Interview: Judith Hill's Strengths Shine Throughout 'Baby, I'm Hollywood!'

Judith Hill

“Baby, I’m Hollywood/I’m the rhythm and the soul/I’m the rock that rolls,” belts out Grammy-winner Judith Hill on the title track of her forthcoming third studio album, Baby, I’m Hollywood!. The release – due out March 5 via The Regime – is powerful, soulful, open and filled with happy and sad stories that shape it as a whole, much like the City of Angels, and Hill herself.

“The song is very much what started this whole album,” explained Hill of the vivacious single. “I was sitting down in a restaurant and I felt like I needed a song called ‘Baby I’m Hollywood’ to sum up not just who I am and the fact that I was born in Hollywood, but also to bring in the story and personify Hollywood a little bit and give a different view of it. Rather than just being glitz and glamour, it’s really a soulful story about survival and the transient life of an artist. What does that look like and how do you overcome every chapter of your life and still be resilient and powerful? That’s why I named it that. Everything in the album alludes to that messaging about really owning your life, your story, the good and the bad.”

Critics have been known to use the adjective “Hollywood” as a negative, often accompanied by an eye roll and some judgement of perceived coolness. With “Baby, I’m Hollywood!” Hill has turned the descriptor into a full-throated compliment that fills listeners with strength as they sing along with her resounding chorus.

“The record is a statement with ‘Baby I’m Hollywood!’ and all the other songs. I think I might have apologized in the past for my life or my story or for who I am or for feeling like I need to change something. This record is the record where I said, ‘This is who I am,’ and I had to accept it myself,” said Hill. “I think that was an important step for me to accept myself and not be ashamed of who I am.”

Elsewhere on the album, Hill explores the shadows of depression on the opening song, “When My World Is Blue,” before journeying through the joy of camaraderie on the closer, “Candlelight in the Dark.”

“It is the arc of the whole album,” said Hill of these bookending tracks. “I wanted to start the album with ‘When My World Is Blue’ because everyone loves you when you’re at your best, when you’re at your peak, when you’re the life of the party and you’ve got nothing but smiles. But it’s really hard to be around somebody who is battling depression and is struggling. The question I ask to the world is, ‘Will you still love me when my world is blue?’ I think a lot of the time I like to hide away when I’m not doing well because I don’t want anyone to see it. I really wanted to be honest about that being my life and that being what I’ve been doing the last five years of my life.”

She continued, “’Candlelight in the Dark’ is really that redemptive moment of realizing that there is so much love and there’s so much empathy in the world. And you’re not alone. Other people feel that way. You might think that you’re the only one on the planet that feels like they’re on an island, when really there’s somebody else and it’s important to reach out. It’s important to not keep yourself away because there is somebody out there who wants to be your candlelight in the dark, who wants to help you. I really feel like that song was a perfect ending to the whole anthology of music.”

Judith HillHill self-produced Baby, I’m Hollywood!, recording it live with her band in late 2019 before the world was shut down due to the pandemic. She explained how capturing the energy of a live performance is at the heart of her studio sound.

“I just love the feeling I get from the energy of the songs and also of the human beings. It feels like we’re on stage, so that’s why I do the records that I do like this and why I self-produce, because I love live music.”

As a producer, Hill has been passionate about capturing the magic of live music in recordings since she released her debut album, Back In Time, co-produced by Prince, in 2015.

“I learned a lot from Prince. It was like he kind of rescued me from the industry in a way. I was doing everything with the A&Rs going around in circles. He was like, ‘Let’s just go and cut the stuff live,’ and that’s the model I’ve been taking. I love doing it that way.”

Along with Prince, Hill has also worked with George Benson and Spike Lee, and toured with Stevie Wonder, Elton John, and Ringo Starr. She was a tour opener for John Legend and Josh Groban, and was featured in the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, which highlights the lives and careers of acclaimed background singers. In This Is It, Hill can be seen (and heard) singing a duet with Michael Jackson on the iconic ballad, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.”

When listening to Baby, I’m Hollywood!, it comes as no surprise that Hill has been wowing audiences – and bona fide superstars – throughout her career. Her vocals are as stunning singing psychedelic funk as they are emoting heartbreak in tender ballads. Her lyrics tell vivid stories of people you know, or wish to know, while the music itself engulfs your soul.

“I’m excited for the world to finally get a taste of it and to enjoy this music. I had an incredible time recording it and I’m really excited for this to finally come out,” said Hill.

Check out the video for “Baby, I’m Hollywood!” below and click here to pre-order the album in advance of its March 5 release date. More information about Judith Hill can be found at Judithhill.com.

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Laurie Fanelli is a Chicago-based writer and photographer who specializes in live entertainment coverage. She is at home at major music festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo and, of course, Lollapalooza and Riot Fest. She loves chatting with hilarious comedians and has interviewed the likes of Maria Bamford, Paula Poundstone and Tracy Morgan, to name a few. She has photographed tons of great bands/musicians – from every genre – including Rob Zombie, Florence and the Machine, Alabama Shakes, Neil Young, Shania Twain, Pitbull, Pierce the Veil, Kendrick Lamar, Patti Smith and many, many more.When not writing or shooting shows, Laurie loves to spend her free time training for marathons and exploring the city of Chicago. She is a longtime vegetarian and animal advocate who likes to cook healthy, delicious meals that everyone can enjoy. For more information or to contact Laurie, head over to www.lauriefanelli.com.