The celebrated recording artist simply known as H.E.R. calls Prince Roger Nelson her favorite artist.
That partly explains why the Oscar- and Grammy-winning star is so excited to make her overdue Minneapolis debut Friday.
"Oh, man, it's a town with so much legacy," she said last week before taking the stage in Denver. "It's such a foundation for me. My live show wouldn't be what it is without Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and Prince, of course. It's going to feel homey to me in a way, just knowing all those legends came from there."
But informed that her concert at the Armory is about 30 blocks from where George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police in 2020, H.E.R. gasped: "That's really powerful."
That incident and some of Floyd's last words sparked her tune "I Can't Breathe," which won the Grammy for best song last year.
"No matter where I go, I'm representing people like George Floyd in my music and my messages, and just spreading more love and positivity," she said. "I got to meet some of his family when I did a show in Texas."
Another topical tune earned H.E.R. (pronounced "her") an Academy Award for best song last year — "Fight for You," from the movie "Judas and the Black Messiah," about Black Panther leader Fred Hampton.
Activism is part of H.E.R.'s expansive vision.
"I'm not going to wake up and say I'm an activist," she said. "I represent a certain group of people. ... I have a platform and I use it when I feel like it's meant for me to do. Part of my responsibility is to my truth. My truth is a part of my activism."
H.E.R.'s vision is something she can't articulate.
"It's something I feel, rather than something I plan. It's constantly changing. I'm only 24 years old. I hope to touch a lot of people with my music, and bring it to other types of performances like acting and theater."
Supersizing her career
Like Prince, H.E.R. grew up on Sly & the Family Stone, Santana and Earth, Wind & Fire, which she experienced through her father's record collection and cover band.
And like Prince, she plays many instruments — guitar, piano, bass, drums — and all kinds of music.
Of course, she plans to visit Paisley Park, Prince's studio turned museum: "I'm just a fan of his fearlessness, the chances he took creatively, personally, things he would say. That really inspired me."
Her first full-length album, 2021's "Back of My Mind," featured mostly chill R&B. Not exactly the kind of music that can fill a large venue like the Armory.
"My projects up until this point have been only a fraction of who I am as an artist," she said. "The live experience I take you through is a lot more of who I am."
H.E.R. is even taking her sound to stadiums this summer, opening for rock superstars Coldplay. She already played a couple of big outdoor gigs with Chris Martin and crew this spring in Latin America.
"It was a challenge to show them who I am and bring them into my world," H.E.R. reflected. "It was exhilarating and inspiring. I felt like I was born to do stadiums."
She's diminutive but thinks big. Again, just like Prince.
She's about to step into her first significant movie role in "The Color Purple" alongside Fantasia Barrino, Colman Domingo and Taraji P. Henson. H.E.R.'s scenes will start shooting at the end of May.
Between all of her musical commitments, she is working with drama coaches, "trying to put in the 10,000 hours now."
"Even today I was working with a dialect coach just to be able to speak like Squeak, a Southern woman in the 1930s," she said. "It's exciting and fun to be someone else, it's a different way of storytelling."
Thanks to high-profile TV performances at the Super Bowl, Oscars, Grammys and Emmys, H.E.R. may be more famous than her actual songs. She's OK with that. She always does things her way.
Born Gabrielle Wilson to a Black father and Filipino mother in the San Francisco Bay Area, she was a child prodigy who at age 10 played on "The Today Show" and at Harlem's legendary Apollo Theater. At 14, she signed with J Records and released a single as Gabi Wilson.
She reemerged as H.E.R. — an acronym for "having everything revealed" — in 2016 with an EP, "H.E.R. Volume 1," as a sunglasses-wearing mystery whose face wasn't even on the cover. The prolific music-maker released five EPs before dropping her first full length last summer.
Four weeks ago at the Grammys she performed a show-stopping all-star medley with some legendary figures, including Jam and Lewis.
For H.E.R., it was a surreal, full circle moment. "I grew up studying the Time [Jam and Lewis' band with Morris Day]. I was watching them in my living room with my dad when I was a kid. I wanted to be like them.
"It felt like a dream that I was playing with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and Travis Barker and Lenny Kravitz. That sounds like something that doesn't happen."
Not only does H.E.R. respect her elders, but she's also sought advice from contemporaries like Adele and Kendrick Lamar, especially about how to deal with celebrity and maintain a certain amount of privacy.
H.E.R. is known for being mysterious. She almost always hides behind glasses and says little about her personal life.
Asked to describe the woman behind the shades, she called herself a workhorse who is creative, determined, bossy, goofy, serious, thoughtful, private and family-oriented. She's a foodie, too.
And when it comes to fashion and style, H.E.R. has her own sense whether it's a sparkly paisley robe or a custom tee and denim.
"Working with my stylist, she dresses me from the inside out. My inspiration comes from how I feel and how comfortable I am and sometimes artists that I love," she said. "We're always making stuff up. We'll always put things together that may not necessarily go but somehow work."
Part of her look is big eyeglasses. Like Elton John, she has so many spectacles.
"Definitely over 300 pairs," she said. "I lose a lot. I buy a lot. I don't really wear all of them."
Wait, aren't they prescription?
"I don't have prescription glasses. I can see."
When: 7:30 p.m. Fri.
Where: Armory, 500 S. 6th St., Mpls.
Tickets: $57-$62; armorymn.com