A complete honor to spotlight Judith Glory Hill for our February Spotlight Interview. She's an incredibly gifted singer-songwriter from our neck of the woods, Los Angeles, California.
Hill has provided backing vocals for such artists as Michael Jackson, Prince, and Josh Groban. Judith and several backup singers are featured in the documentary film 20 Feet From Stardom, which debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. The movie won the 2014 Oscar & Critics Choice Award for documentary feature and Hill won a Black Reel Award for Outstanding Original Song for "Desperation". 20 Feet from Stardom also won the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Music Film. We could go on and on about Judith's many accomplishments, but here we wanted to spotlight the woman behind the gifts, talents, and accolades. So without further ado, enjoy this inspiring and powerful interview with Judith Hill.
POPLINEN (P): Hi Judith! I'm thrilled to share more about you with our community. Could you please tell us a little more about your background and family history?
JUDITH (J): I grew up in a musical family. My dad is a bass player and my mom is a pianist. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by incredible musicians who would come to the house and jam with my parents all the time. So I was like a sponge who would soak it all up and gather all of these incredible influences throughout my childhood.
P: Incredible, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall listening and seeing some of those amazing jam sessions go down. This leads to my next question...how did you get started in the music industry and what inspired you to become a musician?
J: I started singing professionally during junior high. I would sing in studio sessions and connect with older singers who mentored me. I went on to study music in college and received a bachelor's degree in music composition. Shortly after, I got my first big gig as a background singer for Michel Polnareff who was a huge French pop star. Looking back, I would say that my main inspiration was listening to incredible gospel, and soul singers including Aretha Franklin and the Clark Sisters.
P: I can only imagine how much that helped opened your world and musical style at such a young age. What do you consider to be your signature sound or style that you've developed over time?
J: I'm a soul singer. So everything I do is very soulful, but I like to surround it with rock, blues, and funk. I love the sound of raw guitars, organs, and funky grooves.
P: Yes! Your vocals are so moving. Love how you can feel the expressiveness and passion in your songs. What do you hope people take away from listening to your music?
J: I want people to access their emotions and deeper parts of themselves when they listen to my music. In today's culture, music is often used as a tool to help people relax and zone out. But, I want people to actually zone in, wake up, feel the emotions, and elevate.
P: That's beautiful and really thoughtful. Who are some of your personal heroes or role models that helped you feel the emotions and elevate?
J: My personal mentor was Prince. He taught me so much and gave me so many tools to become a great artist.
P: It's not everyday you hear someone's mentor was Prince. I'm sure a life-changing experience. What's a mantra or motto that brings you encouragement?
J: Stay faithful to the work because every time you show up, someone is blessed.
P: Well said. One last question I'd like to ask you. what do you enjoy most about your work and what motivates you to do your best?
J: I enjoy the never ending journey of storytelling. Every chapter of life has a powerful artistic expression. I find such deep connections with other people when I honestly tell the story of what I'm going through because everyone can relate to the story.
P: It's amazing how sharing our individual stories can connect us to each other in ways that are unifying and uplifting. Thank you so much for sharing your with us! I feel so honored to have you with us.