From backing up the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, to becoming a fan favorite on NBC’s The Voice, Judith Hill has seen and lived more than most young artists her age. Since her time on The Voice, the soulful rocker has found herself in the middle of a variety different project, most recently supporting classical pop star, Josh Groban on his North American Tour. I had the pleasure of speaking with Judith just before their first stop.
Judith: I am super excited! It’s my first arena tour with my band, so we are all excited for this tour. It’s going to be really fun.
We are all big fans of NBC’s The Voice here at Lemonade. Obviously your voice didn’t need much help, but how did the show set you up for tours like these?
Judith: It was a great experience, I think that The Voice prepares you for everything. You’re under pressure, you have to perform every week on television and you’re doing it all while so many people are watching you. You really have to learn how to rise above and be the best and not let things get to you.
From my perspective, it seemed like you were one of the front runners, but there is always so much talent on the show that there are never any losers. Is it still hard to deal with that level of competition though?
Judith: Yeah, its very tough. Especially when you’re put in the Battle Rounds and the Knock Outs, that’s a little weird, but once you get past that to the live shows, it’s all up to America and you just sort of find your niche and do your style. The pressure is kind of off at that point, you just do your best and see what happens. Overall, I feel like the contestants bond with each other more than anything. We are all going through the same struggle, so we were like each others support. I ended up making a lot of friends.
You are featured in a documentary on backup singers called 20 Feet From Stardom, tell us a little more about that project.
Judith: 20 Feet From Stardom is a great film. It’s about backup singers and the struggles, the triumphs, as well as everything that happens in the world of background singing. Morgan Neville did such a brilliant job of telling the story and there are so many incredible stories. You have Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, all these amazing women who – you have heard their voices on so many iconic albums, but you just don’t know their faces or their names. They don’t get the recognition they deserve. I was just really honored to be a part of it, because I am sort of from the younger generation of it and being selected to be part of the story is a real honor. It’s been an incredible ride; we’ve been promoting it at all the major film festivals, it was the first film to be picked up at Sundance for the documentaries. It’s just been really, really exciting to see how people are receptive to it and love the film.
Your fans are obviously anticipating a full length album from you soon. Are you recording? Any release dates?
Judith: We’re actually just finishing recording and I decided to release the music in a different way. We’re going to be putting out four EP’s that go along with the seasons. The first one will be the winter one which is coming out very soon. I am just kind showing different sides of me, I am really excited since its just around the corner. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally here.
I saw you on Monday Night Football recently as well singing the National Anthem. You are tried and true professional, but do you still get nervous with a situation like that?
Judith: Oh yes! I was nervous *laughs*. I think one of my biggest phobias in life is messing up the words to the National Anthem, so no matter how well I think I know that song, I always have a meltdown like 50 seconds before I have to sing it. I remember there was a commercial timeout before I went on and I looked to my manager and said “is it rocket’s red glare?” and he was pulling up the words for me. I finally got it together, but it always happens to me at the big game where I have this horrible fear I am going to mess up the lyrics. It ended up going good though and I had a great time. There is nothing like singing at a football stadium, it is so surreal.
I am sure you get this question often, but especially for people who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, Michael Jackson really was larger than life, even if that term gets thrown around a lot, he truly embodies it. What is the most cherished thing that you took away from your time with Michael Jackson?
Judith: I think the thing I cherish the most from my time with Michael is how gracious and willing and eager he was to share his space with me. He didn’t even know me and I was sort of pulled out of obscurity and he really encouraged me and wanted me to shine and really helped me along and encouraged me to give 100% on stage. It just meant a lot coming from him. I remember being in rehearsal with him and we’d be singing a duet together and he would just really be excited and always be telling me to give 100%. All of those things were highlights for me.
I would guess those sort of things still motivate you through your career now right?
Judith: Absolutely. That was the King of Pop encouraging me, nobody else can tell me anything different.
Editor in Chief of Lemonade Magazine
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