June 6, 2008
The story of Faith Hill begins in the small town of Star, Mississippi. When she was only nine years old, she saw Elvis Presley in concert and knew immediately that she wanted to be an entertainer. Thanks to her ear for a great hook and ease singing diverse styles, she has become one of the top-selling female artists in country music history.
Like many singers, she began singing in church. When she was just seventeen, she fronted a country band that played in local rodeos. At nineteen, she quit college and move to Nashville to pursue her dream. When an audition to be Reba McEntire’s backup singer was unsuccessful, she sold t-shirts while looking for an industry job. She briefly married Dan Hill, an industry executive, and kept the surname after the marriage ended. She landed a job as a secretary at a publishing company. A co-worker heard her singing to herself, which led to Hill singing demos for the staff songwriters.
Gary Burr, a top songwriter, asked Hill to lend vocal support to his performances. One night at the Bluebird, a Warner Bros. executive was impressed by her talent, leading to a deal with the label. In late 1993, her debut single “Wild One” was sent to radio. It took off quickly, spending four weeks at #1, the longest run for a debut female single since Connie Smith’s “Once a Day” in 1964. She won the ACM Top New Female Vocalist the following spring. She scored another #1 hit with her second single, a cover of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart,” and a #2 with the title track from her debut album, Take Me as I Am, a set that eventually sold three million copies.
Hill toured with Reba McEntire and then Alan Jackson in support of the set, but while preparing her second album, a blood vessel on her vocal cords ruptured. She would later call this a blessing, as it gave her more time to select material for her sophomore project, It Matters to Me. She launched the album with the catchy “Let’s Go to Vegas,” and followed up with four more top ten hits, the biggest of which was the title track that topped the charts for three weeks. The album went on to sell four million copies.
While touring with country superstar Tim McGraw, the professional partnership turned personal. They soon wed, and she sang the harmony on his single “It’s Your Love” in 1996. It was a huge smash, topping the singles chart for six weeks. It won them four ACM awards and a CMA trophy for Vocal Event. Hill had an even bigger hit when she returned in 1998 with “This Kiss.” The lead single from her third set Faith, it hit just when LeAnn Rimes and Shania Twain had scored some crossover success. Hill’s catchy hit found an audience in both country and pop, making her a much bigger star in the process.
“This Kiss” won Hill more awards, including her first of three ACM trophies for Top Female Vocalist. “Let Me Let Go” was another #1 hit from the album, which went on to sell six million copies. Her next set, Breathe, was even bigger. The title track topped the charts for six weeks, and was a massive pop hit, becoming the most-played song on the radio on all formats for the entire 2000 chart year. The album went on to sell eight million copies, while “The Way You Love Me,” “Let’s Make Love” and “If My Heart Had Wings” scored at country radio. Hill won the CMA Female Vocalist trophy in 2000, and after having no luck at the Grammys in previous years, she won three in 2001, including the prestigious Best Country Album trophy.
After scoring a big pop hit with “There You’ll Be” from Pearl Harbor, earning a performance slot at the Academy Awards, Hill moved further in the pop direction with her ambitious fifth set, Cry. The Angie Aparo-penned title track won Hill a fourth Grammy. and while country radio was cool to the project, pop radio embraced “Cry” and “One.”
After a couple of years out of the limelight, Hill returned with what was arguably her strongest album to date, Fireflies, in 2005. A lot of attention was given to the contributions of songwriter John Rich to the project, and he did pen three of the big hits from the project, “Mississippi Girl”, “Like We Never Loved at All” and “Sunshine and Summertime.” But the soul of the album came from songwriter Lori McKenna, who penned the title track and the brilliant “Stealing Kisses.” When Hill went on tour with hubby Tim McGraw, they invited McKenna to open for them, a prime gig given that it ended up being the most successful country tour in history.
More recently, Hill released her first American hits collection, The Hits. It included her latest duet with McGraw “I Need You,” which was also on his album Let it Go. She also found singing partners in artists as diverse as Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin, and she is currently prepping her first Christmas album Joy to the World, which is due for release later this year. To date, Hill has sold 25 million albums in the United States, trailing only Shania Twain and Reba McEntire in total sales by a solo female country artist.
- “Wild One,” 1993
- “It Matters to Me,” 1995
- “This Kiss,” 1998
- “Breathe,” 1999
- “Cry,” 2002
- “Like We Never Loved at All,” 2005
- It Matters to Me, 1995
- Faith, 1998
- Breathe, 1999
- Cry, 2002
- Fireflies, 2005
- ACM Top New Female Vocalist, 1994
- ACM Single (“It’s Your Love”), 1998
- ACM Song (“It’s Your Love”), 1998
- ACM Video (“It’s Your Love”), 1998
- ACM Vocal Event (“It’s Your Love”), 1998
- ACM Single (“This Kiss”), 1999
- ACM Video (“This Kiss”), 1999
- ACM Vocal Event (“Just to Hear You Say That You Love Me”), 1999
- ACM Top Female Vocalist, 1999, 2000 & 2001
- ACM Video (“Breathe”), 2000
- CMA Vocal Event (“It’s Your Love”), 1997
- CMA Video (“This KIss”), 1998
- CMA Female Vocalist, 2000
- Grammy: Best Female Country Vocal Performance (“Breathe”), 2001
- Grammy: Best Country Album (Breathe), 2001
- Grammy: Best Country Collaboration with Vocals (“Let’s Make Love”), 2001
- Grammy: Best Female Country Vocal Performance (“Cry”), 2003
- Grammy: Best Country Collaboration with Vocals (“Like We Never Loved at All”), 2006