“This is Judith Hill,” Prince announced just before midnight Sunday night at Paisley Park in Chanhassen. “And I’m Prince,” he stated to a recording studio control room filled with a dozen or so invited guests.
Hill, 31, is the Los Angeles singer who caused a sensation on NBC’s “The Voice” in 2013 and also was featured in the Oscar- and Grammy-winning documentary “20 Feet From Stardom” about backup singers.
Six selections were played from “Back in Time,” which Hill recorded in two or three weeks at Paisley Park with Prince as producer. “It’s the fastest album I’ve ever made,” he said.
After the first number was blasted over giant speakers in the studio control room, Prince piped up: “Ask your questions now. She’s going to be a superstar and you won’t be able to talk to her.”
Surprisingly, Prince did not discover Hill on “The Voice” or in the Michael Jackson movie “This Is It,” where she was featured as a backup singer in rehearsal for his upcoming tour. He learned about her when he saw a video clip of her being interviewed on a European TV show and she mentioned that she’d like to work with Prince.
Prince eventually tracked her down and invited her to a listening party in Los Angeles. They talked briefly at the party and Prince asked what kind of music she wanted to make. She said “Sly and the Family Stone.” He quickly answered, “That’s all I needed to know.”
Prince led the invited guests back to the NPG Music Club room at Paisley Park, where about 100 lucky Purple fans had gathered. It was show time for Hill and her six-man band.
The 30-minute performance proved that Hill has a world-class voice that has improved since her TV-talent stint. Prince never joined her onstage. She didn’t really need him.
Hill says that she has no release date for the project and is close to signing a record deal.
photo: Judith Hill in 2013 at Target Center/ Star Tribune photo by Kyndell Harkness