Sixteen number one albums. Over 40 industry awards. More than 50 million records sold. These are some big numbers for a Louisiana kid who once thought he was destined to be an athlete or a lawyer. But after picking up a guitar for the first time in college, Tim McGraw set himself on the path to becoming a worldwide country music superstar – a path he continues to walk today, more than 25 years after first stepping onto the scene.
Hunter country music fans will be flocking in droves to Hope Estate later this year, with Tim McGraw’s headline show hitting Wine Country on Friday 4th October. It’s been a long time between visits for Tim; his last Australian concerts were way back in 2012 with his wife, fellow country artist Faith Hill. But he’s looking forward to returning, lauding his Aussie audiences as “some of the loudest and most loyal music fans in the world”.
“We have some great memories of being in Australia,” Tim continues.
“The thing about Aussies that has impressed me every time I’ve played there is certainly their knowledge of the music – knowing the lyrics and enjoying the music and having a great time but also really feeling the music.
“As an artist, when you see an audience – especially an audience that’s not in America – that digs in and really feels what you’re saying, feels the music and really has a connection... That’s something pretty special.”
Playing to sold-out crowds that know every word to his songs was the furthest thing from a teenage Tim McGraw’s mind. He’d always been more sporty than musical growing up (though he has always had a love of country music, nurtured by his music-fan mum and ‘cowboy’ stepdad). He took to baseball in particular, starting college on a baseball scholarship and assuming that was where his future lay. This soon changed when he set his sights on becoming a lawyer – but his real calling made itself known when he finally picked up a guitar.
He began performing at small venues in the late 1980's, playing country covers and some of his own material. Friends and family encouraged him to move to Nashville, the home of country music in the US, but doubt initially held him back. “The thing about moving to Nashville and being a part of millions of people who want to do this for a living… You think in the back of your mind that those people were told since they were a toddler to be a musician and to do this,” he reflects. “You never think you’ll have a shot.”
But one day, after a conversation with his mum, Tim finally decided to take the leap, packing up his belongings and joining the world’s biggest country music community. It was a move that changed his life. He signed with his first record label, releasing his first singles and debut album in the early 90's. But it wasn’t until 1994 that he really hit the big time, with his second record becoming the best-selling country album of that year. It’s been a wildly successful ride since then – a quarter of a century later, he’s still at the top of his game and has cemented his position as one of the biggest country music stars in the world.
Tim’s Australian visit this year, which includes a solo show at Rod Laver Arena as well as Hope Estate, is centred around a headline spot at the C2C (Country to Country) Festival. C2C is an international country music event that’s been entertaining fans across the UK and Europe since its first London instalment in 2013. Sydney and Brisbane play host to the inaugural Australian C2C this year, with a host of local and international acts joining Tim on the line-up.
Having been part of C2C since its inception, Tim seems pretty stoked to be bringing it to our shores and continuing the global spread of the genre he loves. “I played the very first one in London, and it always surprises me the knowledge of country music around the world,” he says. “It’s been really cool to be a part of this and watch it grow and see country music spread all over the world. I’ve always found the audiences to be super enthusiastic and really open to accepting these performers and hearing this music live for the first time.”
So what can Hunter Valley audiences expect when they see Tim at Hope Estate in October? All the old favourites, of course, but perhaps some fresh material as well… “You’ll hear some new stuff,” he confirms. “We’ll play some new things from the album we’re working on. I think the new album is the best collection of songs on a solo album that I’ve ever had – it’s my favourite record so far.”
There’s a range of packages available for the Hope Estate show, giving McGraw fans the chance to have the ultimate concert experience. From hamper and VIP Deck packages through to Brewhouse Cocktail Party and Signature Dinner invites, there’s something for every tier of country music fan. As well as the man himself, the show will feature sets from support acts Midland and Travis Collins, so it’s sure to be a jam-packed, high-energy night, celebrating the best the genre has to offer.
Event packages can be purchased for the show on Friday, 4th October through the Hope Estate website (www.hopeestate.com.au), and tickets are also available through Ticketek.