After serving in the military for 19 years, Jeremy “JD” Hill used his project management experience as a commissioned officer to start his own music festival. Hill serves as the founder of ATL Soul Life Music Fest and the CEO of JD Entertainment LLC in Atlanta. With only six years in the business, he has proven with the success of his concerts he has a natural gift. Currently Hill is preparing for the The 2nd Annual ATL Soul Life Music Fest set for Memorial Day weekend, May 28 – 29 at Wolf Creek Amphitheater. This years lineup will be headlined by Lalah Hathaway and Kindred Family The Family Soul plus more performances by Angie Stone, Avery Sunshine, Goapele, Rahsaan Robert Patterson The Glasper Experiment, Syleena Johnson, Eric Roberson and Anthony David. Rolling out caught up with Hill to discuss his visions for this years festival, how he got his start, and what sets this festival apart from other mainstream concerts in Atlanta.
What made you decide to start ATL Soul Life Music Fest?
God created me in a way that I actually love to see people having a good time so it was a natural fit to start trying to do some events that later grew into concerts. That’s pretty much how it happened.
What was your first event?
It was a Christmas Eve event. A black-and-red semi-formal event in my hometown of Milledgeville, GA. I had a band, Comedian Griff, and a DJ, of course.
Why do you promote shows like this?
Obviously, financially, it’s rewarding but I’ve also had a show that lost money but it was still a rewarding feeling because the attendees had a great time. It’s something that I’m passionate about and it doesn’t feel like work.
What sets ATL Soul Life Music Fest apart from other music fests in the city like One Music Fest, Midtown Music Fest, A3C, etc?
I think with the ATL Soul Life Music Fest, it’s all about that one particular genre. A lot of those other types of music fests, you can go kinda go anywhere in the country and have something that’s very similar. I think with the ATL Soul Life Music Fest, it has not been done where you have all these types of artists, on one ticket, from the same type of genre. Obviously, our ticket prices make it very affordable and a little different from those other music fests as well.
Was there a single moment when you said to yourself, “I want to promote live shows”?
Yes! I was actually at Turner Field about eight years ago and they had a big Labor Day two-day music festival I in a parking lot. Charlie Wilson was still performing with The Gap Band. They had Chaka Khan and Big Boi from Outkast on that show. And, Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly closed it. That was the last show that I went to with my grandfather when he was living. My mom, dad, and I all went to that show. And, at that moment, something kinda hit me and said “Man, you should really explore this. You could really do this.” And, here I am.
Do you have a story about a booking that was particularly memorable?
Yeah, what’s crazy, is that there’s two. I’m the kinda person that when I’m going to do something, I’m either all in or I’m just not going to do it at all. So, my very first show Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly and people were like, “Man you go for the guns. You went for the gusto. The very first show?” The second show that I did was a gospel show the weekend before Mother’s Day. It was right after I did Frankie Beverly. I did a traditional gospel show in Macon, GA featuring Shirley Caesar and a lot of quartet groups The Canton Spirituals. The third one was with Charlie Wilson. I was very new in the doing of shows and these were dream shows that a lot of promoters wanted to do but hadn’t been able to. I don’t know how I was able to do it because a lot of those artists at that level don’t really deal with inexperienced promoters. But God worked it out for me. Like I said, I was able to do Frankie Beverly for my very first show.
Can you give one word to describe last year’s ATL Soul Life Music Fest and why that word?
Amazing! The fest came together and it was really successful. I actually got the concept from a friend of mine out of Baltimore who I had met at a CIAA event in Charlotte, NC. She’s really, really big into that neo-soul kind of artists that are underground for the most part. She suggested that I looked into something like this and so I kinda put it together. So, to take something from a conversation, develop it into a concept, and then it comes to fruition how you envision it, was just an amazing feeling. And, it turned out better than I even anticipated because I really didn’t think the neo-soul-ers were going to be out there or really be interested in partying the way they were. But it was an amazing weekend from top to bottom. And we were able to get sponsorship the very first year and that’s big right there. That’s pretty rare as well. It worked out well.
When did you know that you were going to have a second ATL Soul Life Music Fest?
I always went into it, believe it or not, with the vision of establishing it as an annual event. The event ATL Soul Life Music Fest that Jeremy “JD” Hill referenced will take place over Memorial Day, in Atlanta, GA at the Wolf Creek Amphitheater. The line-up includes Lalah Hathaway, The Robert Glasper Experiment, Syleena Johnson, Eric Roberson, and Anthony David on Saturday, May 28th. Kindred the Family Soul, Angie Stone, Avery*Sunshine, Rahsaan Patterson, and Goapele will close out the two-day fest on Sunday, May 29th at Wolf Creek Amphitheater.