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Tim McGraw Reflects on Sobriety, Success, Family and Fame

Tim McGraw fame sobriety Faith Hill family
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Tim McGraw quit drinking in 2008, after his wife, Faith Hill, warned him that alcohol was taking over his life. Looking back with almost eight years of sobriety behind him, the singer says that quitting cold turkey was the best thing for him, his family and his career.

“I drank too much for a while,” McGraw shared at a recent media event. “I knew that. My kids were getting older. You start thinking about mortality a bit. You start thinking about what your life’s going to be like when your kids are gone and you have grandkids. All those things start going through your mind.”

McGraw, who admits that he almost always had a buzz going before he took the stage in the past, relishes the way he performs now, without being under the influence of anything.

“I got to a point in my career, where it was either time to give up, not try to be the best you can be moving forward or try to be the best that you can be,” he says. “I was at a crossroads in my life on all fronts: I wanted to be healthy, I wanted to be around for my kids, I wanted to be a better husband and a better father, I wanted to take care of myself mentally and physically, and I wanted to get the most out of my career that I could get out of my career.”

McGraw ultimately traded drinking for working out, keeping himself to a strict exercise routine that includes weightlifting, cardio and a healthy diet.

“I wanted to control something. I wanted to control something, because I felt like it was getting out of control, that I couldn’t control anything about all the things that I had worked hard for,” he explains. “So I think that was the first thing I could grab and control, was my physical well-being. And that put me in a better mental state, and that put me in a better position to want to go try, to want to really work hard.”

"Knowing I wanted to do [music] for a living … There was nothing else that I could do, nothing else that I wanted to do and nothing else that I felt like I could do to have the life that I wanted to, raising a family and doing all the things I wanted to do in my life."

McGraw knows well how to overcome obstacles: After a lengthy lawsuit with his former label, Curb Records, the singer was released from his contract, signed with Big Machine Label Group and put out Two Lanes of Freedom in 2013. The legal issues took a toll on McGraw, but he used his troubles as encouragement to work even harder.

“It certainly can squash your creativity for a while,” he reflects. “You work so hard for something, as anybody does. You work hard for your career, you work hard for your family, you work hard to accomplish the goals that you set out. Road blocks get in the way, but you start trying to figure out a way around that road block; you start trying to find a way to beat them. If you give me a challenge, I’m going to step up to it and try my best to beat that challenge.

” … I didn’t know if that was going to be it,” McGraw confesses. “I knew I didn’t want it to be; I wanted to keep making music, keep moving forward, lead with my heart and try to make the best decision that I could make, make the right decisions, the things that I thought were right. I never wanted to do anything maliciously.”

It’s that tenacity that has propelled McGraw for much of his career, from his early days in Music City to his current status as one of the reigning hitmakers in country music.

“Knowing I wanted to do [music] for a living — I knew I wanted to do it, whether I was playing acoustic guitar in someone else’s band, whether I was a song plugger on Music Row, or just being involved, I knew that I wanted to be involved in music,” McGraw says. “That was the thing that kept me focused. There was nothing else that I could do, nothing else that I wanted to do and nothing else that I felt like I could do to have the life that I wanted to, raising a family and doing all the things I wanted to do in my life.”

"I don’t think we get bothered as much with fame … We don’t feel like it’s been a hindrance to us."

As one of country music’s power couples, McGraw and Hill are two of the genre’s most well-known faces. Still, the spouses continue to live their lives as normally as possible.

“I think Faith and I, we understand it, and we’re cognizant of it. It’s not like we disregard it or don’t think that it’s there,” McGraw acknowledges. “Early in my career, probably it was fun. You felt like you were famous and people were paying attention to you. All that stuff, I think people go through early in their career, and some people, it may last their whole career.”

However, the parents knew that they wanted to raise their children as normally as possible, which is why they chose to stay out of the spotlight in their personal life.

“We consciously made the decision that we weren’t going to pay attention to that,” McGraw adds. “We were just going to live our lives. And I think, as a consequence to that — of course, we’re in the tabloids, everybody’s in the tabloids, you still have that stuff. But as a consequence, I don’t think we get bothered as much with fame … We’re still pretty comfortable with it. We don’t feel like it’s been a hindrance to us.”

McGraw and Hill’s eldest daughter, Gracie, is in college, while Maggie is a senior in high school, and Audrey is a freshman. The 48-year-old says that he is decidedly “uncool” with his children, just like any other dad.

“We certainly don’t feel like it’s been a hindrance to our kids,” he admits. “They may grow up and write a book, and we might find out differently, but I think we’ve led our life as normally as we can, in the circumstances that we live in.

“… Our kids know it’s there, and they’ve always been around it, but it’s just not anything that we’ve sat and discussed or dealt with,” McGraw adds. “We haven’t talked to our kids about us being famous, even when they were little. I think they just sort of naturally let it all evolve … We try to make it not an issue. We try to live our lives that way, too. We go to the grocery store. We don’t think about that … We sort of forget about it.”

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