Artist Watch: Lion Babe
Jillian Hervey has never been too far from the spotlight, being the daughter of 1984’s Miss America, Vanessa Williams, Hervey has stated she has been aware of what it takes to be a performer from a young age. Hervey grew up in Chappaqua, New York dividing time between her mother and her father, who divorced when she was eight years old. Hervey has remarked her life experiences as feeling like “the only black girl, in any capacity”. She has been outspoken about the troubles that African American face in the United States, even as performers. Hervey has also been vocal about the harassment her mother went through while she was running to become the first African American woman to become Miss America. In an interview with Telegraph Magazine, Hervey said “even when I was child, I knew when my mom would go on her tours, and she was in Alabama and there were snipers on rooftops trying to kill her, or people would send her envelopes with pubic hair inside” she stated she knew her other faced danger being in the public eye at the time, but even seeing her mother’s struggles Hervey still decided to pursue a career as a performer.
Hervey began her career wanting to be a dancer initially, she eventually attended New York College to pursue this career. Her first work as a performer came when she played a small role in a Lifetime Television movie alongside her mother, Courage To Love, in 2000. Hervey was also offered a role on the CW's hit show, Gossip Girl but she turned it down to pursue her career as a singer/dancer.
When Hervey was a senior in High School, she attended a college party at Northeastern University, where she met her future producer, Lucas Goodman. Goodman is a New York native who was attending Northeastern at the time, producing his own music from his dorm room. Hervey and Goodman met at the party through a mutual friend, Hervey said she was very interested in Goodman’s music but the two failed to keep in contact after the party, the two did follow each other on social media though, which led to the two meeting up again.
Hervey moved to New York a year later to attend New York College and pursue her career as a dancer. While in college, Hervey needed to create a dance piece with original music, being a fan of Goodman’s music, she reached out to him through MySpace. After working on Hervey’s project the two discussed their interest in music and Goodman encouraged Hervey to pursue a career as a singer, and to sing in a soulful style, similar to Lauryn Hill and Eykah Bado.
Because the two worked so well together to create Hervey’s dance project, the two kept working together and this is how “Lion Babe” was born. The duo have said Lion Babe’s genre of music is called “neo-soul” a genre of popular music formed in New York City, the term was coined to describe a style of music that emerged from soul and contemporary R&B, heavily based in soul music, neo-soul is distinguished by as less conventional sound, that it’s R&B counterpart with incorporated elements such as jazz, funk and hip-hop to pop, fusion and African music. Lion Babe was not afraid to push the limits in the music industry, and people noticed.
In December of 2012, Hervey and Goodman released their first single on YouTube, Treat Me Like Fire the video was produced by amature college students that it showed Hervey dripping in oil and sunlight, according to Rolling Stone. Treat Me Like Fire used samples from a Eunice Collins vinyl that Goodman discovered while he was still in college.
Rapper Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) stumbled upon the track and reached to Hervey and Goodman and invited Lion Babe to open for him on tour. The following year producer Pharrell Williams received a text from an industry friend, according to Rolling Stone, the text led to Lion Babe’s video of Treat Me Like Fire, the song which showed Hervey singing over a threadbare beat ‘Come over, let's talk for awhile'
She crooned while holding long, yogic poses, the song Treat Me Like Fire flowed like poetry in molasses and Williams was extremely impressed, he flew Hervey and Goodman to his studio in Miami before they had even released an EP, but the producer helped them get signed to a record label, and helped produce some of Lion Babe’s singles.
According to Interviewmagazine.com, Lion Babe’s inspiration come from a range of different artists. Including Sly & Family Stone, Lauryn Hill (as mentioned before) Jimmy Hendrix, The Beatles, and a Tribe Called Quest, all tied together to make their “neo-soul” approach to music, “Lion Babe’s aesthetic rests on a thin line between pop, soul and R&B” Interview Magazine stated.
Lion Babe is managed by First Access Industries, according to Rolling Stone, First Access is the industry behind Iggy Azalea, Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora, and Zayn Malik. In the same article, Lion Babe is “well positioned to bring their soul-inspired hits to the Top 40”. Lion Babe has been in the works with a variety of artists in the industry such as Mark Ronson, Childish Gambino, Nina Simone, and Disclosure who they toured with in 2015.
Lion Babe came out with their debut EP on December 15th, 2015 according to Billboard.com, that includes singles “Jump Hi” a collab with Childish Gambino, and a slow jam “Jungle Lady”.
The full-length project includes work by Pharrell Williams, Jeff Bhasker, Andrew Wyatt, and Dave Sitek, among other artists. Their full-length album Begin came out in 2016.
Lion Babe has been blowing up in the music scene, with their first single Treat Me Like Fire having 6,308,406 plays on spotify, and their new single Got Body 31,000 views in its first week of its release. Treat Me Like Fire has over 2 million views on YouTube
Lion Babe's neo-soul is catchy, yet different a soulful style that will have you dancing by the first hook.