On Friday morning, a lot of people were asking “Who is H.E.R.?,” and with good reason: Not only is she nominated for a whopping five Grammy Awards — that’s as many as Cardi B, Childish Gambino and Lady Gaga — the 21-year-old California native has intentionally kept a rather anonymous profile, doing few interviews and appearing in silhouette or obscured in many photos. Ironically, her stage name stands for “Having Everything Revealed.”
“I’m not hiding,” says H.E.R. (real name is Gabriella ”Gabi” Wilson) during a recent pre-show soundcheck in Philadelphia. “I just only ever wanted to be known for the music I was making.”
That particular wish has come true: She’s up for two the biggest Grammy categories — Album of the Year for her self-titled debut, and Best New Artist — as well as three R&B categories. She’s also lined up a series of sold-out shows on her first headlining tour this winter.
“H.E.R. does not care about looks, clicks or mandates,” said H.E.R.’s manager Jeff Robinson of MBK Entertainment. “That’s why we signed with the label. RCA knows that she wishes to organically vibe with her music.”
Despite her youth, H.E.R. calls herself a veteran “studio rat” with a big backlog of music. “When I don’t have the time, I make the time to get my ideas out,” she said. “It came to a point that I had so much music that needed to be heard, I just wanted to get it out.”
Since 2016 and “H.E.R. Volume 1,” the singer has done that through EPs — five so far, with her Grammy-nominated album collecting the first three — a format that she believes is more suited for today’s music fans.
“People have short attention spans,” she says. “That’s something that social media adheres to, because people can forget pretty easily. Coming out with a constant stream of music keep listeners engaged and interested.”
And although she’s collaborated with Bryson Tiller, Daniel Caesar and others, she says, “I want people to vibe with my songs and fall in love with the music — I want to build a fanbase that stems from that, not cosigns or associations. The artists I love — Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson — were low-key in revealing who they were, despite what the press did. Their personalities were introverted. Like me, we’re loners. Out here, being myself, being in the studio — that’s crucial. My personal life is not important. With me, and for me, it is all about the music.”
After of Friday morning, all of that is very likely to change dramatically. “Yeah, I know it’s inevitable,” she says with a sigh. “Until then, I’m just staying in the studio, being me.”