Having sold millions of CDs and having crossed over from country to contemporary pop, Tim McGraw transcends a genre but brings his own sound to each record. Somehow, even as he has moved out onto the ‘main stage,’ McGraw has remained grounded in his personal experiences. His grounded reality is what allows him to pull off Live Like You Were Dying for those attached to country and those who can’t stand it. McGraw is getting older and he knows it, but he’ll deal with the fear and the possibilities evenly as they are rolled up in one. That’s the beauty of Tim McGraw.

(2004) Music Review

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This page was created on June 8, 2005
This page was last updated on June 8, 2005

DETAILS -Play Widows media

1. How Bad Do You Want It
2. My Old Friend
3. Can't Tell Me Nothin'
4. Old Town New
5. Live Like You Were Dying
6. Drugs Or Jesus
7. Back When
8. Something's Broken
9. Open Season On My Heart
10. Everybody Hates Me
11. Walk Like A Man
12. Blank Sheet Of Paper
13. Just Be Your Tear
14. Do You Want Fries With That
15. Kill Myself
16. We Carry On

CD info
Title: Live Like You Were Dying
Artist: Tim McGraw

Grammy award winning superstar Tim McGraw will release his ninth album on August 24 2004, Live Like You Were Dying. The album is one of the most anticipated releases due this year and will feature his touring band, the Dancehall Doctors, for their second consecutive project. The album's title track, written by Craig Wiseman and Tim Nichols, has become the fastest rising chart single of McGraw's career, breaking into the top 5 in just 4 weeks and # 1 in six weeks.

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Having sold millions of CDs and having crossed over from country to contemporary pop, Tim McGraw transcends a genre but brings his own sound to each record. Somehow, even as he has moved out onto the ‘main stage,’ McGraw has remained grounded in his personal experiences. His grounded reality is what allows him to pull off Live Like You Were Dying for those attached to country and those who can’t stand it. McGraw is getting older and he knows it, but he’ll deal with the fear and the possibilities evenly as they are rolled up in one. That’s the beauty of Tim McGraw.

“How Bad Do You Want It” comes from the standpoint of one who has made it to the top of the game and speaks to those who wish to be just like him. The single-minded ambition that it takes to get to the top comes with a price though, and McGraw knows it. His allusion to Robert Johnson, who reportedly has ‘sold his soul’ to gain the ability to play the guitar, confirms his recognition of that cost. McGraw’s song implies that sometimes skills, fame and fortune are not worth what you give up to achieve them: is it worth it to gain musical skills in return for your soul?

Just because McGraw has learned the lesson that fame comes with a price, doesn’t mean he’s learned all of his lessons just yet, a theme picked up in “Can’t Tell Me Nothin.” He alludes to overindulging alcohol here and in “Old Town New”—admitting that it goes against what the ‘good book’ says and hoping that “somebody up there understands.” For now, the higher power in question is removed from the situation, seemingly waiting in the wings to pronounce judgment.

“Live Like You Were Dying,” is a tribute to Tug McGraw, Phillies’ pitcher and Tim’s father, who died of brain cancer in January 2004. The song depicts the older character giving advice from his own experience to the younger one on the eve of the father’s death. The most telling line to me is “I gave forgiveness I’d been denying,” surpassing the recounting of sky diving, mountain climbing, and bull riding, but joining the ideas of being a true friend and a good husband. McGraw’s character takes the father’s advice and does the same things after reading “the good book.”

“Drugs or Jesus” gets more theological then McGraw was previously, raising up two options: the bad drugs or the good Jesus, with no room for questionable middle. McGraw sings that he has spent his life trying to run and hide “from the stained glass windows in my mind/Refusing to let God’s light shine/Down on me.” Who hasn’t run and hidden by doing what was more gratifying? The easiest road is rarely the best one.

Six songs describe a struggle to describe the dysfunction of out-of-place feelings, relationships and attitudes that face us in our everyday lives. “Walk Like A Man” rises from the midst of them, taking a step back to examine what might be at the root of one boy’s troubles. Growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father, the boy watches his father repeatedly cycle through drinking, abusing, and repenting. “Your daddy’s demons are calling your name/Don’t you listen to them cause they’ve got no claim/Temptations may come, that ain’t no sin/You get stronger every time that you don’t give in,” McGraw sings. Sometimes the dysfunction isn’t our fault, but we have free will, so our responsibility is in our reaction.

In “Kill Myself,” McGraw sings of getting ready to kill himself because he has made all of the wrong decisions and hurt the people he loves. Then, standing back, he sings “I thank God/The devil in me died/I stand before you now/A man changed and alive.” It seems that he does kill the old him and rise up again but the struggle to overcome the past remains as he struggles with “these loose ends.” Sin is consistent in its persistence because it never goes away.

Closing out the album is “We Carry On,” where McGraw sings that we carry on “cause there’s promise in the morning sun.” Nothing about the aging process or life in general keeps those mentioned down, but the ideas of water and light as filling and refreshing parallel a new birth out of trouble. The Christmas story can be heard in the background, bringing hope like this new child. Dawn does end the darkness, experience can cancel old mistakes, and living can be stronger than dying. McGraw knows that he is getting older but he is prepared to use his mistakes to change his life and help others not to follow the road he has taken.


When it came time to record his new record, Live Like You Were Dying, Tim McGraw knew just what he wanted. He was, after all, coming off the extraordinarily successful Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors, which he and his longtime touring band had recorded in a mountaintop studio in upstate New York . The natural and creative atmosphere, the isolation that allowed them to concentrate fully on the music, and the attendant camaraderie all beckoned him to return. It was a decision that began paying off the moment they drove up.

"It was like going away to summer camp," he says. "You've got all these guys that are your best friends who you've traveled around with forever and you go to the top of this great mountain, with snow outside and fireplaces inside. We were actually giddy about getting there."

Capping it all is the fact that collectively they produced an album (which debuted at #1 on both the Pop and Country albums charts with sales of 766,000) that has already given Tim's incredible career another stellar moment. The CD's first single and title track, "Live Like You Were Dying," became one of his fastest-to-the-top singles ever and stayed on top for a 30-year record breaking 10 weeks at #1. The Tim Nichols/Craig Wiseman-penned smash is, among other things, testament to Tim's long-proven ability to tap Nashville 's best writers for their most profound and touching work.

"It's just a great song," he says. "Probably anybody could have recorded it and had a big hit, but it helps that we're in a great place in our career--things just seem to keep getting better. Five years ago I figured we were at the top of our game and that was the best it was going to get, but with every album it seems to keep on building on itself."

Collectively, Tim's achievements are as remarkable as they are numerous: 9 albums spawning 23 #1 singles and selling 32 million copies, tours that consistently rank near the top in financial and entertainment terms, and scores of awards and among those a 2001 CMA Entertainer of the Year nod, a Grammy and the 2004 People's Choice Award for Favorite Male Musical Performer. He is one of only three men ever to grace the cover of Redbook, his NBC Live Concert Special in 2002 ranked higher than specials by U2 and Paul McCartney, he was the headline act at the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Concert, and on October 8, 2004 he makes his major motion picture debut with a role in the Universal/Imagine film "Friday Night Lights" with Billy Bob Thornton. His second NBC Concert Special aired Thanksgiving Eve 2004 winning the night for the network. 2005 kicked off with Grammy nods as Country Album of the Year for Live Like You Were Dying and song nominations too ad his duet with Nelly, “Over and Over,” has stayed atop the Urban charts for 11 weeks.

Many artists have achieved great longevity or amazing levels of success, but Tim's career has indeed been remarkable for the way in which both have been intertwined for so long. That makes Tim's decision to reinvent a major portion of that career, combining road and studio into a seamless whole, that much more impressive. For Tim, though, the logic lies in the results.

"Using the band on the records brings a new kind of honesty to the sound and makes what we do on stage that much purer to the vision we had originally," he says. "It is also a huge comfort being in the studio with those guys and singing to their tracks. We brought a confidence level into recording this time. We knew we could make a great record because we had the confidence of the last album. We were then able to go further, take it to another level. "

That comfort and honesty show throughout the 16-song collection (there is also a bonus track). Drawing on some of the genre's best writers, including Rodney Crowell, Bruce Robison, Casey Beathard, Anthony Smith, Bob DiPiero and Don Schlitz, Tim and the Doctors journey through a range of styles and emotions, with their years as a working unit holding it all together. Tim, long-time producer Byron Gallimore and second-time producer/Dancehall Doctor Darran Smith produced the record and for the first time Tim and Byron mixed it as well to maintain a sound that was true to the visions of the band.

"This record has a really personal feel to it," he says. "It's almost a tapestry of life, not just for us but in general, and I think a lot of people will be able to relate to it, and will be able to jump into this record and flow downstream with it."

That ability to connect emotionally with an audience is on display throughout Live Like You Were Dying . It's an ability that begins with his selection process.

"'Walk Like A Man,' for instance, is a song that probably hits home with a lot of people," he says. "It certainly touches on some of my growing up. It's a really personal song in a lot of ways, but you can say there's something personal about every song." Other favorites include "Back When,” "Blank Sheet Of Paper," written by his friends the Warren Brothers with Don Schlitz ("That's one of the most unique angles I've ever heard in a song, from the point of view of a blank sheet of paper") and "Kill Myself," which Tim describes as "probably my favorite song I've ever done."

"My Old Friend" has become a concert highlight, thanks to an accompanying video presentation. "My friend Danny Knight, an Army chaplain I met through Faith, began sending us really cool pictures when he was in Afghanistan and then Iraq ," says Tim. "We matched a lot of them up with the song, and putting them in the show makes for a great moment. It says something cool about Danny, and it's a tribute to a friend who puts his life on the line."

It is the kind of moment that has long defined Tim, both in concert and on CD. Whether the song is poignant or raucous, Tim's connection with his audience is undeniable. It has been that way since he first hit pay dirt in 1994 with "Indian Outlaw," a time-tested crowd-pleaser in his live shows.

He had grown up in Start, Louisiana , finding out by accident when he was 11 that baseball great Tug McGraw was his father. McGraw's death earlier this year, in fact, coincided with the beginning of work on "Live Like You Were Dying," a song made infinitely more poignant for Tim by the coincidence.

"We were rehearsing when Tug was sick," says Tim, "and he died at the beginning of January. We were in the studio at the end of January, and we recorded this around 11:00 or 12:00 at night and everybody just poured a lot of heart and soul into it. I think you can hear that on the record."

Sports and music competed for Tim's attention growing up, but by the time he was in college, he had chosen music. He played solo in regional nightspots, then headed to Nashville , where he joined the throng of young hopefuls vying for attention. His on-stage charisma helped land him a record deal, and his debut album hit the stores in April 1993. He and his band--many of whom are still with him--took to the road to hone the sound that continues to make his concerts among the industry's most exciting. With "Indian Outlaw," the hits started coming, spawning multi-platinum albums and sell-out concerts.

In 1996, Tim's Spontaneous Combustion tour found him paired with Faith Hill, whom he married before the year was out. Together and separately they have remained among the most successful artists in every genre ever since, and to this day, Tim plans his tours around family life and school schedules. For all the success and accolades that have come his way, you can hear in his voice that this is the key to real happiness in his life.

"Gracie'll be going into second grade this year, which seems absolutely amazing to us," he says, "because we can remember when we couldn't believe they were actually letting us take this child home. We wondered, 'Do they know what they're doing?' Maggie's in first grade now and Audrey is two. As fast as it's moving, we know we've got the good life. We're very blessed, just very fortunate to have the things we have."

--From official web site


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