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September 23, 2014

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Q&A: TIM MCGRAW:

The actor, ballplayer in him

The country star talks about future projects, his youth

If You Go

  • Who: Tim McGraw
  • When: 8 tonight
  • Where: M Resort
  • Tickets: $50 to $265; 797-1000

Beyond the Sun

Country superstar Tim McGraw calls on his cell phone from Nashville while on his way to Jersey Mike’s Subs to pick up sandwiches for his daughters.

We don’t start by talking about music or tonight’s show at the M Resort or about acting with Sandra Bullock in the upcoming film “The Blind Side.”

We talk baseball.

Turns out his dad used to strike out my friends back in the early ’60s when they all played high school ball in the San Francisco Bay area.

Frank “Tug” McGraw became an outstanding relief pitcher for the Mets and the Phillies. While he was in the minor leagues, he had a brief affair with Tim’s mother.

“Your friends probably remember my uncle Hank, too,” says McGraw, who didn’t meet his father until he was 11. “He was the superstar.”

Hank McGraw was a year younger than Tug. A colorful, eccentric hippie, Hank McGraw played in the minor leagues for a dozen years and later became something of a drifter.

Tim McGraw was an outstanding athlete and seemed destined to follow his father and uncle’s baseball path. He went to college on a baseball scholarship but discovered he had an even greater talent to write and perform country music.

“When I got into college I joined a fraternity and started playing music at night and going to class less and less,” he says. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I fell in love with it and never looked back.”

He hit the country charts in 1994 with “Indian Outlaw” and “Don’t Take the Girl” and went on to become a crossover star. He has sold more than 40 million records and has won three Grammys and a roomful of country music awards. He married country singer Faith Hill in 1996.

The 42-year-old entertainer says he enjoys hunting quail and pheasant on his Tennessee farm and piloting his own plane.

Eventually, the interview moved away from baseball to music, films and growing up without a father.

What kind of a relationship did you have with your father?

I thought my stepfather was my real dad until I found my birth certificate on accident when I was 11. I met him one time then and never saw him again until I was 19. I didn’t have a relationship with him until I was in my 20s. We became friends, but we never had a father-son relationship. He got me in touch with Curb Records, which got me the record deal.

What was life like with your stepfather?

I had a couple of stepfathers who weren’t the best. The one I had in the early years was an alcoholic. But I had a great mom, a great grandfather and a coach who was a good guy and very instrumental in my life. I went through some hard times, but I wouldn’t change anything. All that stuff made me who I am.

Tell us about your new album, “Southern Voice.”

It’s been almost three years since we recorded it. It’s just a great collection of songs. When I get ready to record an album I have these sounds in my head of what I want the record to sound like, and I try to incorporate all these sounds. I was a big ’70s rock fan, so all my music has that thread in it. This is no different. The songs are vignettes, like little movies. They’re real earthy and have a grounded feel to them.

Why did it take so long to release?

You’d have to ask my record label. They released a (third volume of) greatest hits and then a repackaged greatest hits, all that kind of junk going on.

How has the industry changed since you started in the early ’90s?

I’ve always been very selective about the songs I do. As I grow older I don’t think it would ring true if I kept doing the same kind of songs I did at 25. I’m 42 now. I think the music is going to change. But what happens is your audience grows with you. The model of what record labels do is changing, but what I do doesn’t change. I go to the studio and make great music. That’s what pushes the model, no matter what the model is.

Are you working on another album?

I’m already in the studio. It will be out next year. I’m so busy between making movies and albums and taking my kids to school and running to Jersey Mike’s and all that kind of stuff, if I get a chance to spend a week in the studio I take the opportunity.

Are you touring as much as you once did?

This year I didn’t tour a whole lot, about 20 or 25 shows — mostly fairs and festivals where I fly in and out. But at the end of February I begin a 60-city tour, the biggest I will have done in a while.

Are you interested in a movie career?

I start another movie in January. I think I’ve made five or six. If I find a script I like and a character I like and it falls in the period of time when I’m available to do it, then I’ll do it. But my constraints are different from most actors’. I’m not an actor who looks for scripts. It’s all a matter of timing. I have to do a movie that falls in the free time I have.

Your buddy Garth Brooks just signed a long-term deal with Wynn Las Vegas. Would you be interested in something similar?

I have been offered deals like that. Not as big as Garth’s, I’m sure. I’m not saying I never would but I don’t think it’s the right time for me. I think its perfect for Garth. I may do it one day, who knows? But right now it’s not the right time for me.

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