He's a country-music megastar whose tour with wife Faith Hill was one of 2006's biggest moneymakers. He's also a doting husband and dad who has vowed never to spend more than two nights away from Hill and their three young girls. Now, with this week's opening of his family-friendly movie Flicka, Tim McGraw can add "lead actor" to his titles. McGraw, 39, talked with TIME's Jeff Chu about parenting, politics and the secret to the success of his 10-year marriage.
Why acting, and why Flicka?
It's a challenge. I've been around the music business for a long time now, and I've had a lot of chances to do movies. But I didn't really want to do any until I found stuff that started to hit me in the right place. I like the values in Flicka, and I wanted to do a movie my kids could see and be proud of.
Your character in Flicka is a real disciplinarian. How tough are you as a dad?
I have three daughters, so I can't be as tough as I want to be. When you have kids--especially daughters--they know how to work you. They're a lot smarter than we are, that's for sure. But I'll be more tough on their boyfriends.
Your character is literally a buttoned-up kind of guy--which means it might be the first time some of your fans see you with your shirt buttoned to the top.
[Laughs.] Probably so--I'm not being a rock star in Flicka. I guess it's part of the gig. I'm actually not an exhibitionist at all. When you get onstage and you get under the lights playing music, I feel more hidden and more alone than anywhere else. You hide behind your music and let your emotions come out through the music.
You have a song on the Flicka sound track called My Little Girl--the first time you've recorded a song that you wrote. What took you so long?
The rest of the ones I wrote sucked. When I first came to town, I wrote a lot, but then I had a hit or two and I got lazy. I'm coming up on 40 next year, and after making so many records and doing music for so long, I'm looking for a change and a different perspective. And every now and then, I think I have something I want to say.
You've said that you might like to run for Governor of Tennessee--or maybe Senator. Is that still the plan?
One of these days, if the opportunity's there, that's something I'd love to do. It's a high calling to serve the community, and if you can do it, I think you should.
The country-music world seems pretty conservative and Republican, but you've bucked that trend.
It's innate in me to be a Democrat--a true Southern populist kind of Democrat. There's not a lot of those anymore. I'm not saying I'm right or wrong. That's just the way I feel. The issues that matter to me are the social safety nets for people, health care, middle-class concerns. We need to take care of the middle class and the poor in our country. The chasm is getting larger between haves and have-nots, and that's something we need to close down a little bit.
In the liner notes to Greatest Hits: Vol. 2, your latest album, there's a verse from I Corinthians 13 ("And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.") You don't talk about your faith much.