-wall busy all the time anymore, the kids are starting school, and stuff like that. But I'm always gonna go out and do a tour, for the foreseeable future. I don't ever want to say "retire," but there will certainly come a time when I won't do as much.
Faith's been reading a lot of scripts. I'd love to see her do a movie and I'd like to go out on the set and take care of the kids while she's doing that. That's something I really look forward to doing.
You were an honorary pallbearer for Ohio native Johnny PayCheck. How well did you know him?
He was a good friend. Johnny went on the road with us way early in my career and spent some time on the bus. He was just a sweet guy and had a tough road to hoe. I feel good that he's resting now. He had to struggle for the last five years.
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