03 Oct Judith Hill
Photo: Smallz + Raskind
Outrageously talented, praised and acclaimed for her powerhouse vocals, Judith Hill has worked with some of the greatest legends of the 21st Century such as Michael Jackson, Prince, Stevie Wonder…etc. A conversation with an artist like no other, whose message to the world is all about love.
By Victoria Adelaide | OCT 23. 2017
Victoria Adelaide: Music was in the house since you were born with your pianist mum, and your bass player dad. It is said that you composed your first song at age 4, is that true?
Judith Hill: Yes!
VA: When did you realize that you had a voice?
JH: It was something I always did. I never knew not singing because I was surrounded by so many singers and musicians; it was just almost like drinking water; it was just part of life. But it wasn’t until probably junior high when I realized that this is what I want to be doing with my life. I wouldn’t imagine a life without singing, that’s when I decided that’s what I would be when I grow up, a singer.
VA: You are of mixed heritage, Japanese and African-American. How was it growing up in America with such an atypical mix?
JH: It was a kind of suburban white community that we lived in. So, I always felt like I didn’t belong anywhere because I was so many things but not one thing entirely. So, when you’re not fully one thing, you kind of feel like the black sheep in many regards, but the good thing about it was that my family had so many really diverse, cool, interesting people and our community was very diverse, lots of music and lots of interesting artists. That was part of my world, but going outside into the real world, like school and places, I kind of felt like the odd person out.
VA: I guess your mixed heritage had an impact on your musicality and perspective in life?
JH: Oh yes, definitely. I was always just so fascinated by all types of culture, and I always felt that I wanted to soak it all up and it oozes out in my music. I listen to everything from African music, Japanese music, different types of music from Asia, Indian music; I’m inspired by all the global world music, I have always felt like it was an inspiration to me. Sometimes I listen to the Bulgarian female choir singing to get inspiration, and a lot of times, so influences can be heard in my music. I feel like I represent so many cultures. Part of my mission statement is diversity, is that we are separate but one, we are different, we have different ideas, we come from different places but we are all one. We all share a common love in our heart and music is the universal language, music is what brings us all together. And even though we might have differences, when there’s music there’s unity. So, I always feel that being a musician is a very important thing for the world to bring peace but also to celebrate so many cultures.
VA: You worked with the most prestigious artists in the world, Michael Jackson, Prince, Michel Polnareff, Josh Groban, Stevie Wonder etc. …How did you manage success at such an early age?
JH: Well, you know I think being around the great, incredible people that you’ve mentioned, you find that they have so much beauty, so much inspiration, and I was just really inspired by every single one of them in different ways. Also realizing that they are normal people, they have their struggles, different struggles than the ones we face but also the same. The idea of celebrity and the mystery and all the things that come with that world sometimes, it is all kind of rumors and perception. But when you’re inside it, you realize that it’s very selfless; it’s a servant position to be in. When you’ve given a lot, you have lots of responsibilities, and sometimes the luxuries of normal life are taken away. But I’m lucky to have such great parents and a great community that just supported me, and I always go to them for encouragement, which makes my world very healthy and strong. And I’m also very grateful for many of the privileges I still have; I lead a life that I enjoy but at the same time, I’ve seen other celebrities make big sacrifices to be servants of the community, to be servants of their fans, and I have great respect for anybody in a high position that understands their calling and sacrifices for everyone else. So, I have a very different perception of what the quote unquote ‘celebrity’ world is very selfless, it’s a servant position.
VA: Today the feeling is that a singer needs to be scandalous, to take off her clothes or has to be vulgar in her songs or on stage to succeed. We all agree that what we really love about you is that you are none of that. How do you manage to keep your integrity and not to fall into all this aspect of the music business when so many have?
JH: Well I think the most important thing for me to remember is why I’m doing it and what I’m trying to accomplish: building my world, building things I’m so excited about, things I want to share with the world. I think one of the pitfalls of the music business is when you don’t have a strong enough passion within to overrule the noise outside. There’s a lot of noise, there are a lot of managers and labels, and people that will tell you, ‘do it this way, you should do it that way, you are not good enough, you are this or that’. You’ve got to have enough of a passion within you to drown all of that, all those voices out. The thing about it is music is a wonderful opportunity to inspire the world, and people are just looking for somebody that is excited, so that they can get excited about what they’re doing too. It’s about keeping that excitement and keeping that passion, letting it grow and then inviting people into your world. That’s what artists do. We invite people into our world, and our world is not the label’s world, the gate keepers’ world; they don’t have a world. They rely on our world to make money. So, it’s important that we understand our power, we understand our value and when we do, then the sky is the limit. The downfall, anything in the music business is when you are unsure of yourself, and then that’s when you can get run around by a bunch of people and get discouraged. I think it’s not for the faint hearted for sure; you got to have a tough skin and you got to have resilience and the passion to fight for what you love.
VA: We see so many great singers at some point in their career losing their voice. How do you manage to keep your voice healthy and what advice would you give to a young singer?
JH: Your voice is your body so it’s very different from a keyboardist, his instrument is the keyboard, it’s a different kind of care. With your voice, your instrument is your body you have to take care of your body. It’s very much like an athlete, you don’t want to go on the fields if you’re not conditioned for it, or else you’d pull a muscle or something like that. I think the voice is very similar in the sense that you have got to know your voice really well. You have to keep it warm; I warm up, I do vocalize exercises every day. If I don’t, then I can definitely feel the effect of straining or losing my voice again of course, especially on a run, if I’m not on shape for it. Every singer is different. I know some singers that can just go out there, nail it without warming up, and it’s just that everybody’s vocal chords are different. For a singer, my advice is to really understand your vocal chords, and take good care of them. I had a problem in my life where I had vocal nodules and I was really scared; I thought I’d need surgery and I couldn’t really sing, but I had a great teacher that rehabbed me out of that and I didn’t even need surgery, and we were able to get those nodules off just by technique and training. And now I feel much more better about being able to sing on long run during long tours without having vocal troubles.
VA: You played in ’20 Feet From Stardom’ a few years ago. Acting, is it something you would be tempted to do again in the future?
JH: Oh yes. I’m such a movie buff, I love movies. I’m working on some ideas for my own film coming up down the pipeline; I love stories, I love characters. So, I’m definitely looking forward to doing more acting in the future.
VA: What inspires you outside of music?
JH: When I look outside, I think trees inspire me a lot, old films, like love stories, good stories really inspire me, people inspire me, and above all God inspires me. I’m always looking for answers. I’m one of those nosy, like, I want to know the answers to the riddles of the universe, so I’m always into philosophy, deep thought. I’m into things that I can’t really see, but I can feel that those things really inspire me, because that’s essentially what music is. So anytime I feel joy, excitement from seeing a dancer, or a piece of clothing; I love clothing, I love different ideas. I think visually sometimes, when I see a certain decor or an outfit, it really seals the deal; the way I feel is a visual interpretation of my music. So, I’m always looking at bright colors; bright colors inspire me like deep red, green and things like that. I mean the list goes on, I think just life; when you pay attention, when you’re awake and you can look around, there are so many things you can appreciate. But your eyes have to be open, and then you can just go on and on and talk about things that inspire you, because they are all around you.
VA: What are you working on right now?
JH: I’m mixing some new music. I will be releasing that shortly. Working on different projects, right now, it’s not ready to announce yet, but I will announce them soon. But I would just say I’m very busy, I’m very excited about the different projects I’m involved in right now, it’s been a really exciting time in LA working on the mixes for the new record and these other projects that are happening. I’m really looking forward to 2018 because I know it’s going to be a good year, lots of really cool announcements, more to come.
VA: Which artist would really love to work with, if there are any (smiles)?
JH: Yes, I know (smiles)! It really doesn’t get any greater than what I’ve already had, you know. At this point, I’m really sobered and I’m excited for the artist within me to rise up; I feel like it’s almost like, it’s been memorialized. Everything now is a celebration, any collaboration, whether they’re huge or they’re not huge, I’m just excited to be around really creative people and make great music. I don’t have anyone, a particular person that comes to mind, but every day I feel like great collaborations come.
VA: Your last word?
JH: Yes, one of the big thing that have been heavy on my heart these days is just the power of unconditional love. Not for any reason or because anybody is so great or if they deserve it, but you love them because they’re unconditionally a child of God, and I think that is something that’s huge. It’s been like a personal epiphany for me realizing that. I first need to love myself and then I have the ability to love other people. Especially with what’s going in the world right now where there is just a lot of hatred, a lot of things that are just bubbling up. The most important thing, I want people to know, is that I’m about the love, about overcoming hate with love, and looking at the other person that is quote unquote your enemy and realizing that they’re just like you, they’re family because we’re all one. So, I encourage people around the world to create an army of love, to create a force where we overcome darkness with our love, and our love first for ourselves, and then love for other people. I think that’s the most important message I want people to know.
...I encourage people around the world to create an army of love'``