NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — On a recent spring day inside Tim McGraw’s sprawling Nashville mansion, the country superstar got a friendly ribbing from his friend and neighbor, Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential biographer Jon Meacham.
McGraw was wearing his typical black cowboy hat. Meacham, a journalist, author and professor, wore a dress shirt and khakis, and held an unlit cigar in his hand.
“I’m smoking cigars and he’s lifting weights,” Meacham said. “Mr. Healthy!”
What this “Odd Couple” duo does have in common is a love of history and a new book they wrote together, “Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation,” which will be released Tuesday. They were in rehearsals for a book tour that’s unlike anything the two of them have done before, a mixture of songs and lectures on American history and culture. That began Monday in New York City.
At McGraw’s house, the pair laid out copious notes and lyric sheets as they worked through their program, which includes Meacham talking about the book and McGraw singing a few songs that relate to its themes. McGraw won’t be singing any of his chart-topping hit songs on the seven-city book tour, but instead he’ll be covering some of the songs mentioned in the book, even one from before the Revolutionary War called “The Liberty Song.”
“[Working on the book] allowed me to use such a different part of my brain and such a different part of my artistry,” McGraw told The Associated Press.
The book is not an exhaustive list of political songs — it’s more like a conversation starter. Meacham provides chapters on various eras in U.S. history and the songs that defined culture, wars, political movements and campaigns. McGraw offers sidebar reflections on individual songs.
“The whole task with prose is how do you bring it alive? How do you make it visual?” Meacham said.