Hill's vocal talent was apparent early, and she had her first public performance, at a 4-H luncheon, when she was seven. In 1976, a few days before her 9th birthday, she attended a concert by Elvis Presley at the State Fair Coliseum, in Jackson, which impressed her deeply. By the time she was a teenager, Hill was a regular performer at area churches, even those not in her own Baptist denomination. At 17, Hill formed a band that played in local rodeos. She graduated from McLaurin Attendance Center in 1986, and briefly attended college at Hinds Junior College (now Hinds Community College) in Raymond, Mississippi. At times, she sang for prisoners at the Hinds County Jail, her song of choice being "Amazing Grace". At age 19 she quit school to move to Nashville and pursue her dream of being a country singer. In her early days in Nashville, Hill auditioned to be a backup singer for Reba McEntire, but failed to secure the job. After a stint selling T-shirts, Hill became a secretary at a music publishing firm. Hill also landed a job at a local McDonald's restaurant franchise, which she disliked intensely. "Fries, burgers, cash register – I did it all, I hated it," she has said.