McGraw cranks out the hits on tour

Country star disappointed he’s not supporting new CD



photoTim McGraw

If you go

What: Tim McGraw, in concert with Luke Bryan and the Band Perry.

When: 7 p.m. June 17.

Where: Sleep Country Amphitheater, 17200 N.E. Delfel Road, Ridgefield.

Cost: $38.55-$87.40 through Ticketmaster, 800-745-3000 or

Information: 360-816-7000 or http://www.sleepc...

2011 amphitheater concert season

Tim McGraw kicks off a full Sleep Country Amphitheater summer concert season, which will feature a little bit of country and a little bit of rock ’n’ roll at shows that run through mid-September.

Pricing information and other ticket details are available from Ticketmaster, or 800-745-3000.

More performances could still be added to the list, but here’s the lineup so far:

June 28: Rush Time Machine Tour 2011.

July 9: The Monkees.

July 10: Doobie Brothers with special guest War.

July 17: Steve Miller Band.

Aug. 5: The Beach Boys.*

Aug. 6: REO Speedwagon.*

Aug. 8: Dierks Bentley with Josh Kelley.*

Aug. 9: Three Days Grace with My Darkest Days.*

Aug. 11: Mötley Crüe and Poison with guests New York Dolls.

Aug. 19: Toby Keith with Eric Church.

Sept. 14: Def Leppard.

  • Presented by the Clark County Fair.

Tim McGraw is touring this summer, ostensibly behind his 2010 collection, “Number One Hits.” And yes, his live set will be filled with chart-topping songs. But the fact that he is billing this summer’s outing as the “Emotional Traffic” tour is a sure sign that McGraw had something else in mind for this summer’s shows.

“I’ve got a new CD turned in. My last album on Curb Records is turned in. It was turned in before this 22nd greatest-hits package thing that’s been out, that the label decided to put out,” McGraw said, poking at Curb’s attempt to cash in with the “Number One Hits” collection.

McGraw has released three previous collections of hits, so he has a point in questioning whether “Number One Hits” is overkill.

McGraw’s recent chart-topper, “Felt Good On My Lips,” was intended to be on the new studio record, and instead was added to the hits collection.

That new album, dubbed “Emotional Traffic,” just like McGraw’s tour, still hasn’t hit shelves due to a legal dispute.

Curb sued McGraw, claiming breach of contract for recording “Emotional Traffic” before the time period specified in his pact with the label. McGraw has countersued, seeking to be released from his deal with Curb and to be reimbursed by Curb for his recording expenses, as well as for unspecified damages.

History of hits

As the litigation proceeds through Tennessee courts, McGraw says he’s focused on the music on “Emotional Traffic,” which he sees as pivotal to his body of work.

“It’s the best album I’ve ever had sonically. Songwise, I just think it’s really fresh,” McGraw said.

That’s no small statement for an artist who has made million-selling albums a consistent habit over a two-decade career.

A native of the small town of Start, La., McGraw broke through in a big way early in his career, with his second album, “Not a Moment Too Soon.” It gave him his first two hits, “Don’t Take the Girl” and “Indian Outlaw,” and McGraw been a top-tier country star ever since.

Artistically, though, two other recordings stand out to McGraw.

“I think, for me, ‘Everywhere’ was one of those sort of albums,” he said of his 1997 release. “It was the first album that I really put my name on as a producer. It was just one of those where everything just sort of made a big, massive step forward, from the sounds to tones to songs to my confidence, everything. Then, another one of those moments, I think, was ‘The Dancehall Doctors’ album (2002), when I was searching for a new sound and trying to get away from hearing the same licks that you hear on everybody’s records because the same players were playing on them.

With “Emotional Traffic,” McGraw once again looked to shake up his sound, and again the musicians who appear on the album played a big part in shaping its songs and sounds.

McGraw said he was still looking for good songs, but he also wanted something different — “fresh” — compared to his more recent work. He made it happen, in part, by bringing in musicians from a range of backgrounds.

“A couple of the guys from Paul McCartney’s band play on this album. The keyboard player from the Foo Fighters plays on this album. The guitar player from Alanis Morissette’s band plays on this album,” McGraw said. “It’s just really got an edge to it in the tones and sounds that you haven’t heard on my records.”

In addition to the four songs from “Emotional Traffic” that will make their live debut in his shows this summer, McGraw said the rest of his set won’t be a rerun of last year’s concerts either.

“Luckily for us, we have a lot of (hit) songs that we can play,” he said. “So the set list this year, there are only a few songs that we repeat from last year. But they’re still hits. You don’t ever get all of the songs that everybody wants to hear, and I guess that’s a good problem to have. But hopefully if you didn’t get what you wanted to hear last year, you can come this year and maybe get a shot to hear what you wanted to hear this year.

“Hopefully, we get enough in there that everybody gets plenty of what they want.”