Margaret LeAnn Rimes was born in Jackson, Mississippi. She is the only child of Wilbur Rimes and Belinda Butler. The family moved to Garland, Texas, when she was six. She was enrolled in vocal and dance classes, and was performing at local talent shows at the age of 5.
Rimes began her career in musical theatre, performing in a Dallas, Texas, production of A Christmas Carol, and almost landing the lead part in the Broadway production of Annie. After appearing on the network television competition show Star Search, where she clearly charmed host Ed McMahon in addition to being a one-week champion, Rimes decided to go into country music. Rimes appeared a number of times on Johnnie High's Country Music Revue in Arlington, Texas, which gained the attention of national talent scouts.
By age nine, Rimes was an experienced singer. She toured nationally with her father and also regularly performed a cappella renditions of "The Star Spangled Banner" at the opening of the Dallas Cowboys football games. Wilbur Rimes began recording his daughter under the independent label Nor Va Jak when she turned eleven. She released three albums between 1991 and 1996.
Rimes was discovered by Dallas disc jockey and record promoter Bill Mack. Mack was impressed by Rimes's vocal ability, and over the following three years, he made various attempts to bring Rimes to a mainstream level. The center of Mack's plan to bring her success was his composition, "Blue", which Mack claimed he intended to be recorded and made into a hit record by Patsy Cline, but she had been killed in a plane crash before ever recording the composition. In July 1994, Rimes recorded the song on her independent album, All That.