Earlier this year when rising R&B songstress H.E.R. set out on her first tour, joining Bryson Tiller on his Set It Off line-up, she was blown away by the fans’ response to her music. “At every show, there were tons of people singing the words to my songs and I didn’t expect that at all,” she says with excitement. The MBK Entertainment/RCA Records artist also learned a lot on tour. Especially the night when the computer playing the background track crashed. The organizers wanted her to stop, but she and the band kept going. “Tour life is a lot different than studio life . . . I learned that you had to adjust and have a good time.”
The tour, which she says was one of the “most amazing experiences” of her journey thus far, effectively prepared her for her first solo headlining North American tour. The Lights On tour, which kicked off in Washington, D.C. November 5, sold out in 10 minutes prompting the addition of more dates.
“I’m just ready for it,” says H.E.R. a week before the tour start. “. . . It’s going to be crazy hearing all the people coming to the show singing all the words to my songs. That’s just what I’m excited for and waiting on.”
“Sometimes it’s the things you don’t want to say that people need to hear.”
H.E.R. appears ready for the spotlight. Her latest project, the self-titled album H.E.R., which combines Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 with six previously unreleased tracks, further cemented her as part of a crop of artists receiving plenty of critical acclaim. The mysteriousness of her appearance throughout her early career – she often performs amid low lights and shadows, and even in her new video for the lead single “Every Kind of Way” very few images are of her – has kept the focus on her voice. And that’s how she prefers it.
She’s even had some of music’s biggest names singing her praises from Alicia Keys and Usher to Rihanna.
“It means so much, it’s like, ‘Wow! Someone that I’ve looked up to appreciates what I do and sees it as art.’ The reason why I even do it is because of those people, those are people that paved the way.”
H.E.R.’s music has an unbelievable way of connecting with people. Director Sean Frank illustrates its impact in a short film, Every Kind of Way, inspired by her music. The film depicts seemingly everyday people and their stories of how they fell in love. H.E.R.’s music acts as the soundtrack for the film. It’s this sense of familiarity and realness that has attracted so many to her music. Something she is finally starting to embrace. She’s allowing herself to be vulnerable and share her stories of past relationships. H.E.R. says a lot of the songs on Vol. 1 she didn’t want to put out because they were very personal. For example, she was hesitant to release a song like “Pigment”, which she wrote at 3 a.m., because of how open and honest she was on it. But, that song, for instance, became a favourite for many. “Sometimes it’s the things you don’t want to say that people need to hear.”
“Things like that can’t be forced, and you can’t sit down and say ‘let’s make a great song.’”
“[I didn’t realize] that older women and younger women were going to relate,” she says. “I didn’t realize everyone would relate to it. It was just my story, you never really understand you’re not alone until someone else says, ‘I feel you’ or ‘I hear you.’”
Being open and willing to experiment may have led H.E.R. to create what’s sure to be one of this generation’s best love songs, “Best Part” featuring Daniel Caesar. The song, which has been compared to Lauryn Hill and D’Angelo’s “Nothing Even Matters,” came together by fluke, and has been a huge hit for both artists.
“It was crazy, I was actually in a session with someone else, out in LA and someone said an artist wants to meet you. So, he comes in and it was, Daniel,” she recalls. “We ended up talking for just hours and hours in the studio; we left at like 4 or 5 a.m. with that song. It was just very organic. Things like that can’t be forced, and you can’t sit down and say ‘let’s make a great song.’ It’s about pure vibes and pure emotion and pure honesty.”
With The Lights On tour underway fans can expect more of that emotion, honesty and vibes they’ve come to adore as they experience her music in a different way. H.E.R. seems to have found her stride and is ready to take the mantle and help lead this new wave of R&B music.
“[I’m] super grateful that people see me as someone who is going to pave the way for other artists,” she says. “I’m just excited for the future. I can’t even fathom what’s yet to come.”
Photo courtesy of Sony Music Canada