Tim McGraw hits the road on first solo tour in six years after COVID, ‘Yellowstone’

McGraw plays in St. Louis April 30 in Maryland Heights

Tim+McGraw+plays+at+the+Hollywood+Casino+Amphitheater+in+Maryland+Heights+April+30+on+his+first+tour+since+2019+and+first+solo+tour+in+six+years.

Photo by Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw plays at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in Maryland Heights April 30 on his first tour since 2019 and first solo tour in six years.

By Alan Sculley, For the Call

Tim McGraw originally planned to go on tour to promote his latest album, “Here On Earth,” in 2020. But the universe had an issue with that, as the COVID pandemic hit and the world shut down. So he’s obviously excited to finally get to tour again this summer.

 “I guess this will be six years since I’ve done a solo tour. The last tour was Faith and I together,” McGraw said, referring to the Soul2Soul tour he did with his wife, Faith Hill, in 2019. “And (I was) getting ready to tour before COVID hit. It’s one of those things I’ve been anxious to do for a long time. It’s the longest I’ve ever gone without ever doing a tour in probably 30 years. I’m used to working.”

 As it turned out, McGraw and Hill ended up being quite busy during parts of the pandemic, thanks to the opportunity to star, first for a guest appearance on the hit show “Yellowstone” and then as lead characters in the “Yellowstone” prequel, “1883.”

 This was not a project that the husband and wife were anticipating as they settled into COVID life.

 “It came about pretty organically,” said McGraw, who was taking a break from preparations for his tour when he called for this interview. “I was on the couch one day just watching TV, and one afternoon my phone rang and it was a number I didn’t recognize. Typically I don’t answer those calls. You never know what it’s going to be. But I answered it, and the voice on the other end said ‘Hey, is this Tim McGraw?’ And I said ‘Who is this?’ And he says ‘This is Taylor Sheridan.’ I’m like ‘Oh my gosh, I just got a phone call from Taylor Sheridan.’”

 Sheridan is the co-creator and writer for “Yellowstone.” McGraw and Hill were big fans of the show, which is based around the lives on a Montana ranch of John Dutton (played by Kevin Costner) and his family and the threats and challenges that come with their ranching business. Sheridan was calling to see if McGraw wanted to guest star in an episode or two of the popular show.

 “I said ‘Well, I love the show and I’d love to do it, however it’s got to be the right part,’” McGraw said, recalling the conversation. “I don’t want to be some singing cowboy that gets taken to the train station and gets off. If you come up with something interesting and cool, I’d love to talk with you about it.’ He goes ‘Give me two weeks.’ So two weeks later he called and said ‘I’ve got it. You’re going to be the original Dutton. We’re going to do a flashback episode or two. You’re going to be the original Dutton that founded the ranch and that’s what we’re going to do.’ I thought ‘Well, that sounds cool. Write it up and let me read it.’ Then a week later he wrote it up – (but) before he sent it to me he called me and said ‘You know, you’ve got a wife in there. Do you think Faith would be interested in it?’ I asked Faith and she said ‘Sure, why not? Let’s do it,’ because in our minds it was going to be a couple of flashback episodes.”

 McGraw and Hill went to Montana for three weeks of filming, then returned home and got on with their lives. But a couple of months later, Sheridan called again saying the studio wanted to buy a full season of “1883.”

 McGraw — who has had lead roles in the movies “Flicka” and “Country Strong,” and supporting roles in well-known movies “The Blind Side,” “Friday Night Lights” and “Four Christmases” — was intrigued. But he wanted to see some scripts, and once they were written, the idea of doing “1883” became a lot more real. 

 “He (Sheridan) is one of the best writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading his stuff. It’s so poetic and the world that he created in the writing that he wrote for this script blew us away,” McGraw said. “Faith and I had to sit down and go you know what, if we pull the trigger on this, we’ve got to know people are going to be gunning for us and people are going to be looking for us to fail and going to be looking for every little mistake we can make on it because we’re not supposed to be doing this. So if we do it, we’re going to commit whole-heartedly. We’re just going to get lost in it. We sort of gave each other a high five and said ‘Let’s go kick ass.’ That’s what we did.”

 The “1883” series has been well-received, and McGraw and Hill, who portray James and Margaret Dutton as they take the journey west and establish the Dutton ranch, have generally gotten good reviews for their work. Another batch of episodes is now in the works.

 Before that happens, McGraw will focus on music. He’ll be on tour from late April through early July, including a show at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater April 30 in St. Louis. He’s put together a career-spanning set list he hopes will take fans on an emotional journey. He doesn’t figure to over-feature songs from “Here On Earth.”

“We’re doing the single off of the album now, ‘7500 OBO,’ the single at radio now,” he said, mentioning the single from the deluxe edition of “Here On Earth. “So we’ll be playing that one. But there’s only so much that we can play … So you sort of have to pick and choose one or two off of each album, you know, one top 10, one No. 1, one top five, one that didn’t make the top (40), all sorts of things. We go all the way back to my very first album and play one song off of that. We’re trying to sort of give a breadth of my career.”

 Between shows he’ll likely be working on his next album, which figures to extend an unbroken string of major success that began with his second album, 1994’s “Not A Moment Too Soon,” which became that year’s best selling country album, thanks in large part to the chart-topping singles, “Don’t Take the Girl” and “Not A Moment Too Soon.” He’s released 15 more studio albums since then, 10 of which have joined the “Not A Moment Too Soon” album in topping the country album chart. Of his 75 singles, 30 have reached No. 1 and only nine have failed to go top 10.

McGraw said he has recorded about a dozen tracks so far for the new album, which would put him about midway through his usual recording process. Although he writes songs, McGraw expects that like his other albums, the vast majority of songs will come from outside writers.

 “I haven’t recorded a lot of the things I’ve written because I’m pretty hard on myself as a writer,” he said. “And my philosophy is always the best song has to win. I feel like I’ve built my career on finding great songs. I always want to put together an album where my least favorite song on the album could be the best song on anybody else’s album. That’s sort of my philosophy when I’m putting together an album. That’s not to diss anybody else because I’m a big, huge fan of all other music. It’s just one of my philosophies, the way I approach it, the way I look at it.”