In country music, they don't come much bigger than Faith Hill. But now, after selling millions of albums and winning legions of fans, she's following in the bootsteps of Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton, trying to reach an even bigger audience.
Next week, she releases a new CD she hopes will do just that. Faith Hill allowed a rare look at how that CD got made – and how this 35-year-old Mississippi native is now trying to become an international star. Dan Rather reports.
Hill is now an international star. She hopes to sell 20 million copies of her next album – more than twice what her previous album sold.
She admits that she is competitive: "You just have to know what you want. I think you have to really know what you want and know how to get it. And I don't mean that in a bad way, you have to be tenacious."
Faith Hill has spent nine years working to get where she is today. She had her first hit single in 1993. With each new hit, her sound gradually moved away from pure country. As her songs sounded more like pop music, her record sales soared. Now she's trying to build on that success with her new album "Cry."
On this album, the traditional sounds of country music are nowhere to be heard. She knows she's taking a risk. She doesn't want to alienate her core fans as she reaches for a new audience.
"I feel immense pressure. You have caught me at a very serious moment in my creating process. And so there's no telling what I'll say to you today," she says with a laugh.
She and her producers spent the last two years searching for the songs that ended up on the album, whittling 10,000 down to just 14.
Though Faith Hill doesn't write her own material, her name and her success give her the clout to pick from the best songs, and the best songwriters anywhere. These include Derek Bramble and Lindy Robbins in Los Angeles.
Robbins and Bramble submitted a song called "Back To You." The producers listened to it, out of the hundreds they hear each week, and passed it on to Faith Hill. She liked it and recorded it. But that was just the beginning. The producers then spent weeks recording endless variations of instruments and orchestration, trying to find the right sound that might turn a song into a hit.
The pop sound of this album is unmistakable.
But when you listen closely to her new music, you can hear strains of the gospel music she fell in love with as a child - music she first heard in the Baptist churches of rural Mississippi, where she grew up. By age 7, she knew she wanted to be a singer.
She began performing in church. "I was always the loudest in church," she says with a laugh.
At 19, she bolted Mississippi and went to Nashville's Music row, home to the record companies, songwriters and musicians that produce country music. She toiled in obscurity for five years before she got her first recording contract.
In 1996, she married another country music star, Tim McGraw. When not performing, they make their home in Tennessee. She seems happiest, in the hills of Franklin, Tennessee, south of Nashville. It's a place rich in musical history. Hank Williams lived in a nearby house when he died.
She has a sense of her roots and the debt she owes to the music that made her a star. No matter how successful she becomes, she will always be a country girl from Mississippi.
"Those memories and those hymns are still in my mind," she says. "I sing them often to myself and to anybody else that will listen."