A native of Louisiana, country superstar Tim McGraw headed to Nashville in 1989 to carve out a place for his talents in the bustling country music capital. But he never imagined he’d reach the living legend status he holds today. He came from humble beginnings and a single parent household when his father left his mother before he was born.
Once he turned 18, his father, professional baseball pitcher “Tug” McGraw, finally reached out to Tim. The future country singer spent a bit of time in North Florida attending college and playing the occasional gig while getting to know Tug, who played for the Jacksonville Suns. But during that time, McGraw was overcome with grief when his all time favorite country musician, Keith Whitley, unexpectedly passed away. This tragedy acted as the catalyst Tim needed to muster up the courage and head to Tennessee to become a professional musician.
Since the early ‘90s, the country singer has racked up 46 number one singles and 19 number one records. He’s also sold a whopping 90 million albums on a global scale. The record-breaking artist holds the title for being the most played country artist since 1992. One of the genre’s genuine titans of industry, dive into our top picks for the best Tim McGraw songs below.
12. Standing Room Only
McGraw gets spiritual with ‘Standing Room Only,’ the title track to his 17th studio album. The moving anthem was written by a few of Nashville’s finest songwriters. Tim’s longtime buddy Craig Wiseman got together with Tommy Cecil, who’s worked with Jake Owen, and Warner Music Nashville musician Patrick Murphy to pen the uplifting track. The song’s title alludes to a life lived so well that at your funeral it’s so crowded there’s “standing room only,” much like you would hear at a popular club or music venue.
11. Indian Outlaw
A breakout hit for the country artist, ‘Indian Outlaw’ placed in the top 10 on country charts and climbed all the way into the top 20 on Billboard’s Hot 100 after its release. The 1994 tune tells the story of a rebel-hearted Native American, with a twist in its title. The official music video features McGraw’s bad boy side, with him firing up a motorcycle in the opening scenes. Biker culture is also rebellious by nature, sometimes associated with being an “outlaw.” And the Indian Motorcycle is a coveted brand among the industry.
10. It’s Your Love
McGraw’s early releases focused on his playful bad boy image, but his longtime marriage to fellow country star Faith Hill helped him show his more vulnerable side in the studio as well. ‘It’s Your Love’ is a romantic ballad that finds the singer focusing on the power of being with your one and only forever. A huge top 10 hit in the states, when Tim released the track in the late ‘90s, he and Hill were newlyweds. Hill contributed vocals to the track, and their chemistry shines through the recording. The single proved to be an award magnet in ‘97 at the ACMs. It won Single of the Year, Vocal Event of the Year, and Song of the Year.
9. Don’t Take the Girl
With the release of his second album Not A Moment Too Soon, McGraw scored a huge hit with the single ‘Indian Outlaw.’ But it was another single from that record that got him his first #1. ‘Don’t Take The Girl’ is a tearjerker of a track, a staple in the landscape of country music songwriting material. The hit tells the stories of special women in the male protagonist Johnny’s life, with the core of its message centered around hope. With its debut, it raced to the top spot on country charts, and it remains one of Tim’s most beloved tracks among fans.
8. If You’re Reading This
A post 9/11 world and war’s stark reality are undercurrents felt in this mournful McGraw single. The country star debuted ‘If You’re Reading This’ at the ACM Awards, creating a poignant, somber moment during an event that is otherwise festive. While country music is famous for its songs steeped in patriotism, this one took a far more realist approach to the life of a soldier as the lyrics read like a letter from a serviceman who is writing to his wife from the grave. The performance created a striking tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. And the 2007 chart-climber became a giant among McGraw’s many previous releases.
7. Where The Green Grass Grows
A fiddle-heavy tribute to rural, small-town living, McGraw’s longtime friend and go-to songwriter Craig Wiseman helped pen this country track. Wiseman has written quite a few top hits for the country star over the years, and ‘Green Grass Grows’ is one of them. The single stood out as a classic-sounding gem on Tim’s late ‘90s album, Everywhere. While this tune sounds a bit more like what you’d hear from a more traditional country artist of contemporary times, the general theme of the record highlighted the singer’s transition from the ‘90s country sound to the then-oncoming new century, which was heading in the direction of pop-country.
Recommended: Our selection of songs about plants.
6. I Like It, I Love It
Certified Platinum twice over, ‘I Like It, I Love It’ is one of McGraw’s many number one singles. A twangy country tune about a man who’s popular with the ladies, though Tim’s from Louisiana he headed over to Alabama to record the popular song at Muscle Shoals’ FAME Studios. The legendary recording space was a pioneering force of the “Muscle Shoals sound” in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The flirty tune remains one of McGraw’s most popular, and Nashville-based NHL team The Predators often use it as one of their celebratory songs when a player scores a goal.
5. Just To See You Smile
This knockout featured on Tim’s popular Everywhere album has a unique story behind it. Songwriters Tony Martin and Mark Nesler were working on finishing up a song to pitch to artists one day when Nelser began messing around with another song he’d been writing in between studio sessions. Though Nesler was just casually tinkering with it, when Martin heard it he immediately tabled the song they were about to send out to potential artists. He saw the hit factor in Nesler’s work-in-progress and knew they needed to finish it right then and there. They had tried to write a song for Tim before, ‘You Look Good In My Shirt,’ but any country fan knows that ultimately went to Keith Urban. So while they finished up ‘Just To See You Smile’ they didn’t have a particular country singer in mind. McGraw did ask to cut it though. And the final product sounds like it was tailor made for the country performer.
4. Live Like You Were Dying
One of McGraw’s signature tracks is also one of his most soul-stirring efforts. Wiseman penned ‘Live Like You Were Dying’ and just after opening his own publishing company, this became the outfit’s first hit single thanks to Tim’s recording. A thought-provoking tune that features a conversation between McGraw and someone who’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness, the lyrical message takes on an uplifting, inspirational tone as the person recalling his diagnosis reminds Tim to take chances and live boldly because you never know how long you’ve got left. After its 2004 release it became the single with the longest run at #1 of that year. It also scooped up two Grammy awards in 2005 for Best Male Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Song.
Recommended: Our pick of songs about living life to the fullest.
3. Highway Don’t Care
This star-studded collab features the work of pop star Taylor Swift and country giant Keith Urban alongside McGraw’s emotive vocal performance. ‘Highway Don’t Care’ could be interpreted as a complicated love song, but the team had another pertinent meaning in mind while working on the track. The song along with its music video acts as a reminder of the dangers of texting and driving. Its yearning qualities and the vulnerable performances of all three stars resonated deeply with country music fans. The pensive tune became McGraw’s 34th number one hit in 2013.
2. Humble And Kind
A simple acoustic tune full of timeless advice began as a way for songwriter Lori McKenna to communicate life’s important lessons to her children. When McGraw was sent the demo version, he was moved to tears and knew immediately he had to record it. It took him a while though. He admitted McKenna’s original is so good, he worried he wouldn’t be able to do it justice. When he finally got in the studio to record it, he had just dropped one of his daughters off at college so the lyrics took on a more powerful personal meaning. He had to leave the studio and come back several times before finishing the vocals because his emotions kept getting the best of him.
Recommended: Our pick of songs about being kind and caring.
1. Something Like That
A quintessential country-themed love story with a killer piano part, ‘Something Like That’ represents some of Tim’s best work from his ‘90s era. It’s featured on his ‘99 album A Place in the Sun, but the single was released at the start of 2000. While the song broke music industry records in the new decade, McGraw exudes his classic downhome, flirty persona that made him such a grand success early on in his career. From 2000 to 2009, this twangy southern love song was the most played radio single out of any genre. It also spent over a month at the top spot on country charts after its debut. In regards to the monumental success of the song, I think it’s safe to use the lyrical hook to best describe it: “A heart don’t forget something like that.”