Country's leading light
“Art reflects life,” Tim McGraw says, alluding to an idea that goes back to Plato and Aristotle, “and life reflects art.” When he first went to Nashville more than two decades ago, he was, as he puts it, “young, single and tearing it up,” and his early songs reflected his life’s manic pace. Now married to the luminous Faith Hill, with whom he has three daughters, McGraw is making music that’s more about raising a family than raising hell—more about seeking lasting connection and celebrating continuity. His song “Shotgun Rider” is an ode to enduring love: “I don’t ever want to wake up/ Lookin’ into someone else’s eyes.” After a brilliant performance at the Oscars in February, he’s got a movie (Tomorrowland, with George Clooney) coming out in May and a 36-city tour beginning in June. He moves between genres with the same down-to-earth grace that’s always on display at the Nashville high school football games he never misses. A big reader of serious novels and of history, McGraw’s a kind of Renaissance man in a cowboy hat, and it’s clear he’s got a lot of life left to live and art still to make—good news for the rest of us.
Meacham, a Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer, is an executive editor at Random House and a TIME contributing editor at large