American country star Tim McGraw is freshly free from Curb Records, the Nashville label that discovered him 20 years ago and with which he's been embroiled in an eight-year dispute.

Following a court decision last month, McGraw was able to release his latest recording — the album Two Lanes of Freedom — with his new label, Big Machine. Emerging two weeks after the ruling, his new album shot up the Billboard album chart to No. 2 and has resulted in two hit singles so far.

'When you make a record you give up a piece of your soul — there’s a physical part of your body that goes into that' —Tim McGraw

"The last few years have been such a battle and not having control of what was going on with my music," McGraw said in an interview with CBC’s Q cultural affairs show.

"When you make a record you give up a piece of your soul — there’s a physical part of your body that goes into that. And to know that you’ve done that and see it languish — it can be agonizing," he continued.

McGraw says he felt he was being "left out of the game" at Curb Records, where his new music wasn't being released. Instead, label officials pushed albums of his greatest hits — recordings that don’t count toward his contract obligations. When he moved to another label, Curb filed suit to block him.

McGraw's case rose all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court. Ultimately, a judge backed the country star and cleared the way for the Feb. 5 release of Two Lanes of Freedom.

"For me it was about getting my music out in a timely way, in a way that makes sense to me and a way that is going to profit my career," McGraw said.

Staying on top

McGraw admits he’s competitive, but said he also knows the music industry moves quickly and that stars have to be nimble to stay on top. His career has been far from a disappointment: he regularly packs arenas and has also established a Hollywood movie career, having started with the film Friday Night Lights and including a turn opposite Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side.

His new album includes a duet with Taylor Swift entitled Highway Don’t Care. The young pop-country star, as an admiring 14-year-old McGraw fan, once wrote a song dedicated to him.

Saying he "tries not to overthink" the songs he chooses, McGraw prefers to go with his gut reaction. "If it doesn’t move me right off the bat, I can’t expect others to engage with it."

A successful artist has to keep searching and trying new things, added the country superstar. He said he feels refreshed by the way his career is moving now.

"I feel like in a lot of ways I’m really just getting started. In a lot of ways, I’m just now figuring out what I do and getting my hands around it."  

McGraw is on an ambitious tour that features several nights in Las Vegas, dates throughout the U.S. and a jaunt in London before hitting Calgary on July 11 and Toronto on July 25.