IT WAS TIME TO SHAPE UP

IF YOU’VE GOT TICK­ETS TO SEE GRAMMY AWARD-WIN­NER TIM MC­GRAW TO­MOR­ROW NIGHT, YOU’RE IN FOR A TREAT. HERE’S WHY THE COUN­TRY SU­PER­STAR IS IN HIS CA­REER-BEST FORM

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | BIG READ - WORDS: SEANNA CRONIN

t 52 years old, Tim Mc­graw is pos­si­bly in the best shape of his life. The coun­try mu­sic su­per­star has been sober for more than a decade now and has never shied away from his past strug­gles with al­co­hol. He’s spo­ken can­didly over the years about drink­ing to dull his pre-show nerves, which be­came ha­bit­ual, and the wake-up call from con­cerned friends and his wife, fel­low coun­try singer Faith Hill.

“I’m in bet­ter shape than when I was 32,” he says.

“My shows are bet­ter, more dy­namic and I’m cer­tainly more on point.

“It’s good for mind clar­ity as well, com­ing up with ideas and be­ing in­spired by things.

“Be­ing able to grab some­thing you can have con­trol over, your health, and start­ing with that leads to big­ger and bet­ter things.”

As well as get­ting sober, Mc­graw has found a re­newed pas­sion for fit­ness, open­ing his first flag­ship gym in Nashville ear­lier this year.

In col­lege he looked des­tined to fol­low in the foot­steps of his fa­ther, pro­fes­sional base­ball player Tug Mc­graw, un­til a knee in­jury dashed any hopes of a sport­ing ca­reer.

As fate would have it, he learned to play gui­tar in col­lege as well, drop­ping out of his stud­ies to pur­sue a mu­sic ca­reer in Nashville.

His health and life­style book Grit & Grace: Train the Mind, Train the Body, Own Your

Life comes out in Novem­ber.

“I’ve al­ways been fit enough and I come from a fam­ily of ath­letes” he says.

“But you get off track a lit­tle bit in the mid­dle. In my late 30s my kids were grow­ing up and I was see­ing the fu­ture a bit. You want to see them grow up and you cer­tainly want to be around for your grand­kids.

“It in­spired me to try to get my­self fit, and then the band started get­ting in­spired and we started do­ing group work­outs to­gether. “That’s been go­ing on for a long time and I thought it was a great idea to put that into a book to em­power peo­ple to keep chas­ing bet­ter health.

“You never know who’s watch­ing and pay­ing at­ten­tion to what you’re do­ing.

“You’re al­ways set­ting an ex­am­ple for some­body.

“I also think the world is start­ing to take a bet­ter fo­cus on it. In the States we’re start­ing to turn a page and fo­cus on fit­ness.

“In the long run it makes all of us bet­ter and it cer­tainly goes to the bot­tom line of health­care costs over there.

“Even­tu­ally it will make health­care more af­ford­able if we have a health­ier pop­u­la­tion and the way to do that is take care of your­self if and when you can.”

The proud fa­ther of three — el­dest daugh­ter Gra­cie has just moved to Los An­ge­les to pur­sue act­ing, mid­dle daugh­ter Mag­gie is study­ing at Stan­ford and per­form­ing in an alt-rock band and youngest daugh­ter Au­drey is still a teenager — will soon find him­self in the for­eign po­si­tion of be­ing an empty nester.

He and Faith had only been to­gether a year be­fore be­com­ing par­ents.

“Time goes by so fast, es­pe­cially with kids grow­ing up,” he says.

“When you have kids you start re­al­is­ing you don’t re­mem­ber much be­fore them, and your time gets paced by their life.

“It goes by so quickly for you and for them it goes by so slowly. They just want to get out of the house.

“I’m al­most an empty nester. You look for­ward to it be­cause you want them to get out into the world and see what they be­come. As a par­ent you look for­ward to watch­ing them suc­ceed and thrive.”

The Grammy Award-win­ner flew into the coun­try yes­ter­day to head­line this week­end’s in­au­gu­ral Coun­try2coun­try mu­sic fes­ti­vals play­ing Syd­ney to­day and Bris­bane

to­mor­row. They are his first Aus­tralian shows in seven years and Mc­graw has watched the in­ter­na­tional fes­ti­val, new to our shores, grow since per­form­ing at the first event in Lon­don in 2013.

“We want to just come out and just slam ev­ery­body with big hits and great songs,” he says.

“I hope peo­ple know some of our favourite songs we like to per­form.

“I’m sure I know the ones ev­ery­body wants to hear. We try to cre­ate a good roller­coaster of a show.”

He fondly re­mem­bers his last visit down un­der, per­form­ing with his wife on their first co-head­lin­ing tour out­side North Amer­ica.

“I loved ev­ery minute we’ve been over. The crowds were in­cred­i­ble,” he says.

“I re­mem­ber specif­i­cally Faith and I were in Syd­ney for two nights and Faith sang Stronger and she must have got a three­minute stand­ing ova­tion.

“It was one of the proud­est mo­ments of my life be­cause I know what a great singer she is and she just blew the place apart.”

Mc­graw also keeps one foot in the film and TV world, re­cently lend­ing his mu­si­cal tal­ents to the sound­track of the Os­car­win­ning doc­u­men­tary Free Solo, which fol­lowed rock climber Alex Hon­nold’s nail­bit­ing at­tempts to be­come the first per­son to ever free solo climb (no ropes) El Cap­i­tan in Yosemite Na­tional Park.

“I didn’t know any­thing about free climb­ing,” he says.

“They called and asked if I’d be in­ter­ested in writ­ing a song for the movie.

“I watched it and I was so en­thralled with all of it, I im­me­di­ately started tak­ing notes of stuff I wanted to write.

“We wrote that song (Grav­ity) and felt re­ally in­spired by what the song said, and then watch­ing the film we re­ally wanted to tell the story of the arc of the movie and tell it in a very sort of beau­ti­ful, lyri­cal way.

“Alex is such an in­cred­i­ble hu­man be­ing. When you see the film you sort of fall in love with him straight away and you just root for him the en­tire time.”

There’s no word yet on what Mc­graw’s next big-screen role might be.

He re­ceived crit­i­cal ac­claim for his fea­ture film de­but in the 2006 fam­ily film Flicka and went on to star op­po­site San­dra Bul­lock in her Os­car-win­ning per­for­mance in the grid­iron drama The Blind Side.

“I al­ways look at those things much like I do a song,” he says.

“I just sit back and lis­ten and read and some­thing’s got to re­ally move me and make me feel some­thing.

“Then I have to see if I have time and if they want me — I’m not Tom Hanks (laughs).

“A lot of vari­ables have to come to­gether, but first and fore­most I have to re­ally love the ma­te­rial.”

Coun­try2coun­try plays the Bris­bane En­ter­tain­ment Cen­tre to­mor­row. Tick­ets avail­able via Tick­etek

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