Born September 21, 1967, in Jackson, MS; married (divorced); married Tim McGraw (a country singer), October 1996. Addresses: Record company--Warner/Reprise, 20 Music Square East, Nashville, TN 37203-4326.
Since the advent of the "Young Country" movement in the early 1990s, several performers of exceptional talent have appeared on the country music horizon. At the forefront of this new wave out of Nashville has been Faith Hill. With an engaging confidence and a strong, soaring soprano that has been compared to that of Tammy Wynette, the beautiful blonde vocalist has come to embody the future of country music to a new generation of listeners. Bravely addressing social issues like domestic violence, women's rights, and the need for personal independence within her traditional country sound, Hill is esteemed as a role model for her young country music fans, while helping this traditional American musical genre navigate the modern world.
Born Audrey Faith Hill on September 21, 1967, Hill was adopted by two loving parents and raised in Star, Mississippi. Music was always an integral part of her life; she recalls enthusiastically raising her voice in song in church when she was scarcely three years old--and before she even knew many of the words. "Spirituality, religion...they've been the backbone of my life ever since I was a little girl," Hill explained to Bob Paxman in Country Song Roundup; "They were a regular part of my upbringing....The music in church was the first music I ever heard." During her teen years, Hill became a fan of strong female vocalists like the late Patsy Cline, Emmylou Harris--and Reba McEntire, who would serve as the young woman's role model in later years. By the time she was 16, Hill had formed her first country band. One of the group's first performances was at a Tobaco Spit competition in nearby Raleigh; from there they moved up the gig ladder, eventually graduating to rodeos and county fairs. Even while performing at these local venues, Hill knew that she would one day head for Nashville and a career in country music. Three years later, with the ink on her high school diploma still fresh and the prayers of her supportive parents encouraging her to follow her dream, 19- year-old Hill found herself Music City-bound.
While Nashville was brimming with people who shared Hill's love of country music, it was also full of aspiring singers. In a strange town, with no friends and no job, Hill's first few months of independence were a scary time. Finally, she got a week-long job selling T-shirts at the city's annual Fan Fair celebration. Finding the encouragement to stay and stick it out, the increasingly streetwise Hill decided to pursue a common-sense strategy: she kept her dreams to herself and got a job as a receptionist at a publishing company owned by singer-songwriter Gary Morris. It would be a year before her intention to become a singer was fulfilled, and during that year Hill made a point of learning the business side of country music. "Boy, I immediately became right in the center of it all happening," she told Country Music's Bob Millard, describing her work behind the scenes; "I got to see sides of the business that I never even thought existed. I was very, very young and naive. I was very green, but I was thrust into learning real quick."
From Morris's company, Hill moved to an office position at Starstruck Entertainment, a talent management company owned by McEntire. "Reba has shown that you can be in control of your business and still have your creative side," Hill explained to Paxman; "Dolly [Parton]'s done the same thing, and they're both great examples for us." Despite the growing understanding of business gained through working for McEntire, as well as several opportunities to work as a demo singer around town, Hill's big break didn't come until she sang harmony with performer Gary Burr at the Bluebird Cafe, a famous Music City watering hole. Sitting in the audience that night was a talent scout from Warner/Reprise, who instantly spotted Hill's potential and offered the newcomer a recording contract.
Signing with Warner/Reprise in 1993, Hill's debut album Take Me as I Am was produced by Scott Hendricks and released the following fall. The first album single slated for national airplay was "Wild One"; it quickly climbed to the number-one slot on Billboard magazine's country charts, where it remained for over a month. This would be the first time a debut singer had managed such a feat since Connie Smith in 1964. Hill's second single, an upbeat, two- step county cover of Janis Joplin's blues-based "Piece of My Heart," also headed up the charts. "I got crucified," Hill explained to Jeffrey Zaslow of USA Weekend, in recalling the weeks before her second single's release. "Critics, radio stations, Woodstock-era fans--they were like: 'Oh, great. Here's this country crap singer trying to do this legendary song.'" But Hill's strong vocals and spirited delivery carried this fresh country interpretation of the rock classic to number one. With other singles, including the title track, gaining popularity, Take Me As I Am moved from gold to double-platinum.
The success of Hill's first album fueled a busy 1994 tour schedule that included 150 performances, some as the opening act for performers like McEntire, Brooks & Dunn, and Alan Jackson. In addition to being on the road for months at a time, the hectic schedule put a strain on theyoung singer's voice. By late 1994 she was in the hospital recovering from vocal surgery. Doctor's orders included three weeks of complete silence. "For a big talker like me," Hill would later tell People's Peter Castro, "that was a huge problem."
Hill's It Matters to Me was released in the summer of 1995 to critical praise. The pop-driven "Let's Go to Vegas," the first single to be released off the singer's sophomore effort, "sounds as if it could happily skip all the way to Nevada," said Mark Lasswell of People. Another side of Hill can be heard on singles like "Someone Else's Dream" and the Alan Jackson-penned "I Can't Do That Any More," both of which showcase a straight-talking, independent female voice framed within traditional country stylings. Vocalist Shelby Lynne joined Hill on "Keep Walkin' On," a gospel tune that the duo would also perform during the 1995 Country Music Association (CMA) award presentations. The intense and highly praised single "A Man's Home Is His Castle" movingly confronts domestic violence. Choosing such mature material proved to critics and fans that Hill was no empty-headed chanteuse, but a serious, intelligent woman who took the craft of singing seriously. "I choose the [songs] that hit me the hardest, make me feel the most," the singer told Susanna Scott in Country Song Roundup. Hill went on to explain that the process by which she selects material for her albums is very much a reflection of her personal feelings and concerns.
In addition to sharing the benefit of her growing popularity with charitable causes--in 1996 she launched the Faith Hill Literacy Project, aimed at combating family illiteracy--Hill has continued to tour, opening for both Alan Jackson and George Strait in 1995. The following year she began what started as a year-long tour with fellow Young Country talent Tim McGraw. The tour was extended until "when death us do part," after McGraw and Hill tied the knot in October of 1996.
Looking ahead to the future, Hill plans to follow in the footsteps of her role model, McEntire, and combine a successful career with raising a family: "I've always been very independent and wanting to know what's going on in my life and to be in control of things," the vocalist admitted to Millard. But she is driven by more than just an independent spirit and healthy ambition. "As crazy as [things] are now, I always fall back on my upbringing to get through the tough times," Hill revealed to Paxman. "My ultimate goal is to always have God as my pilot, whether it's in my career or my personal life." With two million-selling albums under her belt, Faith Hill seems to be following a clear course toward even greater success.
by Pamela Shelton
Faith Hill's Career
Formed country band in high school; moved to Nashville, 1987; signed with Warner Brothers, 1993; released debut album Take Me As I Am, 1994; toured with Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, and George Strait, 1994-95; launched Faith Hill Literacy Project, 1996; has appeared on numerous television programs, including The Today Show, E! Goes Country, Music City Tonight, and A Capitol Fourth; invited to perform at closing ceremonies of 1996 Summer Olympic Games.
Faith Hill's Awards
Academy of Country Music, top new female performer award; CMT Europe, rising video star award; and Billboard top female country artist award, all 1994; TNN/Music City News Star of Tomorrow award, 1995.
- Selective Works
- Take Me as I Am (includes "Wild One," "Piece of My Heart," and "Take Me As I Am"), Warner, 1993.
- It Matters to Me, Warner, 1995.
- Comprehensive Country Music Encyclopedia, Random House, 1994.
- Periodicals Country Music, July/August 1994.
- Country Song Roundup, December 1995; December 1996; August 1996.
- People, September 11, 1995.
- USA Weekend, August 27, 1995.
- Additional information for this profile was provided by Warner/Reprise press materials.