For McGraw, being on stage is the biggest thrill

After roles in hit movies such as "The Blind Side" and "Country Strong," Tim McGraw might soon be better known as an actor than as a singer.

Yet no matter how his acting career takes off, McGraw still considers himself a musician first — and in that realm, there's no place he'd rather be than on a concert stage.

"It's as fun as it ever was," said McGraw, who will be onstage again Thursday at Intrust Bank Arena. "For me, I don't think any artist gets into this business and thinks about making records. The main reason to do it for a living is to be in front of 15,000 to 20,000 people a night, playing your big hit songs with everybody singing along."

McGraw has another hit with his single, "Felt Good on My Lips," which recently spent three weeks at No. 1 on the country charts. It's his 32nd chart-topping single, an achievement that has put him atop the country charts for almost 70 weeks, longer than any other country act since 1990. With 7.8 million spins on the radio, McGraw also is the most-played artist of the past decade.

"Felt Good on My Lips" is one of two bonus tracks on McGraw's new double CD, "Number One Hits," and most certainly will be on the set list Thursday. The rest of the list can change from night to night, he says.

"Luckily, we've had a long career, with plenty of records that have done well," he says. "So we never have the same set lists. Putting together the list is the biggest deal: What's the music gonna be? What's the order? You only have time to do 15 or 20 songs, and you've got hundreds of songs there.

"So you can't even get all the hits in, but you also want to get the new stuff out there. You can't cover it all, but you can come back next year and do something different."

McGraw's movie projects have to fit around his music career.

"A lot of times, I have to miss out on things I'd really like to do."

And McGraw isn't willing to do just any movie. It took him a while to decide that he would be a good fit in "Country Strong" because he was worried that his music connection might be distracting to audiences.

"I understand the difficulty of putting me in a music movie and not having people say, 'Isn't that the cowboy-hat singer?' " McGraw says of his character, a manager he loosely based on Reba McEntire's husband, Narvel Blackstock. "I thought that might have been too much of a hill for the audience to climb."

But being a real-life country singer is still McGraw's biggest thrill.

"I grew up being a jock, and I can tell you I get pre-game jitters, just like before kickoff, when I'm doing a show. That's what inspires me."

If you go

Tim McGraw

What: Concert featuring the country singer and opening acts Luke Bryan and The Band Perry

Where: Intrust Bank Arena, 500 E. Waterman

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

How much: Tickets $49.75 and $65.75 at the arena box office or Select-A-Seat outlets. Charge at 316-755-SEAT or www.selectaseat.com.