Tim McGraw

Lead Single | Taylor Swift (2006)

“Tim McGraw” is Taylor’s first-ever published song and the lead single from her debut studio album, Taylor Swift (2006).  She wrote it in her freshman math class about her remembrance of a summer love, and how a song by country music artist Tim McGraw brings back memories of that time.

Background and Lyrical Theme

The lyrics of “Tim McGraw” regard a summer romance that came to a sudden halt. The song fondly reminisces an ex-boyfriend, and directs the lyrics towards him, rather than country singer Tim McGraw himself. Taylor said she wrote “Tim McGraw” for her boyfriend when he was moving away to go to college and they knew they would eventually have to break up. “I started thinking of all the things that reminded me of him.” She finished the song with Liz Rose. Taylor said:

«This song means so much to me, that’s why we wanted it to be the first track on the album. The idea for this song came to me in math class. I just started singing to myself, 'When you think Tim McGraw.‘ The concept for this song hit me, because I was dating a guy who moved away, and it was going to be over for us. So I started thinking of things that I knew would remind him of me. The first thing that came to mind was that my favorite song is by Tim McGraw. After school, I went downtown, sat down at the piano, and wrote this with Liz Rose in fifteen minutes. It may be the best fifteen minutes I’ve ever experienced. It deals with the haunting power of music and how hearing a song years after it was first popular can have such an emotional appeal.»

Taylor Swift
The Tim McGraw song in question was 2004’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’.” Before releasing the song, Scott Borchetta, label president of Big Machine, told Taylor to shorten the original title “When You Think Tim McGraw” to simply “Tim McGraw” because it would get more attention from the industry and radio listeners that way. The song quickly gained popularity and Taylor got to perform the song for a crowd Tim McGraw was in at the 2007 ACMs. She introduced herself to him and they shook hands on live TV.

Music Video

The accompanying music video for “Tim McGraw” was directed by Trey Fanjoy. It was filmed at the former home of Johnny & June Carter-Cash, which burned down the next year. The letter which the boyfriend receives is addressed to “Johnny” for this purpose. In regards to the video’s concept, Taylor stated, “It deals with the haunting power of music and how hearing a song years after it was first popular can have such an emotional appeal.” Clayton Collins portrayed Taylor’s love interest in the music video. He was cast because of his physical resemblance to the real subject of the song, in that they were both tall with dark hair. The video premiered on July 22, 2006 on Great American Country. At the 2007 CMT Music Awards, it won the CMT Music Award for “Breakthrough Video of the Year”, which was Taylor’s first ever award she’d won.

Live Performances

Taylor spent six months of 2006 promoting “Tim McGraw” and Taylor Swift on a radio tour. She also performed the song as she opened for Rascal Flatts on several dates, from October 19 to November 3, 2006, included on the “Me and My Gang Tour (2006-2007). She also performed the song when she served as opening act on twenty dates for George Strait’s 2007 United States tour, and selected dates for Brad Paisley’s “Bonfires & Amplifiers Tour” in 2007. During mid-2007, Taylor engaged as the opening act on several dates for Tim McGraw’s and Faith Hill’s joint tour, “Soul2Soul II Tour” (2006-2007), where she again performed “Tim McGraw”. She performed the song while she was again opening for Rascal Flatts for their “Still Feels Good Tour” in 2008.

Taylor’s first broadcast performance of “Tim McGraw” was on October 24, 2006, on “Good Morning America.” She continued promotion for the track at Billboard headquarters, the 2007 Academy of Country Music Awards, The Engine Room, and a concert at the Apple Store in SoHo, New York, which was recorded and released as a live extended play (EP), iTunes Live from SoHo, exclusively sold through the iTunes Store. Since completing promotion for Taylor Swift and its corresponding singles, Taylor has performed “Tim McGraw” on all venues of her first headlining concert tour, the “Fearless Tour,” which extended from April 2009 to June 2010. She also performed the song on her “The RED Tour” (2013-2014) and “reputation Stadium Tour” (2018).

Critical Reception

“Tim McGraw” was acclaimed by critics. Rob Sheffield of Blender magazine described the track as a gem that hit hard. Sean Dooley of About.com complimented Taylor’s vocal delivery, describing it as “tender and emotive.” Jeff Tamarkin of Allmusic said that the song demonstrated Taylor was “a talent to be reckoned with”, because of her vocal delivery that, according to him, equated that of a seasoned professional.

Commercial Performance

“Tim McGraw” was released on June 19, 2006, by Big Machine Records as Taylor’s debut single and the lead single from her eponymous debut album. It performed well commercially and spent 20 weeks upon both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Country Songs in the United States. It peaked at  No. 40 on the former and No. 6 on the latter.

The Start of An Iconic Career

When the radio station Big 98 [WSIX] in Nashville played “Tim McGraw” in a song challenge one evening, it was the first time that Taylor, 16 years old at the time, heard one of her songs on the radio. She recalled to The Boot:

«My high school friends and I all sat in my convertible with the top down in my driveway and blasted it. Then, listeners called in and said whether they liked it or not, and I remember being more nervous than I'd ever been. Thankfully, they said nice things. I'll never forget that feeling!»

Taylor Swift
Seven years later, Taylor and the actual Tim McGraw linked up when she provided harmony vocals for his Two Lanes Of Freedom track “Highway Don’t Care.” In 2018, Taylor performed “Tim McGraw” with Tim McGraw and his wife Faith Hill at her “reputation Stadium Tour” at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, TN. It was a full circle moment for Taylor and the song.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
He said the way my blue eyes shined
Put those Georgia stars to shame that night
I said, “That’s a lie”
Just a boy in a Chevy truck
That had a tendency of gettin’ stuck
On backroads at night
And I was right there beside him all summer long
And then the time we woke up to find that summer gone

[Chorus]
But when you think Tim McGraw
I hope you think my favorite song
The one we danced to all night long
The moon like a spotlight on the lake
When you think happiness
I hope you think that little black dress
Think of my head on your chest
And my old faded blue jeans
When you think Tim McGraw
I hope you think of me

[Verse 2]
September saw a month of tears
And thankin’ God that you weren’t here
To see me like that
But in a box beneath my bed
Is a letter that you never read
From three summers back
It’s hard not to find it all a little bittersweet
And lookin’ back on all of that, it’s nice to believe

[Chorus]
When you think Tim McGraw
I hope you think my favorite song
The one we danced to all night long
The moon like a spotlight on the lake
When you think happiness
I hope you think that little black dress
Think of my head on your chest
And my old faded blue jeans
When you think Tim McGraw
I hope you think of me

[Bridge]
And I’m back for the first time since then
I’m standin’ on your street
And there’s a letter left on your doorstep
And the first thing that you’ll read is:
“When you think Tim McGraw
I hope you think my favorite song
Someday you’ll turn your radio on
I hope it takes you back to that place”

[Chorus]
When you think happiness
I hope you think that little black dress
Think of my head on your chest
And my old faded blue jeans
When you think Tim McGraw
I hope you think of me
Oh, think of me
Mmmm

[Outro]
He said the way my blue eyes shine
Put those Georgia stars to shame that night
I said, “That’s a lie”

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General Information
AlbumTaylor Swift
ReleasedJune 19, 2006
Recorded2006
StudioQuad Studios-A (Nashville)
Sound Cottage (Nashville)
GenreCountry
Length3:54
LabelBig Machine Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Liz Rose
ProducerNathan Chapman
TAYLOR SWIFT CHRONOLOGY
Tim McGrawPicture to Burn
Single Certification
Hidden Message
Can’t tell me nothin
Single Artwork
Music Video
Live Performance
Official Audio