On Friday (May 8), just in time for Mother’s Day, Tim McGraw released his new single “I Called Mama” along with an accompanying lyric video. The clip features never-before-seen throwback footage of the country superstar with his beloved mother, Betty Trimble.

Speaking to Taste of Country and other media outlets, McGraw, who often praises his mother in public, talked of the sacrifices she made for her family during his childhood years, crediting Trimble for being “tough,” “strong” and “resilient.” Fighting back tears, McGraw recalled two specific memories of his mother that had an impact on him early on, and continue to stick with him today.

“I can remember us being on our own with my mom and two sisters, and her working three jobs just to try to keep the basics in line,” McGraw explained in an hour-long Zoom call on Wednesday (May 6). “I remember walking through the kitchen one night, getting up late. I don’t know how old I was…. 12 years old, something like that, and she had her head down on the table at like 2AM in the morning with bills everywhere.”

“It’s plastered in my mind, and for her, it was probably one of a hundred times that I didn’t see,” McGraw continued, adding that his mother didn’t catch him standing there that night. “That’s something that resonates with me and sticks with me, and I think about that when I hear this song.”

Despite his mother’s financial struggles early on, McGraw — who was raised by his stepfather, Horace Smith, and didn’t know of his biological dad, baseball star Tug McGraw, until age 11 — says his mom wanted to make sure he found success later on in his life. So, she pushed for him to go to college. But when he called her to tell her of his desire to pursue a career in country music instead, she was nothing but gracious about his decision.

“My mom found out she was pregnant with me during her senior year of high school. So she didn’t get to graduate because I came along…. I knew how bad she wanted me to go to college. I was in pre-law…. I knew how bad she wanted me to do that,” he said. “I remember getting up the nerve to call her to tell her that I was going to quit college and move to Nashville. It took me a while to do that, and when I told her, she just said, ‘I’m surprised you haven’t done that already.’ That was her way of just telling me to go do it. She’s a big deal to me.”

Indeed, “I Called Mama” pays a heartfelt tribute to the relationship McGraw has with his mom, who has always been an anchor for him from childhood all the way to adulthood. But the song isn’t necessarily about his mom. Written by Lance Miller, Marc Green and Jimmy Yeary, and produced by McGraw and Byron Gallimore, “I Called Mama,” at its root, is about the human desire for connection, and the comfort one gets from hearing a familiar voice during difficult times. And while McGraw was drawn to the ballad for its personal meaning the first time he heard it, he says recent events have added a new layer of perception to the song, which is why he felt now was the perfect time to release it as a single.

“When all of this sort of upheaval in the world came along, it really started making more and more sense that this song really meant a different thing in a lot of ways,” McGraw explained of the song’s universal message in light of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. “There was a lot of carrying a lot of weight along with it, and as you listen to it and you think about the personal level, but it has something that's sort of existential in a way that speaks to things that are going on outside of what the song is saying, and to have a personal song that's something that big when you look at it from a different perspective when the world changed, it was hard to ignore.”

“It was hard to not want to pay attention to the song being, for me, a sort of catharsis during this time. And I hope that's what it means, and I hope that's what it feels like to people when they hear it,” McGraw continued. “For us, during all this stuff that's going on and being at home together and hanging out, there's been a lot of, sort of, the nostalgia that's come along with that ... in a bigger view, it reminds me of our humanity in a lot of ways, and how we're all connected and how we all should reach out more and connect with each other.”

While quarantined, the father of three and husband to Faith Hill says he and his family have been cooking in the kitchen, making meals like fried chicken and mashed potatoes. He even called up his mom to get an old hot milk cake recipe from her that his grandmother used to make. The McGraw family also celebrated a handful of milestones recently. Earlier this month, the “Humble and Kind” singer turned 53, while his mom celebrated her 72nd birthday in March. His oldest daughter, Gracie McGraw, turned 23 on May 5.

“I Called Mama” is the first single from McGraw’s upcoming album, Here On Earth, slated for release in the fall. The song also serves as McGraw’s first new music since returning to Big Machine Records earlier this year. In mid-May, fans can look for a full music video for “I Called Mama,” featuring footage of moms sent in by McGraw's fans from around the country, plus footage of the singer and his mom.

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