It’s as if Faith Hill can not get enough of venturing through exciting new changes in her life. Whether it’s about her potpourri of musical journeys or from a personal aspect, such as having her second child with husband and fellow singer Tim McGraw, the wheels keep turning for the 30-year-old mother, wife and singer. Keeping her priorities in just that order has never been more important either — even if it means stepping out of the spotlight for a brief period.
“I think it’s okay to disappear for a while,” explains the May CMT Showcase Artist of her recent three-year hiatus away from the entertainment world. “I was at a great place where I felt I could take some time to reinvent. It’s all about evolution, but in order to evolve I couldn’t constantly be in front of the public. My first record came out when I was 25. A lot has happened in my life in the past five years. I’ve gone through a lot of changes, many of them publicly, and that can be hard. So I got out of it for a while,” she admits, “but I’m back now.”
It is hard-to-believe three years have passed since Hill’s double-platinum-selling disc It Matters To Me hit the country arena with a vocal explosion. With her soulful and raspy voice, she broke out with the scorching radio debut smash, “Wild One,” in 1994 and kept the hits coming with other numbers such as “It Matters To Me,” “Let’s Go To Vegas,” “Piece Of My Heart” and “Take Me As I Am” — each boosting phenomenal sales figures for both the Take Me… disc and her sophomore album It Matters To Me, which has also garnered double-platinum honors.
Her long-awaited return with FAITH, a project she describes as “a Jell-O salad,” couldn’t have satisfied the appetite of her fans, as well as country radio, any better.
“It went into the refrigerator hot liquid and came out a beautiful salad, full of wonderful fruit,” she describes the FAITH project, which began as an experiment. “We released five successful singles off my last album, that’s about a year and a half of songs on the radio. I had been on the road for four years and decided to take a break between albums. I wanted to make some production changes and needed some time to live and get inspired. I think that gave me time to grow and catch up with myself.”
Hill obviously caught up so much that she’s catching all of us by surprise with the results of her new music which she self-produced along with Dann Huff and Byron Gallimore. The project’s first single, “This Kiss,” hit the country charts running and stormed into the top five. From the opening lines of the unique groove tune, penned by ace songwriters Beth Nielsen Chapman, Robin Lerner and Annie Leslie Roboff, where Hill exuberantly describes a kiss from her lover as the one thing that creates “perpetual bliss,” to Matraca Berg’s “You Give Me Love,” the uplifting themes of happiness and love sing out time and time again. Even the gut-wrenching “My Wild Frontier,” which deals with a young woman’s birth of a child and subsequent loss of her husband, sends a positive message about how a bond of love can be stronger than life itself.
“Her soul mate passes away, but he leaves this child that is a part of him, explains Faith of the song. “Even though he is gone, there is still a bond that is stronger than anything else on earth.”
But it’s perhaps songwriter Gretchen Peters’ “The Secret Of Life” that shows the most dramatic musical growth since Hill’s last album. The song’s lyrics depict two men drinking in a bar and trying to discover the answers to life’s toughest question. “It’s really so simple,” responds Faith. “You just need to recognize where it is.”
While the words growth and maturity keep coming to mind when referring to the new FAITH disc, it’s rather ironic that the Star, Mississippi native gave birth to her first child, daughter Gracie Katherine, who will be one year old on May 5th, right smack-dab in the middle of the album’s production. It’s even more ironic that Hill describes the album’s central theme as being about happiness, satisfaction and deep love — three elements that couldn’t have pegged her better, especially during that emotional time.
“Sometimes I joke and say ’I went through Egypt to get to Cheyenne, but I made it.’ And really there was no other way I could have made this album,” ponders Faith. “It did take a long time, because I wanted to work with several different people. But in the end, the process was about discovering new places within myself. I think FAITH is a mirror reflection of where I am in my life,” she continues. “Musically for sure, there’s no question about it. I could not have gone deeper to find what this record is. As far as the personal side, there are a lot of positive songs. And that’s because I found it hard to sing about something sad and then go home to where I was exuding happiness all of the time. I felt I had to sing about things that were about the way I was really feeling.”
That exuding feeling was even topped when such friends and fellow singers as Chapman, McGraw and Vince Gill climbed aboard to lend their vocals to the album. Gill provides contributing harmonies to the Steve Diamond and Dennis Morgan-penned “Let Me Let Go.”
“From the moment he opened his mouth,” admits Faith, “we knew it was more than just harmony. Vince has such a distinctive style that he brought pure magic to the song.”
It’s not surprising that the song which features vocals by hubby Tim is her favorite. “Dann found this really great Diane Warren song called “Just To Hear You Say That You Love Me,” and after listening to it, it was obvious that Tim should come in and sing because the song says so perfectly what we both feel. It’s just a sweet love song that talks about how important those three words are in a relationship.”
Another group of three words have also meant a lot to Faith and Tim’s relationship, as well as their careers. The words “It’s Your Love” have become somewhat household — especially since the telecast of the recent Academy of Country Music Awards, where the husband/wife duet picked up four awards during the annual event in Los Angeles. The ballad smash, written by Stephony Smith, received honors for Song of the Year, Video of the Year, Single Record of the Year and Vocal Event of the Year.
“I just know we get to take eight of these home,” quipped Tim about he and Faith’s four trophies each after the awards show.
“And I get to buy another piece of furniture (for them),” laughed Faith. “I think this song was just logical for the two of us, as a couple,” she explained of “It’s Your Love.” “It was really special because it didn’t feel like anybody else was really watching,” she remembered when they first watched the video playback of the song.
Various honors and awards came to Hill the same way her string of records hit radio — in abundance. In addition to her and Tim’s recent ACM honors, the same song snagged a CMA award only a few months back for Vocal Event of the Year. Faith picked up her first ACM trophy for Top New Female Vocalist in 1993, which preceded the Star of Tomorrow honor from the TNN/Music City News Country Awards in 1995.
A room full of trophies, hit records, top-selling albums, a dynamic live CMT Special and even more upcoming concert dates with country icon George Strait throughout June still couldn’t replace what this sultry vocalist values the most outside the bright spotlight.
“My family is the most important thing in my life,” she recently told the press. “You know, Tim and Gracie, it’s really wonderful that we get to experience all of this together.” The due date for Faith and Tim’s second child is August 16th.
Thus, we can only assume that there are even more great things to come from Faith Hill.