Almost three years since the release of her previous album, Cry, Faith Hill is anxious for fans to hear her sixth album, Fireflies, which arrives in stores Tuesday (Aug. 2). The Star, Miss., native co-produced the album with longtime collaborators Byron Gallimore and Dann Huff.
In this first installment of a two-part interview, CMT's Katie Cook talks to Hill about the album and the hit single, "Mississippi Girl," written by Big & Rich's John Rich and MuzikMafia guitarist Adam Shoenfield. The second part of the interview -- running Tuesday -- finds Hill talking more about her personal life with husband Tim McGraw.
"Mississippi Girl" is the highest-debuting single of your career. Is it a sigh of relief, or did you know it was a hit?
Hill: Sigh of relief, definitely. (laughs) I was excited about the song and felt that it was the right thing to go with, and it was appropriate. ... Nice little icing on the cake.
You didn't actually ask anybody to write this song for you -- they just did it.
Big & Rich were on tour last summer with Tim, opening shows for him, which we love. They're so amazing. ... John knew that I was looking for songs for my album. One day, he said, "I'm gonna write you a song called "Mississippi Girl." And, sure enough, a few weeks later, he brings it over and plays it for Tim. I was out at the time [but] Tim called and said, "This is it. This is your song."... I couldn't have written it better for myself. I really couldn't have. It's just an amazing song.
It really tells your story, doesn't it?
It tells my story, and it tells it in a way that I would tell it if I could. It was great. When you ask John about writing it, he basically says he stalked me for two or three weeks, watching me out the bus. (laughs) And now I'm self-conscious about what I do. But I'm very excited. I proudly speak about Mississippi. I love where I grew up, and it's definitely still in my heart.
John Rich has three cuts on this album, right?
What is it that you love so much about his writing?
It's just so great. I mean, after he wrote "Mississippi Girl," he was bringing out songs to me on the road. "Sunshine and Summertime," which is a song off of the new album, I had that already. ... I didn't even realize that it was his song, and then he brings out a collection of songs that are his favorites that he's written. One of those songs, the very first one on the tape, was "Like We Never Loved at All." ... It's a song he wrote six or seven years ago, and it's been just sitting around. I love those. I love when you find songs that have just been hanging out, waiting to be discovered.
Two of the songs off the new album are more theatrical, a little like Doris Day.
That's so great you picked out those songs. "Wish for You" just immediately reminded me of my children. I just wanted to say those things so much, and I want that song to remain with them forever. ... I love singing that way. I would love to do a whole album of '40s music at some point down the line when I have nothing else to do -- when I'm sitting around bored. And then "Paris" was a song that I just fell in love with when I heard it. It's just, in my opinion, one of the greatest songs I've ever heard, and I was so glad that I got to put it on this record.
The song, "We've Got Nothing but Love to Prove," has sort of a happy side to it but a more serious side, as well. What drew you to this song?
Gosh, if you're sitting at home at night watching television, you see things come across that are so disturbing. So many things are beautiful in this world and in our country, and there are so many things that are very disturbing, especially as a parent. When this song came along to me, I felt like it was talking about struggle that we all have as human beings dealing with the issues that we have to deal with as a society. ... One day, you feel everything's OK. The next day, you hear about this horrible incident that involved children ... or someone else is killed in the middle of our war ... and it just tears you apart.
The last year really started to affect me with everything that's going on ... with the war and just with so much in our world ... I guess because I just worry about my children. You know, you think about the future -- what is it going to be like with our kids and if we could ever see anything and make choices through their eyes. And, of course, there's a line in there that talks about maybe we should let them choose. I don't mean that literally, but sometimes the innocence of a child is also so honest. .... I just I love that song because the very last verse is talking about "let's all dig deep inside our souls, and let's just love one another so we can make this world a better place." Yeah, it's meant to glorify really.
Lori McKenna has three cuts on your album. What about her writing do you love so much?
I'm just in love with it. Simple as that. I finished pretty much the record, and Missy Gallimore [producer Byron Gallimore's wife] brings me this song called "If You Ask," and she goes, "I know you're finished. I know we've talked about this, but you have to hear this song." ... I listened to it, and I said, "I want to hear everything that she has." She just went straight to my heart. Her writing is just so incredibly real, and that's what I wanted with this record. I wanted it to feel like, "This is real life. These are human stories on this record." When I heard "Stealing Kisses," I felt like I was sitting at her coffee table with her, and so I went back [to the studio] and got some more of her songs.
You recorded some of this last year, so why did you make us wait so long?
I don't know. ... When I was doing the album credits, I remember there was one song on there I think I recorded in 2003. So it's been a while working on this album. But I want it to be right for me before I can feel it's right for everybody else, hopefully. It has to be. I have to love it because once it's out there, it's out there.
The Warren Brothers have a cut on the album. Were you surprised that a couple of guys like that could write a song like "The Lucky One"?
They're so sensitive, those guys. Don't let them fool you. They're wusses.
It has to be great to have one of their songs on your record.
Oh, absolutely. They are great friends of ours, and they are so talented. ... I'm glad. I'm happy.
Now that the album is done, how do you feel about it?
Yeah, very relieved. I feel excited. I've done a lot of work and dedicated myself, and it's just my heart and soul ... it's there. And I'm excited, too, because I've got so much. This album goes so deep, probably deeper than any record I've ever had. I never could sit here [before] and say I could probably go six singles or seven singles. I can on this record. I've never said that. So that's a good feeling, too. I'm just excited for each one to come out because with each song, I'm going to tell a different story. It's a great feeling.
Why did you pick "Fireflies" as the title track?
I just immediately knew. I knew that the content of the song really, to me, brings the embodiment of this record to life. It talks about being able to dream and having dreams as a child and making those dreams come true. Because sometimes all you have is a dream ... it also takes me back to my childhood. I mean, I remember trying to catch fireflies in Mississippi, and my girls try to catch fireflies in Tennessee. It's just such a great memory. It's a beautiful story and a beautiful song. I knew immediately, as soon as we finished recording it, that it would be the title track.
Read the second part of Katie Cook's interview with Faith Hill.