Editors’ Notes “You make a record emotionally; you make a record that has a visceral impact on you,” veteran country superstar Tim McGraw tells Apple Music. “But at the same time, you're trying to tell a story.” The tale he sought to tell on his 16th studio album, Here on Earth, was what he calls “a tapestry of life”: “Every little song's a vignette of different parts or experiences of life.” Consistently one of mainstream Nashville’s more serious-minded album-makers, McGraw attentively selected the songs and sounds alongside his longtime producing partner Byron Gallimore. They recorded the basic tracks the warm, old analog way—on two-inch tape—but also did some elegant experimentation with reverb and effects. Says McGraw, “We wanted to marry a modern sound with that tactile experience and that grounded music that I grew up on and like so much.” Read on as McGraw tells the stories behind each track on Here on Earth.

L.A.
“The very first song of the album, you hear L.A., and you hear those strings come in at the beginning, and then it puts you in mind of all those great Glen Campbell, Jimmy Webb songs, ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’ or ‘Wichita Lineman.’ I think one of the great things about using a city or building a scene that the story is told in is it gives you a very cinematic point of view when you're listening to it.”

Chevy Spaceship
“At first you think it's a little bit of a light song, but the more you listen to it, the lyric has sort of an angst to it, a teenage angst. You start thinking about all the things that you thought about as a kid—about getting out of where you're at, the parents don't understand, and all those things. You hear the interesting sounds that we used vocally and on the guitars and that sort of Elton John ‘Rocket Man’ sort of vibe, too.”

Here on Earth
“It's definitely got an Edge/U2 thing to it, especially when it gets to that solo. I wanted to make a record that was a tapestry of life and all these little vignettes of life. That song didn't come till later, but it was sort of a glue that made everything make sense.”

Damn Sure Do
“It reminded me so much of me and my wife in a lot of ways. All people do this in their relationships: You have a perception of what the other person thinks about, their perception of you. It's usually way different than what it actually is. But there's always this romanticized sort of an antihero feeling, that you want to think you're a badass, but you're really not. You think your wife thinks you're a badass, but she knows you're really not. I love some of the cool little sounds that we put in it that are sort of Terrence Malick-y, that dreamy, sort of floaty way he shoots movies.”

Hallelujahville
“It told the story that we tell over and over in country music about our roots and where we came from and who we are, but I think what makes those songs work is letting anybody from wherever they're from build their own vision of where they grew up into it. Whether it's geographically the same place, emotionally it's the same place. This song and the way it was written hit all those buttons for me. With the keyboards that we did at the beginning of it, the strings on it, and putting the gospel sounds in there as well, it just rooted it for me in a lot of ways.”

Good Taste in Women
“When you do a fun song, what I've always tried to do throughout my career is make a really good record out of it. I wanted to put some meat on the bones of this one with the production. It's got some great musicianship in it that really draws you into it.”

Hard to Stay Mad At
“[Songwriter] Lori McKenna, she sent me the song. It was just her on a little acoustic guitar playing it when she sent it to me. It didn't quite have the same groove. The Dire Straits sort of feel, those tones, happened in the studio while we were playing. That was one of the first ones that we recorded in that very first session that first day.”

Sheryl Crow
“Something that's so good you just can't get it out of your head—that's what that song said to me. I love the melody, I love what it said. I mean, I love Sheryl Crow to start with, so when I got the title, I was curious about what the song was, of course. That's one of those things that when you just get in there and start jamming on it, it just comes right to you naturally, and it flows right out of you and you sing it. And Sheryl's heard it. She sent me a beautiful note about it.”

Not From California
“The main reason that I recorded that song is just because I love singing it. I love the imagery of it, of course, but I just like the way it flowed and I liked the way the melody was to sing. That's important for me, because I'm not going to be able to go in there and just sing just anything and make it sound good. It's got to be something that fits me, that I feel like I can fit my soul into.”

Hold You Tonight
“It's a pretty youthful-sounding lyric. But to me, being a guy who's been in this business for 30 years and that's 53 years old and been married for 23 years, it spoke to me about the long haul that you're in and the ups and downs and how you're there for somebody to be themselves, not to be their version of who you think they should be. To me, it was a lot deeper, sort of philosophical song about life in the long run.”

7500 OBO
“This song, of course they're aiming it right at me, the songwriters. You hear the references: They had a version of the ‘Where the Green Grass Grows’ sort of fiddle, and they had some references to my songs and stuff in there. It took me a minute to get my head around that, saying, ‘Should I sing this song or should someone else sing this song?’ But at the end of the day, it was just a really good song. I wasn't sure how I would handle that kind of vocal cadence, but oddly enough, it was one of the easiest vocals I did on the whole record.”

If I Was a Cowboy
“Everybody wishes, ‘Man, I wish I was that guy that just didn't give a shit about anything or anybody.’ Nobody's really like that, I guess. I just thought that there was a loneliness to the song that was needed on this record, this album. One of the things I like about this record is the octave vocal below the lead vocal in there. I think it just makes it a really masculine record.”

I Called Mama
“When we cut the song, none of this was going on. But when all of this started happening, it changed the entire meaning of the song to me. The first verse puts you right into the world we're in today, with people getting sick. But it could reference any time in anybody's life, losing friends especially. For me, it's about my mom, because my mom's so important to me, and she's been the backbone in my life for a long, long time. Now I've got five women in my life that are the backbone. It turns into this sort of multilayered sort of song about reconnecting with people who are stable to you, people who can be a safety net for you when things sort of seem crazy.”

Gravy
“The hook to ‘Gravy’ was just so perfect and special. I just had never heard it quite said that way before. [Songwriter] Tom Douglas, he's a poet and he's so good at what he does.”

War of Art
“Those kinds of songs that are about the passion that you have for playing music and what it means to you. Music is my therapy in a lot of ways. To be able to go into the studio and have a song like that and sort of release yourself on it, it's a good medicine. I love the production. 'Perfectly imperfect' is a good way to describe it, because there are mistakes in it, but I didn't want to change anything. And I think there's a naturalistic sort of sound to it.”

Doggone
“The song reminded me of Tom T. Hall a little bit, like ‘Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine.’ Of course, I have always loved dogs. After all the things that are going on in life and all the craziness and all the ups and the downs and everything else, ending with a song about losing your dog and about him going to heaven, it just sort of brought everything back into perspective a little bit.”

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