Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire HER had a banner year in 2021.
In February, the 24-year-old performed “America the Beautiful” at Super Bowl LV.
In March, his track “I Can’t Breathe,” a protest song written shortly after the murder of George Floyd, won song of the year at the 63rd Grammy Awards.
In April, she won an Oscar for her song “Fight For You,” written for the movie “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
In June, she released a new album, “Back of My Mind”.
More Indy gigs:25 concerts, shows and performances not to miss in Indianapolis in 2022
At the end of the year, she was preparing for her film debut in an upcoming film adaptation of the Broadway musical “The Color Purple,” which is an adaptation of Alice Walker’s 1982 novel.
HER on Indianapolis Debut at TCU Amphitheater
Somewhere in all of this, she’s been planning her first headlining tour since the COVID-19 pandemic basically shut down live music. She will make her Indianapolis debut this weekend as part of that tour, Sunday on the TCU Amphitheater Stage at White River State Park.
“I think the first few shows, I was really nervous,” she told IndyStar in an interview. “Because I was like a man, I want it to be okay. I want it to be okay. I want to be back like we never were apart.”
“But after two or three shows, the nervousness totally dissipated,” she continued. “And now it’s fun. It’s like okay, let’s get out of here and do our thing, then off we go to the next town.”
HER was pleasantly surprised to see the audience singing every word of every song on her new album, despite it being her first chance to perform the songs live.
“It makes me a little emotional during the show,” she said. “I’m not going to lie, like I have to fight back tears.”
A focus on racial justice and equality
HER’s music touches on a variety of genres and topics, using R&B, pop, rock, and soul to delve into issues of the heart and current affairs.
The recent accolades came for two songs centered on the ongoing injustices and inequalities faced by the black community in America. Both songs were co-written by Indianapolis native and Ball State graduate Tiara Thomas.
When asked if there was anything bittersweet about winning major art awards centered on her personal reactions to injustice and racism, and in particular police brutality against men black, she quickly separated the music from what followed.
“Those are two different things, aren’t they?” said HER, who is the daughter of African-American and Filipino-American parents.
More in Indiana Music:These Indiana-bound Grammy nominees give Hoosiers a reason to watch Sunday’s telecast
“In my music, I feel a responsibility not just to be an activist or to speak out about issues, but I think I have a responsibility to always tell the truth and describe how I feel about things that are going on. around me.”
She said it was “a very beautiful thing” to be recognized by two big and powerful entertainment governing bodies – the Academy of Recording and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – for two songs that did just that.
“For me, it drives the movement forward,” she said. “It gets people listening to the song, and people are like, ‘Oh man, that song made me think differently. Those lyrics really made me aware of myself and the world.'”
“We’ve been fighting for a very long time for all these things that we think are wrong and what we think are right. I never thought it would reach as many people as it did.”
2022 Super Bowl performances
When asked a similar question about performing “America the Beautiful” at the Super Bowl for a television audience well into the millions after a tumultuous 2020, she paused for a moment.
“You know, even though it wasn’t the prettiest place, I think the message was that there was a black woman on one of the greatest stages ever played on a guitar that I created with Fender — on this stage for so many young black and Filipina girls to be able to say I can do it too.”
Bieber at Indy:Justin Bieber’s laid-back pop trip sends Indianapolis crowd into hysterics
Had she declined the appearance, the Super Bowl would have found someone else, she explained.
“(Poet) Amanda Gorman being on the show, and (fellow singer-songwriter) Jazmine Sullivan — I think it had to be us. Especially at that time. And I was so grateful.”
The instrument mentioned, and many others like it, are part of what sets HER apart on stage. She grew up playing piano, drums and bass, but she “always wanted to rock” as a guitarist.
She saw Buddy Guy and met Carlos Santana at a young age. She grew up idolizing Lenny Kravitz and Prince, repeatedly playing the guitar solo “Purple Rain” to build her chops.
She’s known for mixing a variety of covers into her setlist, so anyone heading downtown this weekend for the show should stay on their toes.
“There will be something for everyone,” HER said of the show. “It’s going to be a musical journey…there will be surprises and things you probably wouldn’t expect, but it’s going to be fun.”
Looking for things to do? Our newsletter features the best concerts, artwork, shows and more – and the stories behind them
Rory Appleton is the pop culture reporter at IndyStar. Reach him at 317-552-9044 and [email protected], or follow him on Twitter at @RoryDoesPhonics.