For Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter H.E.R., finding the “good” in life has helped her navigate 2020 and create reflective R&B songs — some that even earned her multiple Grammy Awards. After finding so much success herself, the artist — born Gabriella Wilson — is looking to raise other aspiring artists’ voices up.
From now until mid-November, H.E.R. will team up with LG for the Life’s Good Music Project to help raise the voices of up-and-coming talent and collaborate on a track that reflects diversity and optimism. Participants from different cultures and backgrounds around the world will have a chance to virtually work with H.E.R. and create music that reflects their unique stories. At the end of the competition, one composer and two instrumentalists will be selected, and the collaboration with H.E.R will be shared as a music video.
We caught up with H.E.R. who filled us in on why she wants to foster rising musicians, her partnership with LG and being grateful for small joys in life.
What drew you to the Life’s Good Music Project?
H.E.R.: Well, I love LG. It’s a good opportunity for young creatives. I was once somebody who really wanted my art to be heard, so I thought this is really cool. I love writing songs and helping other people like me be creative and have an outlet to express themselves. I just love what “life’s good” is all about. It’s a really positive message, and it’s very inclusive.
On that note, what does “life’s good” or having a “good life” mean to you?
H.E.R.:For me, especially this year with everything going on and not really having control of what happens next, you just have to say, “Life is good because I’m alive, and I could not be, because I’m healthy, and I could not be. I’m living my dream, or I’m trying to make my dreams come true,” and you have to enjoy the process. You have to love pain. You have to love things that make you uncomfortable because they’ll only make you grow. Everything is a lesson. To me, that’s why life is good. That’s why I like that phrase.
What are your thoughts on a brand encouraging and supporting young people and their dreams through an activity like the Life’s Good Music Project?
H.E.R.: I think it’s really dope. It’s a huge opportunity, and there’s so many talented and creative people. It’s really cool for me to even start or initiate a contest or something that just challenges people. Everybody wants to be heard. Everybody wants their art to be noticed and to be heard, so this is the perfect opportunity for that.
What do you want listeners to get out of the Life’s Good Music Project?
I want them to hear a great song, and I want people to get a peek into the creative process. It’ll be really cool for people to see where the song starts, how it ends and who gets to be a part of it. It’s really a peek into the songwriting process, so that’s probably the coolest thing, but other than that, the message of the song. If you listen to the lyrics that I started it off with, it’s very much that positive message [that’s] uplifting, which I think everybody needs right now. I think it’s going to empower people.
How did you get inspired to create the 16 bars participants have to start with?
H.E.R.:I really listened to what [LG] wanted to achieve with this project, and I took that and decided what I wanted to achieve in doing the 16 bars — and both had to do with empowerment. It had to do with positive messaging. It had to do with including other people to be creative. In creating the 16 bars, I sat with my guitar, and I wanted to make a cool progression on the guitar that was fresh, but still very classic and almost challenging for whoever is going to come and complete it. I really love having a challenge to create something — just to start something — and now I’m really anxious to see how people are going to finish it.
Can you describe the 16 bars and lyrics you used as a jumping-off point?
H.E.R.: The lyrics that I started off with were “Smiling’s free, and tomorrow may not be guaranteed, but I know we’ll make sunshine on rainy days.” It’s just acknowledging when things may not be okay, and that’sokay. It’s okay for things to feel low at the moment. It’s okay to feel anxious. It’s okay to feel down, but you have to know that life is good; you have to know that things will change, that things will be better. That’s exactly what we’re experiencing now, is having that hope.
What are your expectations for this project, and what are you most looking forward to?
H.E.R.:I’m definitely looking forward to how this is going to unfold, what the song is going to be. Right now it’s just acoustic guitar and some words, so I’m really excited to see how creative people get with it and who [the participants] will be. I know a lot of people will probably be inspired to write something great. That’s kind of what I’m most looking forward to. I’m really anxious to see [what direction] they are going to take the song [in] because whenever you start something as a creative person, you’re always like, “Oh, we could go this way, we could go this way, or we have to go this way,” or, “This has to be this. This is the vibe for it, or this is the track for it. These are the harmonies.” I’m really anxious to see the thought process of the person that’s going to continue it.
At the heart of this project is diverse storytelling. What makes a great song from a storytelling perspective?
H.E.R.:What makes a great song is truth: It’s really pulling from the inside and understanding what feels good to you and committing to that. What makes a great song is lyrics that people remember — connect to — lyrics that you can either learn from or that make you want to dance, that make you want to fall in love, that make you sad and make you want to cry. Those are all things that are in a good song. A great, well-written song has things that may make you want to change, that gives you perspective. Music is healing, so it may make you feel better. It may make you feel hopeful. It’s just gotta make you feel something. That, to me, is a great song.
Is there a specific genre or genres you’re hoping participants will experiment with?
H.E.R.:It’s interesting talking about genres these days because I feel like a lot of the lines when it comes to genres are so crossed. You have hip hop mixed with rock and hip hop and trap mixed with country, and there’s R&B influences in so much music. It’s in pop now. It’s in so many things. I don’t know if I’m looking forward to any genre: Whatever it is just has to be super authentic and honest to the person creating it. The song is a little bit soulful to start with, but the chords are very singer-songwriter, and it’s very positive. There’s room to be really creative. This is a good opportunity to test your musical skills, your songwriting skills.
Is there anything specific in terms of sound that will catch your attention from participants or people who are submitting?
H.E.R.:I’m trying to hear the drums. That will definitely be the first thing that catches my attention. Or, if there’s a crazy baseline, or if they don’t use the guitar at all.
Why is it important for you to give opportunity to new talent?
H.E.R.:It’s what helped me get to the position I’m in. There’s a responsibility to create the new leaders of change after you’ve done it yourself. Especially me being a musician, there weren’t that many Black female musicians. Those are the three that I really looked up to. I love to be a small part in somebody’s musical journey.