A producer for singer Judith Hill has filed a lawsuit against Prince after the singer e-mailed a free download link to Hill's album via Live Nation's mailing list.
Jolene Cherry filed her suit Friday in Los Angeles, claiming that Hill was already under contract after inking a long-term deal with the producer. In the suit, Cherry claims that Hill took the music they'd been working on and instead collaborated with Prince, who gave away the music for free. Because of that, Cherry is now suing Prince over Hill's debut album Back in Time. Hill was not named as a defendant in Cherry's lawsuit.
On March 23rd, Live Nation subscribers received a message with the subject line "A Note From Prince." "Sorry 2 bother U," Prince wrote. "Please spend some time with this music and then share it with someone U love." The email was accompanied by a link to a free download of Back in Time that needed to be used by March 25th.
Cherry claims that there were rumors that Hill, a former The Voice contestant and backup vocalist for Michael Jackson, had been working with Prince, an arrangement that was allegedly outside of Hill's exclusive contract with Cherry. However, when Hill formally asked permission to record with Prince, Cherry denied her.
"Judith Hill's first album – Back in Time — is now out, but rather than cheering along with her, the people who paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop her career and album and worked to position Hill for her first release (as well as those who co-wrote many of the songs) are sitting dumbfounded on the sidelines while Prince gives away their investment for free," Cherry wrote in the suit.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensation and punitive damages from Prince, since the Purple Rain singer is "accountable for tortuously interfering in its agreement with Hill and recover[ing] damages stemming from the fact that he deliberately interfered with its relationship with Hill and made it economically unfeasible for [Cherry] to ever release Hill's first album."
When reached for comment, representatives for Cherry referred Rolling Stone to the producer's lawsuit.
Contrary to an erroneous TMZ report, Cherry's lawsuit is not associated with Sony Music, as the major label is suing neither Prince nor Hill. While Sony reps reportedly advised Prince against releasing Hill's album, according to Cherry's lawsuit, Sony has not filed any lawsuits in the Hill case and relinquished their stake in the joint enterprise they had with Cherry several months ago.
Before Cherry filed her lawsuit in Los Angeles, though, Hill's lawyer Peter Haviland entered his own lawsuit in New York that claimed that "Judith is an independent artist, not bound by contract to anyone." The suit also alleges that Cherry purposefully conspired against Hill by planting a story to outlets like TMZ that the singer had recorded a love song dedicated to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un at the height of The Interview fiasco.
Hill's suit states that Sony Music cut ties with Cherry's company The Cherry Party – which in turn severed their contract with Hill – and that, soon after, Cherry sent out a strange email to Hill's manager saying she was "sick of the music business and all of its trash" before taking an extended "leave of absence."
"Judith Hill was and is absolutely free to perform her music as she has done," Haviland says in a statement to Rolling Stone, adding that Cherry's countersuit was "nothing but a publicity stunt.
"It is a shame that Prince has been dragged into this insanity," Haviland says. "But Judith Hill will not be deterred from performing her music by the likes of some Jolene Cherry."