Tim McGraw’s 14th No. 1 country album, “Two Lanes of Freedom,” is his first following a legal battle with his old label of more than 20 years.
Just this week, Nashville, Tenn.-based Curb Records filed a lawsuit against McGraw and Big Machine Records – again – alleging copyright infringement and breach of contract. (Curb has also sued McGraw in Tennessee state court, but has thus far failed to keep McGraw from recording new music under a new agreement with Big Machine, which put out “Two Lanes of Freedom” earlier this year.)
But for the most part, the 46-year-old singer-songwriter hasn’t let it color his work. On the eve of his tour stop at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre Friday, he spoke with the Observer about the new record, his three daughters with Faith Hill, and what he considers freedom.
Q. Has the legal fight weighed on you creatively?
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It was certainly not a fun time. I don’t live in that world all the time. I have my family and my daughters. I love making music, and that’s always what I was doing. I fought what I thought – as an artist – we should fight for, and (hopefully) it helps other artists down the road.
Q. Was making “Two Lanes of Freedom” a different experience for you?
We always try to go in and have fun, bring something fresh to the table, and not really take any (preconceptions) in there with us as far as what everybody else wants. I certainly feel there was a sense of optimism and purpose moreso on this record. ... Some of the songs have heavier themes, but there’s still a brightness to them.
Q. You’ve said the song “Book of John” is your favorite off of the new album. How did it speak to you?
That song was interesting. I didn’t grow up with my dad, and I had a few stepdads – always rocky, pretty dysfunctional relationships. And I have all daughters now, and I grew up with sisters. I have brothers from my dad that I didn’t know until I was grown. I don’t have a father/son relationship, so that song was interesting to me to look at from that perspective. To live that song is sort of cathartic for me. It allowed me to open up and explore in a different way. It’s hard to get through that song without tearing up.
Q. Do you save keepsakes for your kids?
We have tons of pictures of the kids growing up in our house. Faith is a great photographer. I read a lot, so when I finish a book I always write where I was, what the kids were doing, and date the book. Someday, they’ll see those notes going through my book collection.
Q. Do your daughters expose you to a lot of new music?
Oh yeah. I’m a fan of everything. I don’t always listen because I’m doing other things, but when you’re picking up the kids and you have four or five high school cheerleaders in your car – I hear stuff I would’ve never heard.
Q. Eric Gunderson from Love and Theft (one of the tour’s opening acts) is from this area. How did you choose them?
They were on the tour a couple years ago. Great kids. I like their sense of songs, and the way they play and have a California rock sort of sound to them, which I liked growing up. I’m a fan of theirs. My daughters are fans of theirs.
Q. You’ve got quite a track record over the year with opening acts. From Faith to Taylor Swift to the Band Perry and Luke Bryan a couple years ago. Are you always involved in that process?
Oh yeah. I would never go out on tour with someone I didn’t pick. I’ve become fans of everybody. But you’re right. Faith, Kenny, the Dixie Chicks, Luke, Jason
Q. Taylor Swift guests on the single “Highway Don’t Care.” When she came along, opening for you and Faith and singing a song about you, did you have an inkling of her future?
How can you ever foresee a career that huge? No, certainly we expected her to do very well. She’s talented and beautiful. I love her voice and sense of style, but she’s a brilliant songwriter. She doesn’t get enough credit for her songwriting.
Q. Where do you feel free, considering the album title?
On a beach with a good book and a chair, watching my girls ride the jet ski.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday.
WHERE: Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd.
DETAILS: 800-745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com.