November 22, 2002 01:00 AM

No one ever said country singers can’t be sensitive guys. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that Nashville hitmaker Tim McGraw considers being a good listener to be one of the most important elements of fatherhood.

“The best advice I have for most fathers, especially when you’re in a houseful of girls, is shut up and listen,” the 35-year-old singer tells the New York Post.

Of course, the listening comes easy when one is married to gorgeous country crooner Faith Hill, also 35. In fact, the usually gentlemanly McGraw tells the paper that the one way to rile him up is to diss the talents of his superstar wife.

“Critics who attack my wife bug me. It makes me want to pay ’em a visit so I could give ’em a good punch in the nose,” he said. “I don’t care what they say about me, but it bothers me when they’re mean to her.”

McGraw has an hourlong TV concert special, “Sing Me Home” — recorded in his Louisiana hometown — airing on NBC next Wednesday. He is also busy promoting one book, writing a new one (on parenthood) and releasing his new album (“Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors,” out Tuesday).

What’s the new album like, you ask? Says McGraw: “It’s like a bowl of hot soup on a cold day. It has a comforting quality.”

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