Tim McGraw rolling freely on new tour

For more of the Tim McGraw interview, visit The Music Scene blog at www.accessatlanta.com.

Concert preview

Tim McGraw

With Brantley Gilbert and Love and Theft. 7 p.m. Sunday. $29.75-$69.50. Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood, 2002 Lakewood Way, Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com.

The country music industry is often as fickle as its pop counterpart, rapid to anoint new heroes and embrace the trend of the month — and just as quickly abandon both.

But Tim McGraw is one of its steadfast champions, a 20-year veteran who is as likely to move a listener to tears with “Live Like You Were Dying” as he is to pump them up with “I Like It, I Love It” and “Felt Good on My Lips” or surprise them with a collaboration with rapper Nelly or rockers Def Leppard.

Even with a career-boasting 50-plus singles — more than half No. 1 hits — McGraw, 46, has maintained his popularity. His most recent album, “Two Lanes of Freedom,” released in February, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard country album chart (and No. 2 on the Billboard 200 album chart) and has spawned a trio of radio staples, including the current Taylor Swift/Keith Urban collaboration, “Highway Don’t Care.”

McGraw is in a bit of a rebirth phase, having recently quit drinking, lost weight and released “Freedom” on Big Machine Records. It’s his first album on a label other than Curb Records, with whom he is still involved in legal tussles.

The tour accompanying “Freedom” launched earlier this month and comes to Lakewood Amphitheatre on Sunday (and for the second year, McGraw’s HomeFront program will award a mortgage-free home to wounded warriors and service members at each concert stop).

Earlier this week, McGraw called in from his home in Nashville, Tenn., to discuss the tour, his recent Vegas run with wife Faith Hill and sharing advice with newcomers.

Q: You’ve got a few shows under your belt this month. How is it feeling out there?

A: It feels good. The first weekend you always take a deep breath and hold it, and there are always a few kinks at first. But we always like to have the high energy. I like the lights — that's always fun for me — but first of all, we always want it to sound great and we really have a smoking sound system.

Q: Are you able to mix up the set list?

A: We pretty much have a standing list, and that's the toughest part, coming up with the set list. After having so many records, you're never going to hit everything everyone wants to hear. I always want to try to get new stuff in. I think we have six or seven new ones in the set, which is really cool for me, and we're doing some album tracks and, of course, the hits that everyone wants to hear.

Q: How did you hook up with (openers) Brantley Gilbert and Love and Theft?

A: Love and Theft, I'm a big fan of their music and I like their vibe. Brantley, we're on the same label, which I didn't realize it until I was into it. I love his attitude and he brings a big energy to the stage. He's a good guy; he reminds me of a young Hank (Williams) Jr.

Q: There are a lot of up-and-coming country bands out there. Do you find yourself being looked at as the veteran to dispense advice?

A: (Laughs) I don't know that they want any advice from me! I'm always there, but I might not have the right answers.

Q: You and Faith just wrapped your first Vegas run. Was it what you expected? Do you plan to do another round after this tour of yours?

A: It was fantastic, and anytime I get to sing with her is pretty awesome. I'm biased, but I consider her one of the best singers in the world. They were really special nights.

Q: Will you be back?

A: I don't want to think that far ahead — I can't even think past next weekend! It sort of remains to be seen. We enjoyed it and it's tough for us to sing together these days. People think we sing together all the time, but we really don't.

Q: Is “Sunday Night Football” going to be different to watch without Faith doing the intro?

A: It will be. That was one of the times where I was hoping my high school buddies were watching.

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