NASHVILLE, Tenn. – For a down-home "Mississippi Girl," Faith Hill (search) sure cleans up well — from magazine covers and a Hollywood film to a celebrity marriage with country star Tim McGraw (search). But Hill's new album "Fireflies" finds her embracing her small-town roots.
The album, which debuted this week at No. 1 on both Billboard's Top 200 and Country Album charts, is a more acoustic, country-flavored record than her last outing, the pop-heavy "Cry."
The first single, "Mississippi Girl," is a biographical song written by her pal John Rich of the duo Big & Rich (search) and Adam Shoenfeld. In the song, Hill sings that despite her success, a "Mississippi girl don't change her ways just 'cause everybody knows her name."
Hill, 37, who fittingly grew up in a small town called Star, just outside Jackson, Miss., spoke to The Associated Press about her new album, acting, juggling career with family life, and what it's like to work with her husband.
AP: Were you making a statement with "Mississippi Girl" that you were returning to country music?
Hill: In my mind I never left. With "Cry" I was just making an artistic record. I never had intentions of leaving country music and forgetting where I came from. I won't always make records that please everybody, but as an artist who's growing I have to do what's right for me in order to make great music. Without making that last album I couldn't have made this one.
AP: If you had to put your finger on one or two things that make "Fireflies" different from "Cry," what would they be?
Hill: It's definitely a more acoustic album. I wanted to make a more acoustic record, and I intentionally set out to find songs that allow me to do that. The material on this album is based more upon real-life stories, stories we all lived or experienced on an everyday basis. The songs that are meant to be deep on this record are really, really deep.
AP: The song "Dearly Beloved" is a funny but also cynical song about marriage. What made you want to cut it?
Hill: It was hilarious to me. I think it's hilarious, but at the same time I don't see it as being cynical, but as taking a serious, not-so-funny subject matter and turning it inside-out with its humor.
AP: The last song on this record, "Paris," has a different feel to it from the others, like a throwback to another era.
Hill: I've always loved '40s music. I got into the studio and sang "Paris" and realized that this kind of writing fits my voice perfectly. I said that one day I'm going to do nothing but a '40s music record because my voice fits those songs, besides the fact that they are extraordinary songs.
AP: You made your acting debut last year in "The Stepford Wives." Is that something you'd like to do more of?
Hill: I definitely want to do it again, but not to that extent. I worked on that film for close to five months. If I'm going to dedicate that time again it's going to be something that's life-changing. I always read scripts and have been for years. Right now, I'm focused on this record and touring. I haven't toured in five years and really want to get back on stage.
AP: Is it difficult for both you and your husband to be entertainers and lead a relatively normal family life with your three daughters?
Hill: The difficult part is just the scheduling. We're so used to our lifestyle we just have to make it work around our family. That's the most important thing, and then we just fill in from that point. So it gets challenging a lot of times and difficult like it is with everyone else out there who is juggling lot of things. We've had to turn down things that would have been great but that were not worth disrupting our family over.
AP: Tim sings background on a song on this album, "Like We Never Loved At All." Tell the truth, is he easy to work with?
Hill: (Laughs) He's real easy to work with. I love to work with him. We have different tastes in music. He's '70s rock 'n' roll, and I'm a soul sister, but we definitely agree on great songs.