More often than not, when a celebrity’s child attempts to tread the same ground as his or her famous parent, the results are middling at best. Remember Lil Eazy-E? But things are different for Jillian Hervey, who is one half of the duo known as Lion Babe and also the second daughter of 11-time Grammy nominee Vanessa Williams.
The 26-year-old didn’t need to use her mother’s name to get attention. Lion Babe’s first video, “Treat Me Like Fire,” which featured Hervey in gold body paint prowling through tall grass and dancing in a dimly lit cave, garnered more than enough on its own. So much, in fact, that Pharrell Williams flew Hervey and her musical partner, Lucas Goodman, to Miami for a studio session. The collaboration resulted in “Wonder Woman,” the first single for the duo’s upcoming full-length debut.
It’s been a quick ride for a woman who, up until 2012 when the Lion Babe EP dropped, had planned to become a professional dancer. We met up with Hervey after a rehearsal to talk about working with Skateboard P and why the new album will be about light and love.
This is a big year for you and Lucas. You’re working with Pharrell. How’d that happen?Amanda [Ghost from Outsiders Recorded Music] texted him the video for “Treat Me Like Fire” and he called minutes later like, “Yo, I want to work with you guys, I’m into this.” We went to Miami and he had like five other sessions first. Then he came in fresh as ever and we sat and talked about music and what we wanted to do. It was a nice conversation to have because at that point we weren’t really thinking, Oh, what do we want to do with all of this? We were just doing it. So he was like, “What do you guys want to be?” And we realized we hadn’t articulated it to anyone yet.
That must have felt good.
[Pharrell] has such a good concept of artists and how to let them shine. For me, that was the song that started to introduce a new part of my voice to myself. He was like, “Let’s do something big.” I told him, “I don’t do big. I like the bedroom [songs like] ‘Jungle Lady’ and ‘Treat Me Like Fire.’” At that point I’d only recorded stuff in Lucas’ little sister’s bedroom. I think he realized I had all this potential. He’s trying to get me in with some vocal coach because he said I was a diamond in the rough. He said, “You don’t even know what your voice is doing.” I was like, “I guess I don’t.”
What can you tell me about the new album?
We’re digging more, so there’s more variety and a mix of different songs. There’s soul on there but also dance stuff. There’s stuff that’s super hip-hop but some is more poppy. It’s a big mix. Right now we like the idea of positive music and messages and keeping people empowered. You can definitely do all of that by being sexy and fun but like, let’s shine a light on things and not be dark.
“I may not be able to block you from a gun, but I can touch your heart in
When you came out with the video for “Treat Me Like Fire” did it worry you that people would only focus on your body and not the music?
Not at all. I wasn’t thinking about what anyone thought. I was just like, “This is what I want to do: I see this golden lady running through the woods. Can we make that happen?” The thing is, before we even shot that video I was going to make a dance video that was very similar in my head, I just didn’t know what the music would be. I don’t know if it’s a dancer thing, but I’m super comfortable in my body and I’ve watched people on a proscenium stage butt naked and it doesn’t bother me. Obviously it’s sexy, but it’s more sensual. To be one with nature, what outfit would I wear to just be golden?
The Lion suit from The Wiz?
[Laughs.] I could have worn that. It wouldn’t have gotten as many hits, though. I’ve always been very proud of the video. The thing is, I’m not a twerking girl. I don’t need to do that on camera. The dancing that I wanted to represent was very much my aesthetic and how I naturally move when I’m doing improv or working with a choreographer. I know there are definitely people who think, Oh, it’s just this. But, you know, that’s unfortunate.
What scares you the most?
There’s so much shit in this country going on with our flawed government. Gay marriage is an amazing thing for us, but sometimes it feels as if we’re in the 1960s again with race relations and equality. It’s terrifying. I found out that my mom’s hairstylist’s mom was in the church in South Carolina and she was the person to whom the shooter said, “I’m going to spare your life so you can tell everyone.” It makes me really upset and annoyed and angry. But at the same time I feel like I’m not the person who will be able to change everyone’s mind about everything. All I can do is hopefully keep inspiring people to do their shit. That’s why I do think our album is very much about love and light because that is what is really lacking. I feel like art and culture is the one thing that can save people, whether or not it’s literal. I may not be able to block you from a gun, but I can touch your heart in some way.