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Hill, Faith

Faith Hill

Singer, songwriter

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.

Extraordinary Debut

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.

For the Record …

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.

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.

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.

Addresses: Record company—Warner/Reprise, 20 Music Square East, Nashville, TN 37203-4326. Website—Faith Hill Official Website: http://www.faithhill.com.

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 song-writer 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, "[Sucess] 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.

Selected discography

Take Me As I Am, Warner, 1993.

It Matters to Me, Warner, 1995.

Faith, Warner, 1998.

Breathe, Warner, 1999.

Cry, Warner 2002.

Sources

Periodicals

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.

Online

"Faith Hill," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (July 7, 2004).

Faith Hill Official Website, http://www.faithhill.com (July 1, 2004).

—James M. Manheim

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Hill, Faith

Faith Hill

Singer

Made Way in Music City

Personalized Song Selections

Selected discography

Sources

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, womens 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 oldand before she even knew many of the words. Spirituality, religiontheyve 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, Emmy-lou Harrisand Reba McEntire, who would serve as the young womans role model in later years. By the time she was 16, Hill had formed her first country band. One of the groups first performances was at a Tobacco 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.

Made Way in Music City

While Nashville was brimming with people who shared Hills love of country music, it was also full of aspiring singers. In a strange town, with no friends and no job, Hills first few months of independence were a scary time. Finally, she got a week-long job selling T-shirts at the citys 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

For the Record

Born September 21, 1967, in Jackson, MS; married (divorced); married Tim McGraw (a country singer), October 1996.

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.

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.

Addresses: Record company Warner/Reprise, 20 Music Square East, Nashville, TN 37203-4326.

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 Musics 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 Morriss 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 theyre 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, Hills big break didnt 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 Hills potential and offered the newcomer a recording contract.

Signing with Warner/Reprise in 1993, Hills 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 magazines 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. Hills second single, an upbeat, two-step county cover of Janis Joplins 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 singles release. Critics, radio stations, Woodstock-era fansthey were like: Oh, great. Heres this country crap singer trying to do this legendary song. But Hills 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 Hills 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 the young singers voice. By late 1994 she was in the hospital recovering from vocal surgery. Doctors orders included three weeks of complete silence. For a big talker like me, Hill would later tell Peoples Peter Castro, that was a huge problem.

Personalized Song Selections

Hills It Matters to Me was released in the summer of 1995 to critical praise. The pop-driven Lets Go to Vegas, the first single to be released off the singers 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 Elses Dream and the Alan Jackson-penned I Cant 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 Mans 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 causesin 1996 she launched the Faith Hill Literacy Project, aimed at combating family illiteracyHill 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: Ive always been very independent and wanting to know whats 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 its 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.

Selected discography

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.

Sources

Books

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.

Pamela Shelton

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Hill, Faith

FAITH HILL

Born: Audrey Faith Perry Hill; Jackson, Mississippi, 21 September 1967

Genre: Country

Best-selling album since 1990: Breathe (1999)


Hit songs since 1990: "Breathe," "This Kiss," "The Way You Love Me"


In the late 1990s, crossover sensation Faith Hill turned heads with her powerful string of singles that topped both the country and pop charts.

Raised in the aptly named Star, Mississippi, Hill began singing at an early age; her musical influences included Elvis Presley, Tammy Wynette, George Strait, and Reba McEntire. Hill performed publicly for the first time at a 4-H luncheon when she was seven years old. While in school, Hill was involved in sports as well as drama, but singing remained her first passion. During her high school years, Hill began singing with a local band, which performed at a variety of community events and festivals, including the infamous Raleigh, Mississippi, Tobacco Spit.

Hill enrolled at Hinds Community College in Mississippi, but dropped out after a semester and moved to Nashville to pursue a career in music. After selling t-shirts in her first job, Hill became a receptionist at a music publishing company. Her singing along to the radio caught the attention of her co-workers, who convinced Hill to cut a demo. Hill soon after began performing around town with local singer Gary Burr. During one performance with Burr, Hill caught the attention of a scout from Warner Bros. Records, which subsequently signed her to a recording contract.

Warner Bros. released Hill's debut album, Take Me As I Am, in 1994. The lead single "Wild One" was an instant sensation, its mild, finger-snapping beat and twanging steel guitars pleasing country traditionalists, who pegged Hill as the next Reba McEntire. On the strength of its memorable chorus ("She's a wild one / With an angel's face / She's a woman-child / In a state of grace"), "Wild One" topped the country singles charts for four weeks; Hill was the first female country singer to achieve that milestone on her debut single in more than thirty years. The rollicking follow-up "Piece of My Heart," a cover of the Janis Joplin rock classic, also hit number one on the charts. Take Me As I Am ultimately sold 2 million copies and established Hill as a rising star in the country world.

Hill's follow-up album, It Matters to Me (1995), outdid its predecessor, selling an additional 1 million records. While touring in support of the album, Hill became romantically involved with tourmate Tim McGraw, one of country music's leading male performers. After an intense courtship, the pair married on October 6, 1996, in Rayville, Louisiana. Soon after, the newlyweds collaborated on "It's Your Love" for McGraw's studio album Everywhere (1997). The duet spent six weeks at number one on the country charts and became Billboard 's most-played country single to date.

Hill appealed to an entirely new fan base with her album Faith (1998). A major crossover success, Faith reached the Top 10 of both the country and pop album charts and sold 5 million copies. The album's success stemmed in large part from the hit single "This Kiss," which climbed all the way to number seven on the pop singles charts. While featuring some traditional country instrumentation such as steel guitars, Hill forsakes her vocal twang on "This Kiss" in favor of a more bubbly, pop-influenced singing style, suitable for the song's exuberant, cosmopolitan feel: "It's the way you love me / It's a feeling like this / It's centrifugal motion / It's perpetual bliss." Hill further enhanced her burgeoning celebrity by signing an endorsement deal with Cover Girl makeup, who anointed Hill one of its leading spokeswomen.

Hill's follow-up album Breathe (1999) further embraces the pop world and outdid its predecessor in sales, debuting at number one on the pop charts and ultimately selling over 7 million copies. The title track peaked at number two on the pop charts and was the most-played single of the year. A lush ballad, "Breathe" at once posits Hill as vulnerable, seductive, and emotive and features a soaring, inspiring chorus: "'Cause I can feel you breathe / It's washing over me / Suddenly, I'm melting into you." Hill also scored Top 10 hits with "The Way You Love Me" and "There You'll Be," the latter of which appeared on the soundtrack to the movie Pearl Harbor (2001) and was nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards.

Hill took a brief hiatus to care for her daughters, but returned in 2002 with the album Cry. The album finds Hill further refining her pop sound, incorporating R&B and soul influences into her country-pop mix. The album's title track was a Top 40 hit and earned Hill a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.

By the end of the 1990s, Hill had surpassed fellow crossover sensation Shania Twain as mainstream radio's leading country-pop act and became Nashville's most recognizable contribution to pop culture.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Take Me As I Am (Warner Bros., 1993); It Matters to Me (Warner Bros., 1995); Faith (Warner Bros., 1998); Breathe (Warner Bros., 1999); Cry (Warner Bros., 2002). Soundtrack: Pearl Harbor (Warner Bros., 2001).

scott tribble

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