Story Behind the Song: Tim McGraw, ‘Humble and Kind’
In June of 2016, Tim McGraw earned a No. 1 hit with his single "Humble and Kind," from his 2015 album, Damn Country Music. Written by Lori McKenna -- who included her version of the song on her 2016 album, The Bird & the Rifle -- the track and its accompanying heartfelt video not only became a commercial success, but set off an entire #HumbleAndKind movement, promoting humility and goodwill.
McKenna envisioned none of that when she penned the heartfelt tune; rather, she wrote "Humble and Kind" merely as a message to her five children. At the 2016 Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony, McKenna stopped to talk with The Boot about the song and her own surprise at the massive hit it became.
It was a school day at my house. I took my kids to school, and then I went back home ... and I was sitting in my dining room, and I look out my window. I have guitars all over my house, so I can fiddle around. We call them "spaghetti days" at my house, because if I end up sitting there all day and writing, then I can’t cook anything for dinner except spaghetti, because I can do it real fast, in, like, 10 minutes.
I was thinking about what we want the kids to know, and honestly how they don’t always listen to the things we say. I just thought, "I’m going to write it down." Honestly, it’s a very simple song, and it’s really just this list of things that I wanted to make sure we told them, in this rhyme form. I was lucky that the chorus made as much sense as it did. I did write it in that one sitting; it took me a few hours, but it was a lucky day. I sang it in my phone, and I sent it to Tim. I said, "I wrote this song. Thought maybe you would want to hear it."
I didn’t hear anything back for a while, and I saw him somewhere, I think, and he said, “Oh, yeah, we’re cutting that song,” but I didn’t know for a couple months -- maybe longer. He’s usually a really good communicator; if I send him something, he’ll communicate back really well. I don’t know if I missed it -- I don’t know what happened, but it wasn’t for a little while that I found out he cut it.
It was one of those special days that you can’t really wish, because you don’t think you deserve them, but it has been such a process. I say this to him all the time, but that song is such a little prayer to my kids, and when he heard it and saw it as such a bigger thing ... When I saw the video and saw this worldly thing, the way he translated it, it was just unbelievable to me, because it was such a little thing -- such a personal, home thing for me. Like, if my kids were babies, I would sing it to them when they went to bed. But he saw it in such a different way, such a bigger way, that it’s been such a blessing to me, because I feel like we wrote it together, in that way.
The vision he had for it, I never would have had. It was him that brought that vision into it.
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