Judith Hill has had an amazing year.
It began with the fourth season of “The Voice” last March and culminates with Sunday’s Academy Awards. Hill will be there along with some of the other backup singers profiled in the Oscar-nominated film “20 Feet from Stardom,” one of last year’s highest-grossing documentaries.
“It’s been crazy, crazy exciting,” she told ABC News. “This whole thing has been an amazing journey and surprise.”
Though Hill, who grew up in a musical family – her mom is a pianist, her dad had a funk band – has been pursuing a career as a solo artist in earnest since she appeared on NBC’s “The Voice” and was shockingly eliminated in the Top 8 show, she hasn’t turned her back on singing background.
“Because of the way the film presented me, stepping out and doing my own thing, I feel there’s this pressure not to sing background,” she said. “Though if it’s a great gig, I love to do it. Singing background has always been such a precious thing. I’m always going to be excited to sing behind an artist and learn from them.”
And Hill, 29, has sung behind and beside some of the world’s biggest artists. The public first got to know her after she was hired in 2009 as Michael Jackson’s duet partner for what was to be his final concert tour, “This Is It.” Jackson died before the tour opened but Hill attracted global attention when she sang lead on Jackson’s “Heal the World” at his memorial service.
Recently, Hill sang backup for Ringo Starr at the Grammy Awards and the Beatles’ 50th anniversary celebration special. “It was a crazy honor to be a part of that and the whole Grammy week,” Hill said.
She’s also excited to see her own solo career finally taking off.
Hill just completed a three-month tour opening for Josh Groban. Now, she’s staying put in her hometown Los Angeles to finish writing her first album scheduled to be released by Sony later this year.
But first there’s Saturday’s Independent Spirit Awards, where “20 Feet from Stardom” is nominated in the best documentary category and Hill will perform with fellow backup singers Merry Clayton, Tata Vega and Darlene Love.
Then, there’s the Oscars, of course. Hill still hasn’t decided what she’s wearing. “It’s been so much fun, playing dress-up,” she said.
Hill is grateful that director Morgan Neville, whom she met through Elton John, asked her to be a part of the film, whose message she can relate to: “never giving up … how perseverance pays off when you believe in something so much and how rewarding that is,” she said.
“Right now, I’m really coming into my own, developing my own sound,” she said. “All the pieces are finally coming together. I feel really grounded and understand more about who I am as an artist. I’m ready to do it.”