Go Behind the Song: Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind”

Go Behind the Song: Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind”

Song: “Humble and Kind”
Artist: Tim McGraw
Written by: Lori McKenna

Her kids were already at school and Lori McKenna had nothing to do on May 2, 2014, other than dig into some songwriting. As she sat daydreaming at her dining room table, finding an idea wasn’t a challenge. She knew she had waited long enough on one particular song title in her phone, and this would be the day she finally crafted “Humble and Kind.”

“All of us songwriters carry around titles,” says Lori. “I have a million titles that are really sad, some that are a little weird and some I know right away that I have to think about for a while. I think if I walked into a room with you to write a song, and you said you wanted to write a song called ‘Humble and Kind,’ I might have really messed it up because I need to think a bit about a title like that.”

Luckily for Lori, she had the perfect inspiration to draw from with her five kids—four boys and one girl with ages ranging from 10 to 25 at the time. “Being a mother or being a parent, there are always a million things you want to tell your kids,” she says. “I knew with this song, lyrically, I wanted to keep it about the kids and what I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget to tell them no matter what.”

The opening line to her first verse—You know there’s a light that glows by the front door / Don’t forget the key’s under the mat—helped set the tone for what would follow. “The fact that you know you can always come home, that is a blessing that some people don’t have,” Lori says. “I wanted them to know they can always go home, so remember to be nice.”

 

Once she had the form of her song mapped out and narrowed down the language used in the chorus, Lori’s only challenge was to perfect the verses and how to articulate what was being felt within her heart. “The good thing about this song is I was rhyming with the word ‘kind’ most of the time, which is an easy word to rhyme with,” she says with a laugh. ”It was really a lucky day.”

When it came time to pick the kids back up from school, “Humble and Kind” was completed, but Lori let the song to continue marinating in her mind. “Sometimes I’ll pick at a song while I’m cooking dinner,” she explains. “I call those ‘spaghetti days,’ because I have to be able to cook a meal that I can cook in 20 minutes. The songwriting on those days will take your brain away from whatever else you have to do.”

After dinner and when the kids were off to bed, Lori decided to email the rough work tape she made on her phone to Tim McGraw. The emotion she captured spoke to Tim’s heart—and the father inside of him—and he immediately put the tune on hold for his Damn Country Music album, which was still in the works. Tim eventually went on to release “Humble and Kind” as the album’s second single, and the song took on a life of its own.

“I could’ve just put this song out myself and a certain amount of people would have heard it, which would have been great,” Lori notes. “But the fact that he can sing it and have so many people hear it is amazing. It’s like I wrote this little letter, and he showed it to the world. That’s a pretty remarkable thing to have happen as a songwriter.

“I work at this. I am a songwriter and an artist. That is my job, so technically I work at it,” she continues. “But it gives me so much more than what I give it, and I mean that so from the heart. This song is the perfect example of that, because this has been such a journey.”

Humble Hit Maker

Lori McKenna

Lori McKenna is an artist in her own right and has released several albums dating back to 2000. But she started finding success as a songwriter with the release of Faith Hill’s Fireflies album in 2005, placing three tunes on the project including the title track. Her list of credits seems to stretch on for days now, but here are a few of her most popular cuts:

Jimmy Wayne: “True Believer”
Hunter Hayes: “I Want Crazy”
Little Big Town: “Your Side of the Bed,” “Sober” and “Girl Crush”
RaeLynn: “God Made Girls”

 

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