Music Spotlight: H.E.R.
Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson caught the attention of the world when she released her smooth R&B single ‘Damage’. Long before she started calling herself H.E.R., Gabi Wilson was on an almost preordained path to stardom. She sang in her dad’s cover band as a child, and appeared on the Today Show as a 10-year-old prodigy, performing an eerily accomplished cover of Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You,” before signing a record deal at age 14. After initial music appearances and singles under her real name, Wilson re-emerged in 2016 with the H.E.R. persona, releasing her debut EP H.E.R. Volume 1. She then released subsequent EPs H.E.R. Volume 2 (2017), The B Sides (2017), I Used to Know Her: The Prelude (2018) and I Used to Know Her: Part 2 (2018). Her first compilation album H.E.R. was released in October 2017, consisting of tracks from the singer’s first two EPs plus six additional songs. H.E.R. was nominated for five Grammy Awards at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards in 2019, winning Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Album.
Wilson was born in Vallejo, California to a Filipina mother and an African American father. Raised in California’s San Francisco Bay Area, she was introduced to the public as an artist as a young child, covering Alicia Keys on piano on the Today Show. Addressing the secrecy over her identity, she has said: “The mystery is a metaphor for who I am, or who I was at the time of creating the project… I feel like oftentimes we don’t like to be open as people about our emotions or things that we are going through. At the time [of recording], I was very closed off except for when I was writing or when I was in the studio.”
She explained further: “I am a voice for women who feel like they’re alone in these situations. This project came from emotion, and that’s what I want it to be about – not what I look like or who I’m with, but the raw emotion and support for women.” To NPR she said, “I feel like this is the era of the anti-star. I really just wanted it to be about the music, and get away from, ‘Who is she with?’ and ‘What is she wearing?'”
In 2014, Wilson signed a record deal with RCA Records and My Brothers Keeper, or MBK Entertainment at the age of 14, later releasing her debut single titled “Something to Prove” under her real name.
Music was a constant in Wilson’s household as a child. Maybe that explains her natural talent when it comes to creating tracks. Songs from her combination album “Volume 1” and “Volume 2,” which was released two years ago, are still on the Billboard Top 100 list. She writes her own songs, collaborates with other musicians like Daniel Caesar frequently, and plays five instruments — the guitar being her go-to. Part of that stems from her obsession with Prince, who she says is her favorite artist, and contributed to the foundation of her musical identity, along with Lauryn Hill. Her father, who’s also a musician, first introduced her to Prince’s music because he listened to “Purple Rain” constantly. When H.E.R. was a child, she’d wake up in the morning to her dad making breakfast in the kitchen and blasting the late musician’s concert DVD on the television.
Consequence of Sound reported that the multitalented singer has created history as she became the first Black female artist to launch her own Fender Signature Guitar in the company’s 74-year history. Wilson has also done some acting, appearing as herself in the movie Yes Day. She has also revealed plans to start her own charitable foundation pretty soon. It’s her way of staying true to her roots, and her newfound self.
In 2021 H.E.R. continues to make soul captivating ballads, and recently released ‘Hold Us Together’ which she co-created with Tauren Wells. The song was taken from the Disney+ series entitled ‘Safety’, and in the music video we see scenes of people enjoying their everlasting bonds while H.E.R. sings about the unbreakable connections.
While Wilson lives a quiet life away from the spotlight, it’s hard to deny this rising star and how incredibly talented she is. If your yet to hear H.E.R. you’re doing yourself an injustice.