You might know Judith Hill from The Voice and 20 Feet From Stardom, but now the talented singer/songwriter has her new album, Back in Time and for longtime fans and Hill herself, this album has been a long time coming. Hill worked in the music industry as a background singer for some of pop culture’s most talented artists, and all of that hard work is shown in the versatility and artistry shown on Back in Time‘s songs.
I was very excited to be able to speak with Hill about her album, which is now available for purchase today from NPG Records, her career, and what it’s like to work in Prince’s Paisley Park Studios. You can follow Hill on JudithHill.com and on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
You’ve been on a long road with your career, working with Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, performing on The Voice—how does it feel to finally have your first album come out?
It’s so exciting. It’s like graduation day, when you work so hard on something and it’s finally coming out. I’m just really happy.
What were some of the inspirations for the album?
Well, I’ve always been a funk advocate and grew up with my parents listening to Sly and the Family Stone and Parliament, so the record is definitely inspired by those things and me being a soul singer, inspired by Ray Charles and the greats. You’ll hear stuff like that [in the album].
I’ve been listening to album today and the songs range from old-school jazz and funk, like you were saying, to—I don’t know how you would say it—contemporary special effects and stuff like that. How important was it for you to have a range of sounds on the album?
I think that the most important thing for me is just the fact that I’m a soul singer …That’s the main thing. The album was recorded in a way where there were live musicians and it was recorded in a studio like it was a jam session. It’s very much of that organic sound that matches my voice.
Do you have a favorite song from the album?
That’s hard. I like “Turn Up” a lot. That’s one of my favorites. And “Cry, Cry, Cry” and “Angel in the Dark” are some of my favorites as well.
You’ve worked with Prince on this album and on Prince’s HitNRun Phase One. What’s it like working with Prince and being a part of that Paisley Park experience?
It’s really amazing because it’s a wonderland of creativity…We’re always creating and on stage rehearsing. It always inspires me to be a better musician and better performer and sparks new ideas. I’ve been very blessed from my time at Paisley Park…it’s such an incredible place.
Has Prince introduced you to Janelle Monae? Because it would be awesome to have a Prince-Janelle-Judith album.
That’s a cool idea. I’ve met Janelle once before when I was on tour with Stevie [Wonder], but I haven’t seen her [sic] with Prince. That would be really cool. It would be cool if we could do that.
You’ve had so many experiences, from working with Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson to 20 Feet from Stardom to The Voice, and from all of your experiences, is there a lesson you’ve learned that sums up your journey?
Yeah—I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to be in the moment. The main thing I’ve learned is that when you’re on stage, letting go of all nerves and letting go of all fears and completely being in the moment on that stage. The greats like Michael and Stevie and Prince have all heightened themselves [through] that, and the sky’s the limit. I think that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from that, how to be in the moment on the stage and completely give it 100 percent. There’s so many ways to do that, but that’s the joy of looking at everyone’s style and seeing how they do that and…how they connect with the audience.
Is there any message you’d like to give to your fans?
Yeah—I’m so grateful for all of them for supporting me on this journey. Every tweet and lovely email that’s sent, everyone’s completely, greatly appreciated and I think all of them for their support. I don’t take it for granted. I’m always blessed when someone comes up to me after a show or shows me their appreciation. I feel like that support is why I’m still doing what I’m doing and I’m happy for that.