Over the course of her remarkable career thus far, singer/ songwriter Judith Hill has shared her musical gifts in a variety of ways. The Los Angeles native has been a background singer for such legends as Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Ringo Starr, and the late Michael Jackson, serving as the latter's duet partner on the classic ballad, "I Just Can't Stop Loving You," which later became a highlight of Jackson's posthumously released film This Is It. (Hill's deeply moving performance of "Heal the World" was an indelible moment during the singer's public memorial service.) She also appeared in the Oscar winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of several acclaimed background singers, including Hill, who earned a Grammy Award for "Best Music Film" for her participation. Post-This Is It, Hill appeared on The Voice, where she began to cement her identity as a solo artist with a series of knockout performances that showed her ability to put her own distinctive, captivating spin on familiar songs.
Hill's global fanbase has gotten to know her through these high-profile performances. However her biggest champion these days, yet another music legend, did not. "Prince did not see me on This Is It. He had not seen 20 Feet from Stardom. He had not seen me on The Voice. He saw me on some random TV interview where I was asked who I'd want to collaborate with and I said him," Hill says with a laugh. After doing a bit of research, Prince called Hill personally and said he'd love to work with her. "Right out of the gate it was an artist-to-artist conversation about music," Hill recalls of the call, during which Prince also extended an invitation to the listening party for his latest album, Art Official Age and, a few weeks later, to his studio in Minneapolis. "There were no plans," she says of her first time at Paisley Park. "It was just an invitation to come hang out. I jammed with his band. I played him some of my songs. That's when we began to start talking about music and creating. That's really when it all began."
Her passion eventually led her to earn a degree in music composition at Biola University, where she wrote her first symphony as well as pieces for piano, vocal groups, chamber ensembles, and string quartets. After graduating, Hill spent a year in Paris, singing background vocals for French singer/songwriter Michel Polnareff. Then in 2009, Hill was tapped to join Jackson on his comeback concert tour This Is It, but the star died less than three weeks before the tour was scheduled to kick off. "Michael unlocked my imagination in a big way," Hill says of her time with Jackson. "Seeing such an incredible show put together right in front of me made me realize that there's so much more to be explored and discovered as an artist, and that we, as artists, have the power to transform lives and impact them in a major way. Michael showed me that I can dream big. I began to ask myself, `What do I really want to say to an audience?'"
Hill considered that same question while making Back In Time. "I want people to remember good times when they listen to it," she says. "It's good old-fashioned music and I hope people will experience it that way. I want them to be happy. I want them to dance. I want them to feel encouraged. I want it to be the soundtrack to their lives."
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