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McGraw on McGraw

Tim McGraw is enthusiastic about his new fragrance, McGraw — and he has an idea for expanding Coty's country influence: adding a little Faith to the mix.

Tim McGraw is enthusiastic about his new fragrance, McGraw — and he has an idea for expanding Coty’s country influence: adding a little Faith to the mix.

That would be Faith Hill, McGraw’s wife, whom he credits with helping him develop McGraw, the fragrance. “My wife and I had a great time just sitting and going through things and working on what we liked the best,” he said during an interview Tuesday afternoon — a few hours before he gave a private concert for the press in celebration of his first men’s scent, due out in August in the mass market. “She had a lot of input into it. I took stuff home, we tried things out and we gave samples to her friends.”

In fact, McGraw said, the scent is so to Hill’s liking that she now wears it herself. Which begs the question — is Hill next into Coty’s celebrity stable? “I would love to see her have a fragrance, and us to have one together — a unisex fragrance,” he said. “That would be wonderful.” So, is he saying you gotta have Faith? Absolutely, but it will cost Coty, he cracked. “She’s a lot more expensive than I am,” he said with a laugh.

What do his friends think about the fragrance? “They laugh at me,” he said with a deadpan expression. Don’t they use fragrances? “They do, and they will. They’re jealous!” he added with a laugh. “They want their own fragrance!”

McGraw professes to have loved the development process. “You always think as an artist that when you do these types of things, that you’re not going to have any say-so in this, but these guys [at Coty] were great about letting me be involved in all aspects of it. As an artist, that’s what you really look for.” And he laughs off the art versus commerce question. “Art is commerce. And the only way around that is to make great art. If you make sh—y art, you should probably be worried about it. I’ve only had a handful of relationships with corporate America, because it’s got to be a symbiotic relationship.”

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His relationship with Coty has initially yielded a scent McGraw calls “simple.” But don’t mistake simple for easy, he warns. “Sometimes, in order to be simple, it has to be the most complicated thing. A lot of people think you can be simple by being unpracticed and unrehearsed. But there’s a very specific art to simplicity.”

McGraw sees creating fragrances and creating music as “part and parcel of the same thing. I do movies and do other things, but music is always first and foremost. It becomes part of a lifestyle that people buy into.”

McGraw the scent, like its namesake, is likely to have crossover appeal. McGraw has stepped out of the country genre several times with chart-topping results. “Nine Lives,” the song he cowrote with Def Leppard members Phil Collen, Joe Elliot and Rick Savage, hit number one on the Billboard/RR Classic Rock chart this week and number 15 on the Billboard/RR Active Rock Singles chart. In 2005, McGraw had a number-one hit on Billboard’s Mainstream Top 40 chart with “Over and Over,” a duet with hip-hop artist Nelly.

At the press concert Tuesday evening, McGraw performed four hits, including the heartwrenching “If You’re Reading This, I’m Already Home,” inspired by the letters that soldiers at war traditionally write to their families should they be killed in action.

“My wife and my kids [daughters Maggie, Gracie and Audrey] were on a plane to Mississippi to visit her mother and there was a Newsweek magazine article about soldiers writing letters before they go out on patrol,” he said earlier that day. “[Reading it] I was just crying. I showed it to Faith and said, ‘I’ve got to write a song about this.’ So I started writing the song on the plane. About four days later, I got home, we sat down one afternoon and finished the song.”

That was mere days before the Academy of Country Music Awards, where McGraw performed the song publicly for the first time. “I was set to do another song, but I woke up in the middle of the night and said, ‘I have to do this song in the show.’ And really, I didn’t have any idea the impact that the song would have. I thought it was a good song, but I just didn’t know.” He chose not to rerecord the live version done at the ACMAs: “You can’t recapture that moment in time.”

Speaking of records, McGraw is finishing and mixing an album now which he hopes to release late this fall, and is gearing up to begin a 33-show tour on May 9. “I’m old now [he turned 41 on Thursday],” he chuckled, “and this will be my 21st summer out on the road playing music.” He’s also producing another young artist in the family. “I’m also working on an album with my cousin — my mother’s sister’s daughter — Catherine Raney, which is going to be incredible,” he said. McGraw joins Raney for harmonies, and she will tour with him this summer. In November, his film “Four Christmases,” which also stars Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn, will be released. As well, he is writing a series of children’s books with Tom Douglas, with whom he cowrote the theme song from the film “Flicka.” The first title, “My Little Girl,” is due out in October.