The slender, statuesque and soulful song bird who wowed both coaches and the audience on NBC’s “The Voice” this past spring got her chops honest.
Judith Hill, the daughter of Japanese pianist Michiko Hill and pioneering African-American funk bassist Robert “Pee Wee” Hill, was introduced to the industry from the cradle. In fact, her parents were friends with the likes of Billy Preston, Sly Stone and Bob Dylan, to name a few. They’d often come to the house to jam or simply hang out. Hill said that these experiences were “deep rooted” and the tunes she heard were ones that she gravitated toward.
So, it was not so unusual that at the age of four, she would begin her foray into the world of music herself. She was schooled in jazz and classical melodies by her parents. And, she also recorded in their home studio.
Hill, with whom qnotes spoke after her performance at Charlotte Pride in August, obtained her degree in music composition from Biola University, having created her first symphony there. She shared her best years were the ones when she was a composer. It provided a tremendous educational opportunity for her and the training paid off. She puts a lot of herself into her pieces, she added.
She also indicated that faith is at the core of her musical choices. “I’m always writing from that deep place of understanding, of love, feeling connected to God. I want to try to inspire, to encourage people to feel the love, to bring hope.” She thinks that music is the “vehicle” to healing and bringing hope. “I want to bring peace in the world. I have a passion for human rights. Music is the language that brings people together. I want to have my own charities across the world,” she shared.
Hill decided to do the competition show after people had suggested it to her. “At first I wasn’t really into the idea and I started to really think about it. I thought what’s more exciting, performing or doing it on television? I realized that all the elements of what I love doing the most was on that show. You could get up there and do covers and make your own renditions. It was really neat,” she commented about her jaunt along the way with “The Voice.” She liked the creative control she was offered, but getting there was a long process. Candidates had to go through many rounds of auditions before even being selected for the revolving chair coach “live audition” stage. Even though she did not win, she was excited that she got a far as she did, having been eliminated in the top eight.
Since the show ended, she has been able to keep in touch with some of the other contestants, like Sarah Simmons, Sasha Allen and Midas Whale with whom she was close, as well as production and make-up personnel. She even sees the vocal coaches and other people associated with the show in passing. However, she has not spoken to Adam Levine, her coach, since the show’s finale.
And, her fan base has expanded, too. It is infused with a wide demographic range, full of diversity. She is quite supportive of the LGBT community and has friends and family in it. “They are my biggest supporters and I love them so much,” she said. “I want to do anything to show my love to them, to show that I care.”
So, what’s on tap for her future? She’s already been in the studio and is due to release a winter CD around the holidays. “I’m a soul singer and it’s always about the soul. I’m going to do things that people can sing along to and enjoy,” Hill said. She added, “The exposure [on “the Voice”] has brought me so many opportunities to help launch my solo career and helped me make that transition.” And, she’s hitting the tour scene with Josh Groban in October performing as a solo act. They had already collaborated together when she sang on Groban’s album that was recently released. She thinks that they are a “cool, interesting fit.”
One of her crowning achievements was working as Michael Jackson’s duet partner for the 2009 “This Is It” tour. “It was a magical time, being in his world. It was a once-in-a-lifetime [opportunity],” Hill said. However, due to Jackson’s untimely death, the show was cancelled. She was invited to sing the lead at the memorial service at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif., during “Heal the World.”
She was also able to team up with Landau Eugene Murphy, the winner of “America’s Got Talent” during its 2011 season. A producer friend of hers attached to Murphy’s freshman album got the gig for Hill.
Hill has had the opportunity to meet a number of other musical icons during her lifetime. However, one person she has not yet met, but would love to is Nelson Mandela. She thought that would be really amazing.
On the horizon, Hill would relish the opportunity to develop music that is culturally diverse and is filled with touches of faith. She loves all music, especially classical and world genres. She also enjoys the stories in country. However, “soul is my passion…everything else surrounds it,” she said. She wants to do compilations that are totally focused on one genre of music instead of blending a variety of styles on one album.
She would also like to perform at Carnegie Hall since she loves and lives on the stage. And, a Broadway show all her own would be a welcome addition to her blossoming career.
The silver screen is now not too foreign to Hill. She was one of the featured backup singers in the Summer 2013 release of “20 Feet From Stardom,” a documentary produced by filmmaker Morgan Neville and producer Gil Friesen. “I was really honored to be in [the film] and excited to be part of that.” she said. : :