H.E.R. Shares How Dad Kenny Wilson Inspired Her Love For Music
H.E.R. (née Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson) is making her latest magazine cover a family affair. On June 1, the Grammy-winning artist graced the cover of Ebony alongside her father, Kenny Wilson, who was instrumental in helping his daughter reach her superstar potential. "I was able to learn about so many different styles of music and so much history in music because of him," H.E.R. said in the magazine. "Because of his love for music and him telling me about visiting Jimi Hendrix's grave in Seattle — all those stories and all those lessons were just so fascinating to me — I think they really carried me into this life, into this journey I have now."
Wilson realized his daughter had talent from an early age, but for him, music was, above all else, a way to connect with her. "I think one of the ways that I was able to bond with Gabi is through music," he said. "I had been around a lot of children that played music, but none of them really had that old, feel-like-they've-been-here-before vibe. Like, how are you feeling this music so deeply and you're only 9 years old?"
H.E.R. started to carve out space as a musical prodigy at the age of 10, performing a cover of Alicia Keys's 2003 hit "If I Ain't Got You" on the "Today" show. Now she's winning Academy Awards for her songwriting, performing alongside legends like Lenny Kravitz, and producing award-winning albums. But throughout her musical journey, she says one of the biggest things that's helped keep her stay grounded is her dad. "He always taught me my value — that's key in life and especially in this industry that I'm in — to just know what you deserve," she shared. "It's been a key thing in this [industry] because it's so easy to seek validation from other people. But to know that I have that foundation is everything."
"That was my dream for H.E.R., to change the way that little Black girls thought about music."
On Instagram, H.E.R. added, "No one ever sees the journey, they only see the success. No one sees the foundation that was built, sometimes broken, over time," alongside a video from the Ebony shoot, which shows her laughing and playing guitar with her dad. "My dad has missed many many days of working construction to travel with me. He sacrificed so much, so I could live my dream. Buying me my first strat, teaching me the blues, taking me to my gigs, to long days in the studio for so many years," she continued. "There comes a point when the little girl you once knew has to go out into the world and apply all the lessons she was taught... I will always have that foundation."
As for Wilson, he's just proud of how far his daughter has come. "When I flip through Instagram and see parents buying their little girls guitars and dressing them like H.E.R. for Halloween, I get teary-eyed," he revealed. "That was my dream for H.E.R., to change the way that little Black girls thought about music."