Coming Into Focus

The enigmatic R&B singer H.E.R. (short for “Having Everything Revealed”), was signed to RCA Records at the tender age of 14, but she’s always maintained her mystery and unique style of alternative R&B by letting her music speak for itself. She’s released two expertly crafted EPs, H.E.R. Vol.1 and H.E.R. Vol 2, which ignited the viral hit “Focus,” and she dropped her latest EP, I Used to Know HER: The Prelude, in September.

Since everything came into “Focus” after that amazing song dropped at the end of 2016, what has surprised you the most—good and bad—about your whirlwind experiences as an artist?
There have been a lot of surprises over the last few years. I worked with some great artists and producers and put out a few EPs that are still on the charts. Shortly after releasing the music, I’ve been able to tour around the United States and to many parts of the world that I’ve only read about. It has been crazy to be onstage in these countries and see everyone singing every word of my songs—it’s been amazing! The requirement to remain consistent night after night while on tour is something that I had to learn. While it can be challenging traveling from city to city every day, I love touring. It’s exciting and exhilarating, and I plan to tour for the rest of my life.

Some of the first key connections for your music—including the Rihanna shout-out— happened over Instagram. In what ways has social media transformed the game for aspiring artists?
Social media is definitely a beautiful platform. You can promote your music, shows, products, ideas and have it out there for all to see as soon as you share it. If you’re fortunate enough to have an artist or influencer with over a million followers post or re-post a project, it can go viral immediately, and you have instant popularity. Without social media, it takes much longer for fans to become aware that this new artist/new music even exists. On the other hand, social media can also be a bit of a curse; you can be hot today and gone tomorrow because some fans have such a short attention span. An artist has to constantly post, think of new ways to engage the fans on a very regular basis and keep awareness going. I personally love social media as it allows me to share my experiences and interact and engage with others in real time.

What bonds you to a song and makes you instinctually feel, “OK, this one is special”?
The songs that I create are primarily from personal experiences. The growing pains of growing up and learning about life are the perspectives for many of my songs. The songs where I really pour out my heart, and don’t hide or hold back, are truly the most special to me. I allow myself to be transparent and share it all. I say things that I may be afraid to say to a person, but I find it freeing to put those words into a song and create heartfelt music around it. And it resonates with my fans, because I’m sharing experiences that they can identify with. I see the true emotions in the faces of everyone at my shows while they’re singing along, and it feels so special to share that experience.

What do the Grammy Awards represent to you personally? Did you ever watch the show growing up?
I watch the Grammys every year! I love the Grammys because you can see all your favorite artists in one setting. It’s the awards show that highlights the best of the best in every genre. It’s a special moment in an artist’s career, and every artist wants to be there. I love that it’s a peer-based awards show and it’s the creatives that are voting. It’s not decisions made by men in suits choosing what’s good and what’s bad music, but truly peers supporting, rooting and voting for each other. Recognizing each other’s hard work, blood, sweat and tears that they poured into their project. It’s a huge deal and a personal honor to be recognized by your peers and to be in the room. I’ve practiced my Grammy speech since I was a little girl [laughs].

You’re currently in the midst of recording a debut album. Who or what has been the defining influence on you when making this record, and what did they/it do?
There are a number of things that are influencing and inspiring my upcoming album. One of the biggest influences is my younger self, which is why I named my current EP I Used to Know HER—The Prelude. As my younger self, I used to be so fearless, and I’m hoping to keep that same spirit. From a young age, I’ve been a student of the game, learning and patiently waiting for it to be my time to shine. That little girl inside me is so hungry and brave, and having a good time onstage every night. And that’s what it’s about in this business. If you don’t love what you do, you’re in the wrong business. While making this new album, I also thought about the classic albums I grew up loving—Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, Ms. Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Alicia KeysSongs in A Minor, Michael Jackson’s Thriller. These are albums that have stood the test of time, and that is my goal. My team, especially [manager/MBK Entertainment head] Jeff Robinson, and I haven’t skipped any steps in sequencing and creating a classic album that will hopefully be worthy to be mentioned along with these great artists and timeless albums. I’m hoping to create an album that can be enjoyed for decades to come.

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Hat trick (7/19a)
He's a one-man dynasty. (7/22a)
One titan salutes another. (7/19a)
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Three chords and some truth you may not be ready for.
The kids can tell the difference... for now.
The discovery engine is revving higher.

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