She soared to the top of both country and pop music charts with massive crossover hits including “This Kiss” and “Breathe.” She was singled out as an influential role model for Taylor Swift, the 2011 CMA Entertainer of the Year. She hasn’t produced a new album in over six years, but the live debut of her new single “Come Home” was greeted with a thunderous standing ovation. Faith Hill, whose birthmother placed her in an adoptive home when she was only a few days old, was born to be a superstar.
Faith’s adoptive parents, Ted and Edna Perry, raised Faith and their two older sons in the tiny town of Star, Mississippi. They never concealed from Faith that she was adopted, but they loved and supported her as their own daughter. When Larry King asked Faith about her “troubled childhood” in a 2006 interview, Faith responded, “I actually had a pretty amazing childhood. I was adopted, if that’s what you’re referring to, but my family, my mom and my dad and my brothers, they are amazing.” She told Larry that she grew up in a “very stable, good Christian, God-fearing home.”
One thing that always set Faith apart, however, was her passion for singing. Ted and Edna supported her in every way they could, encouraging her to sing at church, family functions, and even the ever- popular Mississippi state tobacco-spitting competition. They urged Faith to go to college, but when she decided to drop out and move to Nashville to pursue her singing dreams, Ted and Edna helped her pack her belongings into an old pickup truck. Ted rode in the back of the pickup all the way to Nashville.
Her new life in Music City did not go exactly as Faith had imagined it would. “I really believed I’d just get on the Grand Ole Opry stage, start singin’, and be on a bus travelin’ the next day,” she told Entertainment Weekly in 1994. Instead, she faced rejection after rejection. To pay the bills, she sold T- shirts, worked as a receptionist, and packaged merchandise for Reba McEntire’s company. Faith had been known and loved in Star; in Nashville she was lost and alone.
During this lonely time, Faith began to wonder about her identity, to yearn to find her roots. She wanted to find her birthmother. “There was a period of time when I first moved to Nashville, like the first couple of years, that I was just simply lost,” she told Robin Roberts in an “In the Spotlight” TV special in November. “That’s when I went on a search for my birth family. And it was all by divine intervention that it happened. It was meant for me to find her. One day, if I ever feel comfortable talking about the whole story, I will.”
When Larry King asked Faith in 2006 what it was like when she met her birthmother for the first time, Faith replied: “I’m not real sure I could intellectually answer that question. But it was pretty amazing, I have to say. She’s a wonderful woman. And the decision to give me up for an adoption, I can’t imagine that as a mother of three daughters. I can’t imagine the choice to do that, and I am so thankful that she was able to give me the opportunities that I had. I was placed into an incredible home that is basically responsible for the way I am today and the backbone that I have in order to do this for a living.”
Faith needed a strong backbone as she struggled through her first few years in Nashville, but she gradually formed relationships with people inside the music industry. She was finally discovered by Warner Bros. Records executive Martha Sharp when she was singing backup vocals for songwriter Gary Burr at the Bluebird Café, a world-famous songwriters’ performance space. Faith’s first single, “Wild One,” hit No. 1 on the Billboard country chart and stayed there for four straight weeks. She was the first female country singer to accomplish that feat in 30 years.
Faith’s career skyrocketed from that point, and her albums began to top the pop music charts as well. Her personal life took off almost as quickly. She had been through a couple of rocky relationships in Nashville, but she found love when she toured with Tim McGraw on his Spontaneous Combustion tour in the spring of 1996. They were married in the fall, and they now have three beautiful daughters.
Faith and her birthmother maintained a relationship for 15 years, until her birthmother passed away in her sleep in 2007. She also discovered that she has a full brother, and their relationship has helped her understand herself a little better. “We needed one another,” she told Robin Roberts simply.
In a recent Good Housekeeping interview, Faith tried to explain her need to find her birthmother: “I was adopted into this incredible home, a loving, positive environment, yet I had this yearning, this kind of darkness that was also inside me.” Like many artists, Faith has a passionate nature and feels things very deeply, but in all of her searching she has never harbored negative feelings against her birthmother. “I have a lot of respect for my birthmother and no feelings of anger or any of that,” said Faith. “I know she must have had a lot of love for me to want to give me what she felt was a better chance.”