NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In a scene from their Showtime documentary, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill are rehearsing for their elaborate Soul2Soul tour, one of the biggest tours of their careers. Hill is on top of the stage singing “Devil Calling Me Back,” while McGraw is at the bottom of an opening on the stage waiting to be lifted up on a platform to join her.
“So Faith is dancing and I am about ready to get on this (lift) and I hear a whack,” McGraw recounted later.
In the documentary, which comes out Friday, Hill plummeted backward into the hole in the stage, a six-foot drop onto her back. McGraw cradled her under the stage, while the crew rushed to her aid. Luckily, she escaped serious injury and was back performing the next day.
“It was a scary, scary moment,” McGraw said. “If she had fallen on her ankle or fallen on her head, it would have broken her neck. If she had fallen any other way than she fell, it would have been a disaster.”
They took the song out of the set list, but Hill is not deterred. “I want to put that song back in,” Hill said. “It’s some of my favourite lighting in the show.”
After 21 years of marriage, the Grammy-winning power couple seems invincible at a new peak in their careers. They released their first ever duets album, “The Rest of Our Life,” featuring songs written by hit singer songwriters in pop and country including Ed Sheeran, Meghan Trainor and Lori McKenna, and expanded their tour into 2018.
And even though they have had countless duets on their respective albums, this was the first time they literally looked into each other’s eyes as they were recording the album.
“We were side by side in the vocal booth together,” McGraw said.
That physical closeness helped McGraw to push himself vocally, especially on songs like the title track, which was written by Sheeran. Initially McGraw wasn’t sure he could handle the range of the song, but he nails an impressive falsetto with Hill backing him up.
“He had to tighten a couple of things,” Hill said with a smile. McGraw responds, “Put the clamps on.”
The album is a mix of their singing styles. Hill, who hasn’t put out an album of new music in nearly a decade, delivers flawlessly on the big power pop and soulful anthems, like “Love Me To Lie.” And McGraw brings it back home to his country rocker roots on songs like “Cowboy Lullaby.”
The songs also touch on the normal cycles of most long-term relationships, from early romance, through the tension and arguments and back to the affirmation of love.
McGraw said there’s always hard work involved in a marriage.
“Your first thought can’t be ‘Am I supposed to be in this relationship?'” McGraw says. “That’s the last thought that you should have during an argument or a time period when you’re not getting along.”
Months after their first single came out, “Speak to a Girl,” a song written by three men about how to respect women, a cascade of sexual harassment and abuse scandals have dominated the headlines. Hill said the song was very important for them even before the allegations against powerful men in entertainment and media came out.
“It’s difficult to teach our children to act a certain way and to be a certain way if we’re not doing that ourselves, so I think it came at an important time,” Hill said.
“I think as a man, it’s time for us to look at ourselves in the mirror as well,” McGraw said. “Gosh, I know I haven’t been a gentleman my whole life. This is a good paradigm shift in our world for people to examine themselves and move forward.”
The two made headlines when they came out in support of stronger gun laws during a recent Billboard magazine cover story, because very few country stars have spoken publicly on the topic since a deadly mass shooting at a country music festival in October.
For McGraw, speaking out about gun control was important to them as parents, not as artists with a platform.
“You want to speak to the things that you think will make the world a better place,” he said.
But he said that today’s divisive political climate has made it difficult for people to have discussions about these pressing issues.
“If you put your fingers in your ears and you yell and you scream and the other person’s got their fingers in their ears and they’re yelling and screaming, nobody’s going to hear anything,” McGraw said. “You have to have smart commonsense pragmatic conversations about the real issues and leave your idealism on the side of the road.”
Follow Kristin M. Hall at Twitter.com/kmhall