Hill's first two albums, Take Me as I Am (1993) and It Matters to Me (1995), established her as a popular country singer; they placed a combined three number ones on Billboard's country charts and were major successes in North America. She later rose to mainstream, crossover and international fame with the release of her next two albums, Faith (1998) and Breathe (1999). Faith spawned her first international hit, "This Kiss", and went multi-platinum in various countries. Breathe became her best-selling album to date and one of the best-selling country albums of all time, with the huge crossover success of her signature song, "Breathe". It had massive sales worldwide and earned Hill three Grammy Awards, including Best Country Album. In 2001, she recorded "There You'll Be" for the Pearl Harbor soundtrack and it became an international hit and her best-selling single in Europe. Hill's next two albums, Cry (2002) and Fireflies (2005), were both commercial successes and kept her mainstream popularity; the former spawned another crossover single, "Cry", which won Hill a Grammy Award, and the latter produced the hit singles "Mississippi Girl" and "Like We Never Loved at All", which earned her another Grammy Award.
Hill has won five Grammy Awards, 15 Academy of Country Music Awards, six American Music Awards and several other awards. Her Soul2Soul II Tour 2006 with McGraw became the highest-grossing country tour of all time. In 2001, she was named one of the "30 Most Powerful Women in America" by Ladies Home Journal. In 2009, Billboard named her as the No. 1 Adult Contemporary artist of the 2000 decade and also as the 39th best artist. From 2007 to 2012, Hill was the voice of NBC Sunday Night Football's intro song.
Early life and career beginnings Edit
Hill was born in Ridgeland, Mississippi, north of Jackson, Mississippi. She was adopted as an infant, and named Audrey Faith Perry. She was raised in the nearby town of Star, 25 miles outside of Jackson. Her adoptive parents, Edna and Ted Perry, raised their two biological sons along with Hill in a devout Christian environment.
Hill's vocal talent was apparent early, and she had her first public performance, at a 4-H luncheon, when she was seven. In 1976, a few days before her 9th birthday, she attended a concert by Elvis Presley at the State Fair Coliseum, in Jackson, which impressed her deeply. By the time she was a teenager, Hill was a regular performer at area churches, even those not in her own Baptist denomination. At 17, Hill formed a band that played in local rodeos. She graduated from McLaurin Attendance Center in 1986, and briefly attended college at Hinds Junior College (now Hinds Community College) in Raymond, Mississippi. At times, she sang for prisoners at the Hinds County Jail, her song of choice being "Amazing Grace". At age 19 she quit school to move to Nashville and pursue her dream of being a country singer. In her early days in Nashville, Hill auditioned to be a backup singer for Reba McEntire, but failed to secure the job. After a stint selling T-shirts, Hill became a secretary at a music publishing firm. Additionally, Hill also landed a job at a local McDonald's restaurant franchise, which she disliked intensely. "Fries, burgers, cash register – I did it all, I hated it," she has said.
In 1988, she married music publishing executive Daniel Hill (not to be confused with Canadian musician Dan Hill).
Two years later, she began a search for her biological mother, whom she eventually met in 1993 and with whom she corresponded until her mother's death.
A co-worker heard Hill singing to herself one day, and soon the head of her music publishing company was encouraging her to become a demo singer for the firm. She supplemented this work by singing backup vocals for songwriter Gary Burr, who often performed his new songs at Nashville's Bluebird Cafe. During one of those performances, Bob Saporiti, an executive from Warner Bros. Records was in the audience, and, impressed with Hill's voice, began the process of signing her to a recording contract.
Shortly after the release of her album, Hill's marriage fell apart. She and Daniel Hill divorced in 1994.