Born Audrey Faith Perry, September 21, 1967, in Jackson, MS; daughter of Pat (a factory worker) and Edna (a bank employee) Perry; married Dan Hill, c. 1987 (a songwriter; divorced, 1991); married Tim McGraw (a country singer), October, 1996; children Gracie, Maggie, and Audrey. Education: Attended one semester at Hinds Junior College, Raymond, MS. Addresses: Record company--Warner/Reprise, 20 Music Square East, Nashville, TN 37203-4326. Website--Faith Hill Official Website: http://www.faithhill.com.
With her impressive soprano, engaging charm, and a streak of independence running through her hit songs, Faith Hill developed into a "Young Country" superstar seemingly overnight. When her debut, Take Me as I Am, hit the stores in 1993, she became an immediate sensation, with hit after hit on the charts. Her next two releases, It Matters to Me and Faith, both kept pace, with ten of her first 12 singles from her first three albums reaching the top five. Some of her most popular tunes include "Wild One," an upbeat version of "Piece of My Heart," "Take Me As I Am," the pop-oriented "Let's Go to Vegas," "This Kiss," and "Just to Hear You Say that You Love Me." Some of Hill's tunes venture into territory like women's rights and domestic violence, adding a serious component to her repertoire of more romantic offerings. A staple at country music awards ceremonies, Hill became part of a show business power couple in 1996 when she married fellow country artist Tim McGraw.
Hill was born Audrey Faith Perry on September 21, 1967, in Jackson, Mississippi, and she and her two older brothers were raised in nearby Star by adoptive parents Pat and Edna Perry. Her father worked for the Presto Manufacturing Company plant in Jackson, retiring after 37 years, and her mother was a retired bank employee. In 1990 Hill began looking for her biological parents, succeeding a few years later. She described in People "the awe of seeing someone that you actually came from," adding that "it fills something." She has never revealed her birth parents' identities, citing privacy reasons.
Hill discovered her love of music while singing in church as a child. Raised as a Baptist, Hill remains a highly spiritual person. Her first public performance came at age 10 at a women's club luncheon, and a few years later she learned to play guitar. As a teenager, she was inspired by the voices of country singers like Patsy Cline, Emmylou Harris, and her later role model, Reba McEntire. By age 16, Hill had started her own country band; one of her early appearances was at the Tobacco Spit competition in Raleigh, Mississippi. "It was so gross," she related to Peter Castro in People. "They had to clean the stage off with a towel before we played."
Looked to Nashville for Her Break
Eventually Hill worked her way up to county fairs and rodeos, and after graduating from McLaurin Attendance Center high school in 1986 she spent a year at community college before heading for Nashville. Her father helped her move; as Hill recalled to Joanna Powell in Good Housekeeping, "I can still see his face to this day, sitting with empty boxes all around him. He had tears in his eyes, and he just waved good-bye and said, 'Take care. I love you. We are behind you one hundred percent." Success did not come immediately. Hill earned a living for six years in a variety of jobs, starting with selling T-shirts at Fan Fair, a country music festival. For a time, she also was in charge of mail order in the merchandising department for Reba McEntire.
Although Hill did not give up on her goal of becoming a singer, in the meantime, she began a day job as a receptionist for a publishing company owned by singer-songwriter Gary Morris. That experience taught her a lot about the business aspect of country music. "I was very, very young and naive," she told Bob Millard of Country Music. "I was very green, but I was thrust into learning real quick." Subsequently, Hill found another office position at McEntire's Starstruck Entertainment, a talent management firm. During this time, she was also filling in as a backup singer on demos around town, and also auditioned to become a backup singer for McEntire, but the slot went to Paula Kaye Evans, who was killed in 1991 in a plane crash, along with most of McEntire's touring entourage.
Hill's breakthrough came during a gig singing harmony with Gary Burr at the Bluebird Cafe, a favorite Nashville bar. A Warner/Reprise talent scout was in the audience that night and signed her to the label. The singer's debut album, Take Me as I Am, was released in 1993 and would reach triple platinum sales. The first single off of the CD, "Wild One," rose to number one on the Billboard chart and stayed there for four weeks, marking the first time a female country singer had stayed at number one for a month with a debut single since Connie Smith in 1964 with "Once a Day." The next single, an uptempo version of Janis Joplin's classic rock number "Piece of My Heart," defied predictions and also climbed to the top spot.
Thanks to the popularity of her first effort, Hill embarked on a busy concert tour in 1994, opening for the likes of McEntire, Alan Jackson, and Brooks & Dunn. Unfortunately, the pace took its toll, and she underwent surgery to remove an enlarged blood vessel from a vocal chord that winter. By then she was a standout as a hot new presence, and won several honors for 1994, including Best Female Country Artist awards from Billboard and Performance magazines, the Favorite New Female award from the Academy of Country Music, and other nominations from the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music.
The next summer, 1995, Hill was back on the charts with It Matters to Me, which hit double platinum twice as fast as her debut. That year, she continued her exhaustive tour schedule, opening for Alan Jackson and George Strait. Her third album, Faith, went platinum in only six weeks, and she also showed up on other projects, including a Tammy Wynette tribute album, a children's album, and several film soundtracks.
"First Couple of Country"
When Hill began a joint tour with Tim McGraw, titled Spontaneous Combustion, in the spring of 1996, the gossip mill began to churn. After extensive rumors swirled, they married on October 6, 1996, in Rayville, Alabama, making them the reigning first couple of country. He proposed to her one day before playing a concert, and when he returned to his trailer, she had written "YES" on the mirror. One daughter, Gracie, was born in 1997, and another, Maggie, joined her the following year. The family took up residence just outside of Nashville but travel frequently for tours. In 2000 the couple collaborated on a Grammy-winning recording, "Let's Make Love," which was included as a track on Hill's Breathe album. Breathe won Best Country Album that year at the Grammys, and Hill won an additional third Grammy for the Best Female Country Vocal Performance for the album's title track. Already she had amassed an impressive collection of awards, including the TNN/Music City News Star of Tomorrow Award, 1995, and Female Vocalist of the Year award, 1999; Song of the Year for "It's Your Love," 1998, and the Top Female Vocalist award, 1999, from the Academy of Country Music.
One of Hill's biggest involvements outside of her recording career is the Faith Hill Family Literacy Project, a subject that hit close to home. Hill's father, one of 14 children, had to leave school in the fourth grade in order to work on the family farm, and he never learned to read or write. "He's a very intelligent man," she remarked in a People article. "I guess he recognizes things easily and has a good memory." On May 1, 1996, with the cooperation of Warner Bros. and Time Warner, she launched the organization, which aims to raise awareness of adult illiteracy. One in five people, according to some estimates, are functionally illiterate.
Hill took her surname from her first marriage--to songwriter and music executive Dan Hill in the later 1980s. She was 20 years old when she entered the marriage, which lasted only four years. In the 21st century she belongs to a new wave of country-pop stars, most notably Shania Twain, who eschewed the traditional gaudy makeup and rhinestone bell-bottoms in exchange for a highly sexualized appearance and sleek designer pantsuits and gowns. Additionally, she augmented her busy schedule with endorsements for Cover Girl cosmetics and Pepsi Cola and with television work including guest appearances on the television series Touched by an Angel and Promised Land. In 2000 and 2001 People named Hill among the 50 most beautiful people in the world.
Despite her high profile and many obligations, Hill remained vocal about her priority: family. As she remarked in People, "[Success] would be meaningless without anyone to share it with. Family will be there after everything's gone and I'm too old or tired to do this anymore." She does not tour without taking her children along, and she and her husband never spend more than a few days apart at any given time, even with their hectic performance schedules. In 2000 the entire family navigated a triumphant sellout tour called Soul2Soul 2000 that encompassed 42 cities.
In December of 2001 Hill experienced some scary moments when her third daughter, Audrey, was born three months prematurely. The baby weighed only three pounds, 11 ounces at birth and spent three weeks in the hospital but eventually recovered completely. Fearing infection, doctors kept everyone, including Hill, away from the baby while she was in the neonatal intensive care unit. "I couldn't hold her for the first few days," Hill told People. "That was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life."
Hill's fifth CD, Cry, was released in the fall of 2002. That release tilted decisively toward the pop side of Hill's output, almost completely relinquishing any connection with country songwriting or instrumentation. "Though plenty of Nashville A-team players back her up, the sound they churn out has almost nothing to do wiht country music," noted the All Music Guide's Robert L. Doerschuk. Instead it carried pop and R&B flavorings. A team of 25 different writers combined their talents to create Hill's new material, and her look on the cover, with wet hair and a cross dangling above a low-cut top, was sexier than ever. Unlike on previous releases, Hill's husband McGraw didn't appear on Cry.
The album was somewhat less successful than the seven-million selling and triple-Grammy-winning Breathe, but critics praised Hill's vocal virtuosity, and her profile remained high. She won the American Music Award for Best Female Country Performer in November of 2003, and followed that up by splitting the People's Choice award for Best Female Performer with Beyonce Knowles in early 2004. In 2004 Hill made her feature film debut as an actress, playing Sarah Sunderson in director Frank Oz's remake of the horror comedy The Stepford Wives. Successfully balancing family with a high-profile career and appealing to both pop and country audiences, Hill seemed capable of reaching an even higher level than she had already achieved.
by James M. Manheim
Faith Hill's Career
Began singing professionally, 1983; worked various jobs around Nashville, 1980s; signed with Warner Bros., 1993; released debut album Take Me as I Am, 1993; toured with Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, and George Strait, 1994-95; launched Faith Hill Literacy Project, 1996; joined with Tim McGraw on Spontaneous Combustion tour, 1996; recorded duet "It's Your Love" with McGraw, 1997; released Faith, 1998; released Breathe, 1999; released Cry, 2002; made feature film debut in The Stepford Wives, 2004.
Faith Hill's Awards
Academy of Country Music Awards, Favorite New Female, 1994; Top Vocal Event, Song of the Year, Single of the Year, and Top Country Video, for "It's Your Love," 1998; Top Female Vocalist, Vocal Event of the Year for "Just to Hear You Say that You Love Me," Single of the Year and Video of the Year for "This Kiss," 1999; Billboard Award, Top Female Country Artist, 1994; Country Music Association Awards, Top Female Vocal Event for "It's Your Love," 1997; Video of the Year for "This Kiss," 1998; Video of the Year for "Just to Hear You Say that You Love Me," 1999; TNN/Music City News Awards, Star of Tomorrow, 1995; Female Vocalist of the Year, Vocal Collaboration of the Year for "Just to Hear You Say that You Love Me," Video of the Year and Single of Year for "This Kiss," 1999; Grammy Awards, Best Female Country Vocal Performance for "Breathe," Best Country Album for Breathe, and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals for "Let's Make Love" with Tim McGraw, 2000; Best Female Country Vocal Performance for "Cry," 2002; American Music Awards, Best Female Vocalist, 2003; People's Choice Award, 2004.
- Selected discography
- Take Me As I Am Warner, 1993.
- It Matters to Me Warner, 1995.
- Faith Warner, 1998.
- Breathe Warner, 1999.
- Cry Warner 2002.
February 8, 2006: Hill shared the Grammy Award for best country collaboration with vocals, for "Like We Never Loved at All," with Tim McGraw. Source: Grammy.com, http://grammy.com/GRAMMY_Awards/Annual_Show/48_nominees.aspx, February 9, 2006.
- Country Music, July/August 1994.
- Entertainment Weekly, September 8, 1995, p. 80; October 25, 1996, p.18; December 10, 1999, p. 56; December 22, 2000; p. 32; October 18, 2002, p.110.
- Good Housekeeping, May 1999, p. 28.
- People, September 11, 1995, p. 23; April 20, 1998, p. 41; July 12, 1999, p. 95; May 8, 2000, p. 84; August 21, 2000, p. 88; May 14, 2001, p. 155; October 28, 2002, p. 86; November 4, 2002, p. 47.
- Time, June 28, 1999, p. 69.
- "Faith Hill," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (July 7, 2004).
- Faith Hill Official Website, http://www.faithhill.com (July 1, 2004).