By Jordan Yeager
VANCOUVER – Cultivating and maintaining a public persona is a core element of modern life. In an ever-expanding sea of personal information, it’s become the norm to share our lives with friends, family and complete strangers. It’s hard not to feel like we know people we’ve never met, whether they’re an ex’s new fling or an award-winning artist. That’s why singer-songwriter H.E.R. strips her persona down to the basics, keeping her identity anonymous and letting the music speak for itself.
“People pay more attention to the music and pay more attention to the message [this way],” she says. “It’s not necessarily that they appreciate it more, because there’s so much good music out there and the face doesn’t matter, but I think they hear it differently the first time and accept it differently. I don’t like that people think I’m hiding, when I’m more so just trying to focus on the music and take the attention away from a face or an association.”
Music is not just a career path for H.E.R. It’s engrained within her identity. It’s who she is. Not only does she write and sing, but she also plays piano, bass, drums and guitar. You can hear her gentle chords laced throughout both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and her live shows feature instrumentation as well.
“Music has always been in me, since I was born,” she says. “Literally, my father is a musician and had a couple bands, and he used to play in our living room. His instruments were always in my house. I’m half Filipino, and my mom loves karaoke. So I just was always into ballads and a lot of old school music was playing in the house. So my whole life, really, since I was a baby, I’ve been singing.”
Because music is so personal to the artist, her songs are intimate and vulnerable, offering glimpses into her mindset and lived experiences. Her first EP, Vol. 1, was a melancholic exploration into finding yourself after heartbreak, and Vol. 2 is a confident, optimistic continuation, “just a little happier.”
“I was honestly a little afraid to release music,” she says. “I think, as an artist, you tell all your stories, and you put yourself out there. It’s kind of a vulnerable thing to do. And it’s just kind of scary thinking about how people are going to accept your story. I didn’t know what to expect. I was feeling a lot of things, but now I’m very, very grateful for how things are going and how people are loving the music. It’s been kind of surreal to me, and still is sometimes.”
Her rise to fame might seem sudden, but in reality, at 20 years old, she’s spent much of her formative years in the studio surrounded by artists whose dedication she observed and drew inspiration from. The lyrics, instrumentation and production value on both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 are indicative of countless hours spent refining her sound.
“I write everything,” she says. “It’s all my story. I love to just have conversations and I love to just sit down and talk about life. Those are the best songs – just very honest. So I like to just vibe and not worry so much about making a great song, but telling a great story.”
H.E.R. plays at Fortune Sound Club on November 30.Fortune Sound Club