For years, R&B singer-songwriter H.E.R. diligently concealed her identity, letting her poetic, slow-burning music speak for itself. Little by little, though, she’s been peeling back the layers, giving her growing fanbase glimpses into the woman behind the soulful voice and the dark sunglasses. It couldn’t come at a bigger time for the 21-year-old, whose career reached a milestone in December when it was announced that she was nominated for five Grammys, including Best New Artist and Album of the Year. To hear H.E.R. — who’s MTV’s Push: Artist to Watch for the month of February — tell it, she’s finally where she’s supposed to be.
“It feels like the possibilities are endless,” she said. “It feels like, wow, I’m where I’m supposed to be. All my hard work is paying off. Everything I’ve dreamt about is here. My time is really now.”
That journey toward stardom — however unconventional it may have been in today’s social media-driven era of oversharing — began when H.E.R. was just a little girl. She grew up around music, and the first time she performed on stage was with her dad’s cover band at a local Bay Area festival, where she sang Alicia Keys’s “If I Ain’t Got You.” She later started writing her own songs and learned how to play the keyboard, guitar, and, at her mom’s urging, the bass.
“It was so cool, ’cause I was a young girl playing the bass. Not many females play bass,” she recalled.
H.E.R. still plays those instruments today — in fact, in her exclusive MTV performance of “Carried Away,” she effortlessly bounces between all three — and she believes that focus on instrumentation is making a big comeback this year.
“In 2019, a lot of real music is coming back,” she said. “And by real music I mean, like, real instruments are being used, and a lot of real stories. People are saying a lot of things with substance. It’s about the instrumentation and the musicality.”
She continued, “I’m really excited to be an artist in 2019, because I can showcase more of my musicality. I feel like I have, but this year is just different for a lot of artists. And I think a lot of female artists, too, are making a lot of power moves, and it’s great to see that.”
H.E.R. is unquestionably part of that class of musicians making power moves — she may have kept a low-key profile at first, but she’s now a high-key superstar, as evidenced by her handful of Grammy nods, millions of streams, and a loyal following that happens to include Rihanna.
“There’s many ways to receive music and the fact that I’ve touched so many people and am now nominated for five Grammys, it should give somebody hope,” she said. “You can do it. You don’t have to have a big huge label push or anything. Just say what’s on your heart and release it out into the world.”
Hey, it’s worked for H.E.R. See the singer’s performance of “As I Am” below, and check out more of her exclusive Push content here.