In 2016, a mystical R&B sensation peaked all of our interests. Now, that we have become more familiar with her, we can begin to learn more about H.E.R.
With just a silhouette to pair with her identity she changed the way we look at music. The 21-year-old songstress forced us to rely solely on our auditory senses to palette her music. Beginning on Radio Disney’s Next Big Thing, H.E.R., has transcended gracefully from child stardom to Adult R&B fame. As a child she learned how to play the piano, guitar, and drums all thanks to her father who was in a band. The last single she released in her adolescence “Something to Prove,” was an up-tempo bop that left fans hankering for more. She reemerged with a more matured version of herself with single, “Focus.”
H.E.R. means “Having Everything Revealed.” That is exactly what she does with her music. Expressing her vehement feelings with a velvety smooth voice over emotion triggering production; H.E.R. mesmerizes us all. She’s received nods from the likes of Rihanna, Solange, Chris Brown, Alicia Keys and more. In an interview with Refinery29 she shared: “Alicia Keys told me that when it comes to music, all you need is three chords and the truth.” She keeps her music simple yet dynamic; Revisiting the use of bridges in R&B and incorporating her poetic past.
After discovering more of who she was she released two extended plays, H.E.R. Vol 1 & 2. Both projects were without features. As “Focus,” garnered attention from the R&B world, another single was making waves of its own. “Best Part” with Daniel Caesar peaked at No. 8 on the U.S. R&B charts.
I Used to Know Her: The Prelude is her latest effort, released August 3, 2018. Already reaching No.1 on the U.S. R&B charts. This project is short, sweet, and features label mate Bryson Tiller.
I was able to chat with H.E.R. and ask a few questions to help us understand the mystique in front of the artist. In an openly candid conversation she gives us an inlet into who she is. Speaking with confidence and conviction.
She hails from Vallejo, a sunny city in California that matches her warm and radiant personality. I had to ask:
What’s your musical background and when did you learn to play the guitar? It’s interesting to learn how an artist so young could possess the expertise level of technique she has acquired.
Growing up in the bay area, there’s a lot of great music, old and new. My dad had a cover band and instruments were always all over the living room[…] I had the advantage of starting so young and being in the industry at a young age sometimes it’s frustrating…waiting your turn.
Signing to RCA records at the young age of 14; She says, “I wanted to take out the time to release a project to find out who I was. I was constantly growing and changing.” It’s no secret that understanding the person you are is a trial we all must go through in life. Having been in the music industry for a while has afforded H.E.R. with the knowledge and experience a lot of new artists wish to have. She has studied some of the greatest artists and producers of our time.
Who were your musical influences growing up?
Lauryn Hill, Prince, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Michael Jackson… I was influenced by the people who our favorite artists looked up to. We can feel the effects of all of these legends in H.E.R. music. The soul, the passion, the melodies, and the instruments. Are all harmonious mixture of her angelic voice and mesmerizing production.
What’s your dream collaboration?
She answered confidently and without hesitation. “Miguel and J.Cole.” Those were the two names off the top of her head. She continued…”I love the message in their music.” Two soulful artists we would love to hear mesh with the vocal stylings of H.E.R.
What mark do you want to leave on R&B? How do you feel about the current state of R&B music? In recent years Rhythm and Blues music has merged with Hip-Hop. More quick-paced songs are being produced than ballads.
“It’s dope, substance is coming back. People appreciate real melodies, people are singing again, and they’re a lot more open. It’s not about the look, it’s about the message. My message is something all people can relate to[…]Raw emotions, I write the things that sit in the back of people’s minds, that they’re afraid to say. Sometimes we lie to ourselves, I like to be honest.” She explained, “Lauryn hill did that for me, allowed me to be open. Hopefully my music allows people the same and to live their truths.”
In regards to H.E.R. fashion sense, beauty and comfort meet. At a recent performance she wore an aqua blue ensemble. The outfit featured a hooded jacket with an elongated bottom that transitioned into a train. She paired the jacket with matching leggings and a pair of comfy kicks. She defines her style as “Tom-Boy Chic,” a perfect combination of the aforementioned.
“It’s funny, during the BET rehearsals I didn’t think about it, but I got to the side of the stage I was really nervous. She says she felt like people didn’t know what she could do live. “But I looked around and I realized there was no place I’d rather be. I proved myself,[…]” She continued, “Daniel is one of my good friends, we have great chemistry. Creatively, I can’t wait to get back in the studio with him. Coachella was a huge deal, I really enjoyed it.”
When exemplary artists arise it’s always important to understand the construction of their craft. What was the writing and recording process like for “I Used to Know Her: the Prelude?” (Was Lauryn Hill a reference point in translating a certain message throughout the entire project or just the intro track?)
She explains “Naturally, Lost Souls was me getting back to my spoken word roots,” and that she never had the confidence to just rap on a song. “I have a huge appreciation for Hip-Hop. I had a strong message and I wanted to make a statement.” She makes a few declarations, observations, and shines a light on a few social issues. Proudly stating ”I’m a rapper on that record.”
“I went to Miami and had a bunch of my favorite producers and writers come out…people I trust. We created a bunch of songs that we really loved. I had been on tour for the past year and thought to myself: ‘let me release something.’ “
Since “I Used to Know Her,” is a prelude, does that mean we can expect a full clip of new music soon? She assured me that her debut album is “On the way…” Without mentioning many details, much is open for our imaginations. My mind immediately began to race with the endless possibilities of features and production options.
This issue of House of Solo is dedicated to the Best of British. The U.K. has always been fashion forward. Can you name any influences their culture has had on your style or music? (Leona Lewis, The Spice Girls, Adele, Elton John, The Beatles etc).
She agreed the artists mentioned are forces to be reckoned with and adds, “London is one of my favorite places to be because of the fashion. Ella Mai and I are good friends, so many people from the U.K. have been able to have great success at home and in the U.S. I love the London vibe, it reminds me of NY. I actually recorded ‘2’ and ‘Lights On’ in London. There’s inspiration everywhere.”
She teamed up with GRADES who rose to fame working with NAO and Grammy nominated producer Scribz Riley on “Lights On.” For “2,” she partnered with singer-songwriter and producer, MNEK. Both records are still co-produced by H.E.R. She is involved in each integral component of creating her music. Having had so many years of diligently studying the music industry at such a tender age has allowed H.E.R. to develop a sound artistry. The future is bright for this young star.