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Tim McGraw Talks ‘Humble and Kind': ‘I Just Thought It Was a Song That Needed to Be Heard’

Tim McGraw thoughts on Humble and Kind
Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Tim McGraw only released the newest single from his 2015 Damn Country Music album in late January, but already, “Humble and Kind” is in the Top 20 and climbing. The touching tune has clearly resonated with country music fans — proof that the power of its lyrics isn’t limited to just the singer himself.

“I think, in the times that we live in, it’s an important song, by itself, just by what it says,” McGraw shared during his panel at CRS 2016. “Being a dad, and having daughters — one just went off to college, and another one that goes off to college next year; she graduates in May. My youngest daughter’s starting high school. So you start looking at the world in a different way than you’ve been looking at it without having kids.”

McGraw explains that he felt compelled to share the track — which features lines such as “Hold the door, say please, say thank you / Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie / I know you got mountains to climb, but / Always stay humble and kind” — with his fans.

“I just thought it was a song that needed to be heard,” he explains. “When you find a song that says something and a song that means something to you, those are always special. You have fun songs, and you have songs that you do because you like the feel and songs that you do because you like the lyric. But I feel a responsibility to do music, make music, that I’m proud of.”

The country star reveals that he wasn’t sure if he or his wife, Faith Hill, would ultimately record “Humble and Kind,” which was written by Lori McKenna, but he knew somehow that they would make sure it was shared with a larger audience.

“[McKenna] sent me that song. I guess I had it for a year and a half or so,” McGraw recalls, “and it was just her and an acoustic guitar playing it. The night that she wrote it, she sent it to me, and I listened to it over and over, and I just fell in love with the song and her version of it.

“I knew I wanted to record it, but I just couldn’t quite get my head around how I wanted to do it,” he continues. “I couldn’t get past her demo of her singing it. It was just so beautiful and so touching. If anybody’s ever heard Lori just sit and sing with a guitar, she could sing anything to you and sell it to you. It’s so beautiful what she does.”

Because the song meant to much to McGraw, he wasn’t thinking about chart success when he added “Humble and Kind” to Damn Country Music.

“Most of the time, at the end of the day, you go in and make a record that pleases you. You can’t think about, what does radio want to hear? You can’t think about what your fans want to hear. You just can’t. I think [if] you go in and start doing that, it might work for a little while, but eventually, that strategy isn’t going to work,” he says. “If you don’t go in and try to please yourself as an artist and try to create something that you feel like you’re beating yourself the last time you were in — if you don’t go in with that sort of attitude, I think, sooner or later, your strategy is flawed.”

Such a special song needed an equally special music video, and McGraw found inspiration for his “Humble and Kind” clip thanks to a timely commercial.

“After you’ve done this for so long and made so many videos, it’s hard to come up with ideas, it’s hard to come up with a new way to approach it. I knew I wanted it to be universal, and I knew I wanted it to speak to a lot of people and encompass a lot of different types of people and different cultures,” the Louisiana native notes. “I was on the treadmill one morning, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with this video, and Oprah [Winfrey]’s Belief series, the trailer for the series, came on. And I knew that’s exactly what I wanted my video to be.”

McGraw called one of his employees and told her his idea, audacious as it was.

“She goes, ‘Well, yeah, we can do that. But that’s going to cost a lot of money, to shoot a video that looks like that,'” McGraw recounts. “And I said, ‘Well, let’s see if we can try to get the footage.’

“We made some phone calls, and with a little help from some friends, Oprah let us use the footage for the video,” he continues. “Wes [Edwards] came in and shot some great stuff and [used a] great orbiting light affect that really encapsulated in the intro about how time goes.”

McGraw will continue to sing fun and lighthearted songs, of course, but he concedes that his musical purpose is much greater than it was at the start of his career.

“I feel responsible for making good music. That’s the main thing I feel responsible for,” he notes. “I don’t want to let myself down.”

“Humble and Kind” is available for download on iTunes.

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