Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1090

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Feature

Judith Hill: One giant step

Judith Hill @bluesandsoul.com Photo: Joe Lemke
Judith Hill @bluesandsoul.com Photo: Joe Lemke Judith Hill @bluesandsoul.com Photo: Joe Lemke Judith Hill @bluesandsoul.com Photo: Joe Lemke Judith Hill @bluesandsoul.com

“It was really great to be able to control it and really write the things that I was feeling and be in charge of production. I had come to a place in my life were I wanted (the music) to be very much autobiographical, (to tell) the stories I was feeling” singer/songwriter Judith Hill begins, speaking about her latest album “Golden Child”. The funk-soul songstress who first came to the public's attention as a backup singer for legends including Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, returns with the follow up to her 2015 debut '“Back In Time”. Handpicked by Michael Jackson as his duet partner for his iconic ballad “I Just Can't Stop Loving You” on what turned out to be his final tour, “This Is It,” Judith's rendition of “Heal The World” during Michael's memorial service created a moment that will forever live on in the hearts of Jackson's fans.

With a renewed sense of purpose after Michael's passing, Hill decided to focus exclusively on her solo career. Looking for a platform to raise her profile, she auditioned for The Voice USA where under the mentorship of Adam Levine she made it to the top eight before her shocking elimination from the show. Later that year, Hill also appeared in The Academy Award-winning documentary “20 Feet From Stardom” - the untold story of backing singers. Hill went on to win a Grammy for her work in the documentary. Then suddenly fate stepped in - during an interview Hill mentioned that Prince would be her dream collaborator. The Purple One happened to be watching and actually called Judith, inviting her to jam at Paisley Park studios. Together they created Hill's 2015 debut “Back In Time”. Judith and Prince remained close until his death in 2016. Now, with the release of “Golden Child”, Judith is literally going it alone, with almost every track on the album written, produced, arranged and even mixed by Hill.“I really enjoyed working in the studio” Judith continues. “I worked with some great musicians and was able to come up with stuff that I really loved”.

The exotic sonic mix of Balinese instrumentation and hard, sassy funk that is “Queen Of Hill”, blends deep basslines with a message of female empowerment sure to resonate with women everywhere. “(With) “Queen of the Hill”, I wanted to create a funk-jam that was exciting, new and different,” as Hill reveals the inspiration behind the single. “Part of the collaboration is adding gamelan (traditional ensemble music of Java and Bali in Indonesia) and a part of my bigger story is bringing the world together…different cultures together through music. I collaborated with the gamelan artists in a documentary that will be coming out called “Beats Of Paradise” and it shows the collaboration between funk-soul music and an exotic Eastern form of music. The video was really fun, we shot it in Joshua Tree (California) and it was great to collaborate with the dancers and musicians”.
Meeting while playing in a funk band, Judith's parents ensured their home was also filled with music. Judith's father, a bass guitarist, and her mother, a pianist, helped Hill develop her talent as she studied musical composition in college. Now returning that support, Judith's mom and dad play in her band and are regular collaborators. “It's very much a way of life for me. I do a lot with my parents, they're in my band. We've been playing music together since I remember so It feels really organic. It's really special to be able to play with my parents, they are a big part of me. They help me a lot so it's just great to have talented parents and it's really fun to work with them. It’s very special to have a family that makes music together, it brings us closer together”.

Hill, a passionate advocate of diversity and inclusion, using her music to bring people from all walks of life together is what inspires her the most. “I've come from a world of many cultures, I'm half Japanese, half black. I grew up in many traditions - evangelical Christian... and I have travelled around and experienced so many different cultures because I think that I've always felt like I was a bridge to so many different worlds. I would see people not get along because they are so different and they don't understand each other. But it has always been my passion to bring people together and help people realise that the things that they are so passionate about and fight for, often come from the same root. Essentially, we are all one and that's really a message that I want to bring to the world 'cause I come from different places so sometimes I feel like an outcast or somebody that is not accepted fully for not being one particular thing. So it's important that the world sees that although you may not fit in one certain box, celebrate the differences, celebrate the diversity and allow there be room for more open-mindedness”.

With a busy touring schedule that is sure to bring her own multi-cultural audience together, Hill is keen to discuss her new “Golden Child” stage show. “Now, I'm working on the musical side of “Golden Child”, which is premiering on December 6th in L.A. and that's a really exciting project. It's a story told through dancers, about bringing people together and overcoming hatred in the world so that's the main focus of what I am working on now. I'm performing with a full live band. I am one of the characters in the show. It's this story of a young girl who is essentially a golden child, she is the child version of me and she steps into a magical world where she sees the adult version of herself and she goes on a journey, where she experiences a world of magic and mystery. (The tour is) “great. I love performing, the band is awesome and it's been a real blast to be able to perform night after night.”

That love of live performance was also enhanced by Hill's opportunities to share the stage with legends like Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, among others. On her time working with the king of pop, Hill remembers “It was more singing, we rarely had a lot of personal time with him. He would show up for rehearsals and he was very kind to all the musicians - he was a joy to work with. There was a lot of things we had to do in the production and he would mainly come to rehearsals for that. (Working with Michael) was an incredible, life-changing experience”. On her relationship with Stevie Wonder, Judith adds “Yeah, I see (Stevie) here and there. Sometimes in a show, we'll cross paths. It's always great to see Stevie, I love working with him. He really is a lovely person…he's cool”. Answering the question of possible future musical hook-ups, Judith offers “Everyday there are people I'd love to collaborate with. I don't need to collaborate with a bunch of famous rock stars or anything...I think my bucket list has been completed in terms of collaborating with some really powerful people but everybody to me is special and I love all the collaborations”.

The album “Golden Child” is out on the Judith Hill label.

You can catch Judith Hill performing in London at Quaglinos on January 15th and 100 Wardour Street 100 Wardour Street on the 16th.

You can read more from our interview with Grammy winning R&B/soul sensation Judith Hill, including Hill's thoughts on her Grammy win, her appearance in the Grammy/Oscar winning documentary, "20 Feet From Stardom". Also, Hill looks back on her time working with her late great mentor Prince and the up & downs of taking part in the US version of hit TV talent show, The Voice - all in the current issue of Blues & Soul magazine - click the 'BUY NOW' link below to order straight from the B&S shop or read on for high street retailer details...

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ESSENTIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE judithhill.com

TWITTER: @Judith_Hill

FACEBOOK facebook/JudithHillOfficial

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PHOTOS: JOE LEMKE
Words Karen Lawler

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