Gabrielle “Gabi” Wilson, who likes to the called by her artist name “H.E.R.” gave me an exclusive interview right after learning she had been nominated for five 2019 Grammy awards, “It was early in the morning when they announced everything, but I was woken up out of my sleep. I had a show the night before. My manager woke everybody up. We didn’t know what was going on. He was like, “We’re going to have to cancel the tour.” He called everybody to my room and said, “Oh, my gosh, you’re nominated for five Grammys,” and I just remember crying and everybody just going crazy. We were…and then I started seeing the reaction on social media and yeah, it was a crazy moment. I immediately called my parents and all my friends and family and it was crazy. It was a moment,” she described how she learned about the nominations for her self-titled album HER, including album of the year, best new artist and best R&B album.
Also her song “Focus” is nominated for best R&B song and her song “Best Part” featuring Daniel Caesar is nominated for best R&B performance.
She explained to us how she came up with the acronym H.E.R. which stands for “Having Everything Revealed”, “Well, it kind of was a process. I was making these songs that were very honest and very specific to this time in my life while I was transitioning from being a young girl to becoming a young woman. You know, in high school, being 16, 17, 18 years old, and going through emotions and all the stuff that a girl goes through in high school—first heart break, and emotions that you haven’t felt and being jaded, like it’s the end of the world, you know. I’ll never be loved again. All these things that we feel. The music that I was making was a collection of stories based on that time period, kind of a very dark time, you know. Teenage hormonal era. But what I always said was like, “Oh, I’ll never be that girl,” when I was 15, 14, looking at other women like, “I’ll never be that girl that falls for the wrong guy,” and “I’m never going to make this mistake and that mistake,” and then I ended up being that girl. I ended up being HER. And the easiest way for me to be honest was to really be anonymous and just, you know, I wanted to release the music and see what happened and I wanted people to love the music for what it was, so I just decided to release an EP with just my silhouette in the front—no name, no face, nothing attached but music and my stories.”
I asked her what does it mean to her “having everything revealed”?
“Really that means that you really know who I am. You really see how vulnerable I am and how personal my music is. In my music, you hear it in my music. It’s not about what I look like or how I dress or the people I’m associated with or if I belong to a clique. It’s just about the raw message and the emotions in my songs, my real stories, and that’s having everything revealed to me more than anything,” She said.
We also talked about her writing process, “It really depends. I’m bouncing off the walls all the time. Sometimes I’ll come up with a melody and then I’ll write words to it or sometimes I’ll be laying in bed and just write down my thoughts and the song kind of writes itself, but it depends on who I’m working with. I love to talk in the studio when I collaborate with people. When I write by myself, I’m usually at an instrument, a guitar or piano or bass, and coming up with words that way, but it just depends. For me, it starts with thoughts and where it takes me. I don’t like to force anything.”
On December 10, 2018, she launched a new series “Road to GRAMMYs” on her YouTube music channel, in the introduction she says, “I have goals, I have ambitions, and I have dreams,” so I asked her about that, “Yeah. I mean, honestly, I was just talking to my team, my manager and people, and two years ago, I wrote…I made a vision board. I made a vision board, like a physical white board. I went to whatever store and I bought a white board and I wrote down a bunch of little goals and some of it was like, “I want to headline my own tour,” and now I’m doing that. So two and an half years ago, I want to get at least 100 million streams, you know, and now we’re like at a billion streams. And on there was a Grammy nomination. That was one of the biggest goals that I had on the vision board. It was just part of like my career goals that I had on that board, and for that to manifest and now become reality is so crazy. So those were some of the goals I was talking about, and now I’m working on a new vision board, and now I’m thinking of how to take my goals to the next level. My goals are changing. My dreams are getting even bigger. Because I had one nomination on that board, and now it’s five. You know, this is my second headlining tour. And I headlined in Europe and now I’m doing a second headline tour in Europe, and it’s like all these levels that I’m passing through, that I’m achieving. And it doesn’t stop, you know. I’m excited because this is not even my potential. This isn’t even my prime. It’s literally just the beginning and all these great things are happening, so yeah, that’s really what I was talking about. I have personal goals. One goal I had on my vision board was to buy my mom a house, and I was able to do that this year.”
Another thing that’s on the board that hasn’t happened yet, “One thing is an arena tour. I got to do that next. I think Oracle arena because that’s right by my hometown. I used to go to concerts there all the time. I saw Prince there, and Barclay Center. I live in Brooklyn now,” she told us.
“I’m working on my debut album so there will probably be some really dope surprises on there. Chris Brown is so talented. I’d love to work with him. There’s people like J. Cole and Drake who I really want to work with. There are so many artists out. I don’t know,” she said.
Rihanna, Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys are her fans. In fact, Janet Jackson attended one of her shows in London, “That was crazy. It was unbelievable. Like Janet Jackson is one of my favorites, all time, and the fact that she’s a fan of me and knew all the words to my songs is like confirmation. It’s like, wow, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’m doing something right if Janet Jackson is coming to my show,” she told us about it.
On Friday December 14, the multi-talented artist played the piano, the guitar and sang all her hits “Focus”, “Best Part”, at The Novo Theater by Microsoft, as part of MWP Entertainment Group Presents “WANTED,” a Live Experiential Musical Event Series, attended by her celebrity fans Queen Latifah, Janet Jackson, Ella Mai, Tichina Arnold, Tisha Campbell-Martin, and Phil Ivey.
She told me before the show, “Friday is going to be a really special show on the tour because there’s going to be this crazy technology and you can just experience my music in a different way, like it’s going to be holograms and it’s going to be…it’s going to be something super different from all the other dates.”
At the end of the show she said to the audience on the microphone, “So many amazing things are happening in my life and I really have to thank you for supporting me and loving me and keeping it about the music, thank you so much, and I have been dealing with a lot, it’s just as much as there is good, there is bad, the devil always gonna try you and to take you away from your blessings, you have the opportunity to abuse the blessing and that’s what I am trying not to do, I am on the stage, I am so grateful I am so happy, and that’s all I can be, I am only 21 year old, so thank you so much for making my dreams come true, thank you.”
She also told me how she feels in front of an audience, “I definitely get that energy from the audience, like I always feed off the audience’s energy, but I’ve always been a performer. I’ve always loved performing since I was a little girl, and I’ve prepared my whole life to be on tours. It’s just what I love to do. We have a great time on stage, me and my band, every single night, so it’s just fun for me. I never really get nerves unless it’s like a really big stage sometimes I get a little bit nervous, but I just tap into why I love it so much and how much fun I have. People love coming to my shows. They experience my music in a different way. I try to create like a dynamic show.”