Story Behind the Song: Tim McGraw’s ‘Humble and Kind’
Tim McGraw’s Grammy-winning country hit, “Humble and Kind,” has touched the hearts of millions of listeners. However, before it became a chart-topping song, it was originally written by songwriter Lori McKenna for her children. McKenna shared the story behind the song in an interview with Bart Herbison of Nashville Songwriters Association International.
McKenna wrote “Humble and Kind” one day after dropping off her children at school. Sitting at her dining room table with a cup of coffee, she began to reflect on the principles she wanted her children, ranging in age from 10 to 25, to live by. She wanted to convey a message of gratitude, humility, and kindness.
Finding the Right Artist
When Herbison first heard about the song, he was skeptical about its potential on country music radio. He believed that the song had to be written with integrity while also being commercially appealing. McKenna agreed with him, emphasizing the importance of finding the right artist to bring the song to life. She had conversations with Tim McGraw about the song and believed he was the perfect fit.
The Origins of the Song
McKenna describes “Humble and Kind” as a “selfish little poem/lullaby” that she wrote for her children. She wanted to make sure they understood the values she and her husband Gene wanted to instill in them. McKenna acknowledged the challenge of condensing so much information into a song without sounding preachy. However, she reminded herself that she was writing the song for herself and her kids, not for anyone else.
Collaborating with Tim McGraw
McKenna sent the song to Tim McGraw, who instantly saw its potential. He made a melodic change in the chorus that took McKenna some time to understand and appreciate. McGraw’s alteration made the song more commercial without compromising its original message and integrity. McKenna emphasized the impact McGraw had on the song, bringing it to a level she couldn’t have imagined.
The Power of Simplicity
“Humble and Kind” is a simple song with a three-chord progression that hardly changes throughout. McKenna intentionally kept the rhyme scheme easy, with everything rhyming with the word “kind.” She wanted to create a song that was accessible and relatable to a wide audience. The chorus, with its references to basic manners like holding the door and saying “thank you,” was influenced by McKenna’s experiences as a parent of a 10-year-old at the time of writing.
Luck and Blessings
McKenna believes that luck played a significant role in the success of “Humble and Kind.” She considers herself fortunate to have had five children spanning 15 years when she wrote the song. This allowed her to address each child individually in the lyrics, ensuring that the song resonated with all of them. McKenna also credits Tim McGraw’s ability to see the potential in songs that others might overlook. She believes that McGraw’s connection to the song stems from his similar parenting values and experiences.
One of the most rewarding aspects for McKenna has been hearing the stories of how “Humble and Kind” has touched people’s lives. The song’s specificity combined with its relatability allows listeners to make it their own. McKenna has received texts from people sharing moments where the song was played at weddings, with the groom dancing with his mom. She acknowledges that hearing Tim McGraw’s version of the song is always special and impactful for her and her children.
About the Series
The “Story Behind the Song” video interview series, in collaboration with Nashville Songwriters Association International, provides a platform for Nashville-connected songwriters to discuss their compositions. These interviews offer insights into the inspiration and creation process behind some of the most beloved songs in country music. To watch the full video interviews with all the featured songwriters, visit www.tennessean.com/music.
The story behind Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” highlights the power of a heartfelt song and its ability to resonate with listeners. Lori McKenna’s personal and honest approach in writing the song for her children, combined with Tim McGraw’s interpretation, has created a timeless anthem that promotes humility and kindness. The song’s impact on individuals and their personal stories is a testament to the emotional depth and universality of music.