Judith Hill, singer to watch in 2014

Judith Hill is one of our ones to watch for 2014
Judith Hill is one of our ones to watch for 2014

If you got to know the music of Judith Hill from her participation in the movie “20 Feet from Stardom,” or from her turn on “The Voice,” you still don’t really know the music of Judith Hill.

The vocalist is currently working on her debut album (she doesn’t consider her participation on last year’s “Red Hook Summer” soundtrack a proper debut) which she hopes to have out in April.

“It’s a soulful record with hip-hop beats and it has some poppy elements and is very vocal-driven,” she says of the work in progress.

She says the title possibilities for the album include “Beautiful Life” and “Monster and Angel.” She says that the latter title represents the many sides to her personality.

METRO: You just got off tour with Josh Groban, which must be an entirely different mindset from playing the intimate venues you have scheduled for your current tour.

JUDITH HILL: Yeah, this is more intimate and conversational, so it’s a very different feeling from the arena shows, but I like them both. These shows are just a little more organic.

Do you get more nervous for one over the other?

Actually, the shows that are smaller tend to be a little more intimidating.

You mentioned that this is going to be a very vocal-driven album. Talk a little bit more about that.

Without doing too many stacks and layers of vocals, the center is the voice. It’s very heartfelt, with inspirational messages or messages about love, but I like it to be aggressive, as far as a record to rock to.

In 2012, Spike Lee tapped you to do all 10 songs on the “Red Hook Summer” soundtrack. Do you consider that your debut, or are you calling this upcoming group of songs your debut?

“Red Hook Summer” was an awesome project to be a part of, but Spike chose all of the songs and he really chose specific songs that I had that fit the mode and feeling of each scene, so it’s a very different kind of album. I think for me, this will be a real debut, because it represents all of these different sides of me. It will be a little more well-rounded. I think that the Spike Lee album was more ballads, and this one will have more of an edge to it.

With as much experience as you have as a background vocalist, do you just do your own all of the time, or do you empathize with other background singers and bring them in to give them work?

Sometimes I’ll bring in a couple of other singers if I want textures of voices, but most of the time I do all of the voices.

After “20 Feet from Stardom,” do you think it brought you any closer to, um, stardom? Not to get too figurative, but how many feet are we talking here?

I feel like I’m right where I need to be. I’m not 20 feet away. Where I need to be is here. It’s hard to define when you consider yourself successful. For me, success is doing what you love to do, and that’s what I’m doing. I’ll be excited when this album is finished though, I’ll tell you that! That will feel like a big milestone in my life.

At what point do you say, “No, I’m not a background singer at all anymore!”?

I think it depends on the circumstance. I’m happy to do it if I’m available to do it, because it’s just a really fun, unique opportunity. I always put my solo music first though, even if it’s me performing smaller solo gigs. So the background singing has kind of taken a backseat. But I’m not opposed to it. It’s always a great experience and you make great friends and you grow a lot from doing it.


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