Tim McGraw is back in Australia for the first time in seven years for the inaugural Country2Country Music Festival.
Tim McGraw is back in Australia for the first time in seven years for the inaugural Country2Country Music Festival. Supplied

Why country music superstar is in career-best form

At 52 years old, Tim McGraw is possibly in the best shape of his life.

The country music superstar has been sober for more than a decade now and has never shied away from his past struggles with alcohol.

He's spoken candidly over the years about drinking to dull his pre-show nerves, which became habitual, and the wake-up call from concerned friends and his wife, fellow country singer, Faith Hill. 

"I'm in better shape than when I was 32," he says.  "My shows are better, more dynamic and I'm certainly more on point. 

"It's good for mind clarity as well, coming up with ideas and being inspired by things. Being able to grab something you can have control over, your health, and starting with that leads to bigger and better things."

Country singer Tim McGraw before the first half an NFL football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Country singer Tim McGraw before the first half an NFL football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio) Mark LoMoglio

As well as getting sober, McGraw has found a renewed passion for fitness, opening his first flagship gym in Nashville earlier this year.  In college he looked destined to follow in the footsteps of his father, professional baseball player Tug McGraw, until a knee injury dashed any hopes of a sporting career.

As fate would have it, he learned to play guitar in college as well, dropping out of his studies to pursue a music career in Nashville. 

His health and lifestyle book Grit & Grace: Train the Mind, Train the Body, Own Your Life comes out in November. 

"I've always been fit enough and I come from a family of athletes" he says. 

"But you get off track a little bit in the middle. In my late 30s my kids were growing up and I was seeing the future a bit. You want to see them grow up and you certainly want to be around for your grandkids. 

"It inspired me to try to get myself fit, and then the band started getting inspired and we started doing group workouts together. That's been going on for a long time and I thought it was a great idea to put that into a book to empower people to keep chasing better health.

"You never know who's watching and paying attention to what you're doing. You're always setting an example for somebody. 

"I also think the world is starting to take a better focus on it. In the States we're starting to turn a page and focus on fitness.  In the long run it makes all of us better and it certainly goes to the bottom line of healthcare costs over there. Eventually it will make healthcare more affordable if we have a healthier population and the way to do that is take care of yourself if and when you can."

The proud father of three - eldest daughter Gracie has just moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting, middle daughter Maggie is studying at Stanford and performing in an alt-rock band and youngest daughter Audrey is still a teenager - will soon find himself in the foreign position of being an empty nester.

He and Faith had only been together a year before becoming parents. 

"Time goes by so fast, especially with kids growing up," he says.  "When you have kids you start realising you don't remember much before them, and your time gets paced by their life. 

"It goes by so quickly for you and for them it goes by so slowly. They just want to get out of the house.

"I'm almost an empty nester. You look forward to it because you want them to get out into the world and see what they become. As a parent you look forward to watching them succeed and thrive."

The Grammy Award-winner flew into the country yesterday to headline this weekend's inaugural Country2Country music festivals playing Sydney today and Brisbane tomorrow. 

They are his first Australian shows in seven years and McGraw has watched the international festival, new to our shores, grow since performing at the first event in London in 2013. 

"We want to just come out and just slam everybody with big hits and great songs," he says.

"I hope people know some of our favourite songs we like to perform. 

"I'm sure I know the ones everybody wants to hear. We try to create a good rollercoaster of a show."

He fondly remembers his last visit down under, performing with his wife on their first co-headlining tour outside North America.

Country music super stars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.
Country music super stars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. Danny Clinch

"I loved every minute we've been over. The crowds were incredible," he says. 

"I remember specifically Faith and I were in Sydney for two nights and Faith sang Stronger and she must have got a three-minute standing ovation. 

"It was one of the proudest moments of my life because I know what a great singer she is and she just blew the place apart."

McGraw also keeps one foot in the film and TV world, recently lending his musical talents to the soundtrack of the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo, which followed rock climber Alex Honnold's nail-biting attempts to become the first person to ever free solo climb (no ropes) El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

"I didn't know anything about free climbing. They called and asked if I'd be interested in writing a song for the movie. I watched it and I was so enthralled with all of it, I immediately started taking notes of stuff I wanted to write," he says.

"We wrote that song (Gravity) and felt really inspired by what the song said, and then watching the film we really wanted to tell the story of the arc of the movie and tell it in a very sort of beautiful, lyrical way.

"Alex is such an incredible human being. When you see the film you sort of fall in love with him straight away and you just root for him the entire time."

There's no word yet on what McGraw's next big-screen role might be. He received critical acclaim for his feature film debut in the 2006 family film Flicka and went on to star opposite Sandra Bullock in her Oscar-winning performance in the gridiron drama The Blind Side

"I always look at those things much like I do a song," he says. 

"I just sit back and listen and read and something's got to really move me and make me feel something. Then I have to see if I have time and if they want me - I'm not Tom Hanks (laughs). 

"A lot of variables have to come together, but first and foremost I have to really love the material."  

Country2Country plays the Brisbane Entertainment Centre tomorrow. Tickets available via Ticketek.

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