In 2012, Amy and Nick dropped a cover of “Look At Me Now” on YouTube. Boy, that sh*t blew up, gaining the duo a crazy number of views and the attention of major labels. After paying their dues as Karmin and learning the not always sunny side of the music industry, the duo left Epic Records and returned to the world of independent artistry.
Enter Qveen Herby, the enchanting and radiantly confident enigma that finally allowed Amy the creative freedom and platform to be the artist she had always dreamed of.
Now, just shy of three years after the public debut of Qveen Herby, the Qveendom continues to grow with each passing day. Fans have been gifted 7 EPs with an 8th on the horizon, along with countless music videos that highlight the eccentric and visually captivating world of Qveen Herby. There’s a beauty line, a self-owned record label and, most importantly, a space to live her truth and shine a light on the music and art she holds so dear to her heart.
We caught up with Qveen Herby to discuss “Check,” the forthcoming EP 8, her aesthetically alluring fashion sense and a whole lot more. Enjoy the full interview below.
Hello! Thanks for joining us today. Just to start things off, how are you doing with everything that’s going on?
I mean, really…it’s a roller coaster. Everyday, the cycle is different. I feel like I’m coming out of a bad…the last two days were kind of intense – one of my friends got sick and they’re almost fully recovered as of today. I just got off the phone with him and he’s doing better. So I’m like, people are recovering! So that’s something the news is not focusing on.
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s tough because you want to be hopeful and stay positive, which is good, but the flip of it is you can’t ignore the reality of what’s going on.
Yeah, and I think also, we had a call this morning with one of our team members because I was like, yo, the economy is about to be crazy – even if it’s just for a little while – and I’m just making sure I can still pay everybody. I just want to be sure we can still do our part if there is a recession. I mean, I guess we technically are in a recession.
Whatever the definition is, we have to be pretty close right about now.
I feel grateful to be in the career field that I’m in and to be my own boss. But I just want to make sure we take care of our people and see if there is anything else we can be doing to help.
That’s good that you’re being as mindful in looking out for your team.
I think every business owner should and I guess these stimulus items are going to help cover some of these things for a few months. So hopefully we don’t have to see as many layoffs. But it’s definitely going to be intense.
What are you doing to keep yourself busy during quarantine? Obviously working on music…
We were just saying, it’s been weird. Our creativity is a little bit at the mercy of our daily mood. So, it’s like, how do you feel today? OK, cool. We have made some great music and I think there hasn’t been a time in the last ten years that we’ve had this much free time. As long as you’re keeping your mental state together, this is the best time in history to dream up the future – whether that’s through making music or I’ve been in my journal a lot, trying to make some other plans or come up with other ways I can contribute. We’re in a unique position to bring more positivity to people so we kind of have to make music.
That’s a good outlook. I work in a school during the day…
So you’re on like webcams with kids at this point?
Sort of! But my workload, as far as that’s concerned, has decreased. And I’m home now so even though I miss the kids, it’s cool to have 24 hours where I do have to do my school stuff but I can dedicate as much time as I want now to the creative aspect of things and to my passion projects.
And how long has it been since you’ve had that freedom?
A long time.
I do think about everybody who is experiencing that. And I’m obviously concerned about everybody’s welfare financially but I’m also really grateful if we can see that positive side of it. Because it’s pretty incredible.
Definitely. There’s a lot of potential for a lot of positive to come out of this if people keep grounded and stay out of a constant state of fear and shit like that.
Yeah…turn off the news if you can. Things are going to change after this…a lot.
The worst case scenario will be if we go back to the way it was.
And there’s going to have to be a lot of slip-ups and missed opportunities for change if we just go back to that.
I don’t even know if the Universe would let us. I feel like it’s just going to shoot us down again or shoot us in the foot if we try.
For sure. Not even talking on conspiracies or anything, but there’s a reason why this is happening and I think it’s a gentle – or a not so gentle – nudge from the Universe to wake up a little bit.
That’s the way I’ve chosen to look at it. And you probably know this about me, but I’m very spiritual. In my live chats, we’re always pulling tarot cards and talking about energy. All of my music is about finding the confidence to live your true self and finding what your best life is and demanding that for yourself. So this has really been a great time for me to tell my story better. And, with the release of this new music, I just feel lucky to be able to do that right now when I could choose to be focused on negative shit.
While we’re on the topic of spirituality, do you mind sharing a bit about your self-care practices and the ways you stay mindful and spiritually grounded?
I think my goals are much loftier. Like, I want to get to the point where I’m meditating like a yogi everyday. That seems to be a really great way to live but I am a creature of the world – I’m a social creature, I love connecting with my people. I was saying earlier this morning to a friend that I feel like a battery right now. And when you identify as a light worker or somebody who is generally positive and fights for positivity – “Herby” means “warrior” – I find myself taking a lot of baths. When you take a bath, it removes negative energy from the auric field. So I’ll do lavender, a few drops of lavender oil, in the bath and I always feel amazing after that. I do pull tarot cards often because, once you learn what the cards mean, you can use it as a tool to speak to your subconscious mind, which is only awake when you’re dreaming. It’s nice if you have a big decision to make or if you need general guidance. So, I do love doing tarot cards and baths.
We have been doing Wim Hof, who was like that ice man. He’s this dude who takes freezing cold showers and lays in pools of ice water to stimulate his capillaries. Anyway, he has a breathing excercise that has been helping us, especially because this is a respiratory disease and you have to de-stress to keep your immune system in order. It’s like a ten minute breathing excercise that I’ve been doing every day and it’s really made a difference. So then I can turn around and give this positivity to my people, ‘cause if you don’t take care of yourself then you’re just going to be sucked into the darkness.
Let’s move on to the music now – you just released “Check,” the first single off EP 8. How has the reception been for that so far?
Not even a negative whisper about it. People love the song. It’s an interesting climate to be releasing songs right now, because people are not going to the gym, they aren’t getting in their cars to go to work. I heard someone say that all streaming is down like 20% since people are trying to figure out what the new normal is. I do think it will go back up once people figure out their home life routine a little better and start missing their music but, no, it’s been great with “Check.” This is probably the best song we’ve released to date and we feel so good about it. Getting a little sign-off from Missy Elliot and Timbaland, too…it’s like, I can quit now.
In a recent live chat, you mentioned with EP 8 there’s a tie in with numerology. The number 8 represents wealth and abundance…
We love the number 8.
Yeah, it’s a nice one, huh?
It is. Now, I’ve never lived in an 8 house. For anybody that’s reading this, you have to add up your street number or apartment number until you get a prime number, and that’s how you figure out the vibration of your house. I’ve never been in an 8 house, but I’ve heard it’s challenging and there’s as much risk with earning a lot of money or bringing a lot of abundance as there is with anything. It’s an aggressively wealthy number. It’s really good.
Is this going to be a theme that encapsulates the entire project?
I think so. And starting with a song like “Check,” which is about demanding your worth – whether that’s payment or respect – I think that’s the vibration you need to be on to bring abundance into your life. That’s that confidence that you’re on path with your purpose and you’re using your talent to the best of your ability. I think that is going to be the focus of EP 8. And how fitting that it might be during a recession…it might be the vibrations we need. I’m hoping the EP drops right after quarantine comes to a close, so we can all have our parties and live in this new vibration.
Do you have a time frame in mind for when you’re trying to get the release out?
We usually give the single…like, we want to give “Check” 8 weeks, sometimes up to 12 weeks depending on the performance of it – how much new audience is coming in. It’s really a lot of numbers that we look at. At the same time, I’m independent so I can drop it whenever I feel like it. So if I feel like there’s a need to drop it earlier, I will do that.
What can we expect in terms of features this time around? Or will it be strictly Qveen Herby?
I actually have my first male artist feature. We’ve only had females up to this point, which was my goal. But then I’m like, hold on, it’s important for the boys to be part of this movement as well. I’m so excited about this feature because he’s like my creative soulmate.
Oh, that’s awesome! You had that joint with Gifted Gab and Blimes a while back…
Oh, man. Gab has been one of my favorites since like 2012 or 2013, so I love seeing her get more shine these days.
She is so brilliant. I feel like a jackass because we were supposed to hang out right before the lockdown happened and now I’m so angry I wasn’t able to hang with them one more time! ‘Cause now we aren’t going to be able to see each other for a month or two. But she’s brilliant, both of them are.
Absolutely. Do you have a favorite EP out of the seven that are out so far? Is there one that stands out to you, not even the best or your favorite musically, but one that means the most to you?
Wow! I feel differently about them all. I mean, obviously the newest one – the one that’s about to drop – is my favorite because I am still progressing artistically and creatively. And the newest one is always going to be the most exciting for me. But I will say there was some significance to EP 3 because it was at that juncture that I realized Qveen Herby was working. This was after so many people were so scared that killing Karmin and starting a new project was career suicide. There was a lot of fear and a lot of people saying I would fail. I remember when EP 3 came out, it just felt like she had arrived. So that one, sentimentally, is important to me. And that was when my team came together around me – there are people still around me today, and they all sort of came into my life around that time. That was a shift, that was a turning point as a team.
That’s cool. I love how you can…if you put on EP 1 and play them all through, there is such an organic growth to Qveen Herby and you get to experience that throughout the series. And to the point you just made, how the newest one will always be your favorite, it stands as the time stamp for where you’re at in that moment in time. So it’s cool to witness, in short little segments, the growth of Qveen Herby since the, as you said, death of Karmin.
Thank you for saying that! I was hoping it would work. As an artist, sometimes I just do things that I feel. And I know some people are like, why are there numbers? Why don’t you give us an album, Qveen? I honestly think like a fashion designer and I like to drop things seasonally. I like to be able to inject new themes and ideas and tricks that I’ve learned into each EP. It feels like the best way for me to release and I feel like the fans appreciate it, too, because they get more music than just once a year.
It’s been roughly three years since you introduced Qveen Herby and did away with Karmin. Obviously there are going to be many reasons why, but is there one particular moment that sticks out that you and Nick and people around you were like, we need to move on to something new?
For sure. It was a process even after that realization to get to the point of having enough balls to cut it off and start Qveen Herby. It was back in the Epic Records days and we had just dropped “Acapella,” which was one of my favorite Karmin songs at the time. I remember the radio stations really didn’t want to play female rap. And I remember thinking, if it’s this simple and this political then I don’t want this. The song did really well, it was selling a lot of units and the people really loved that song – it ended up going, I think, platinum later. I remember thinking this was the end, we didn’t really belong in the old school major label system. We wanted to do things our way and pioneer the new way for a sustainable music career where we weren’t depending on somebody at a radio station that didn’t want to play female rap. I was like, this is wild. And it was at that point where a bunch of our team got fired or left the label so it started to feel a little bit scary. If we can’t control anything then how are we going to sustain this?
So shortly after we asked for our release and the label was kind enough to let us go, which was unheard of at the time. Usually if you sign a record deal, you’re locked in for life, especially if they spent so much money on it and they were really pushing for this to work. I’m grateful now…I was angry before because I didn’t like how it turned out but I’m grateful now. Leo Rising was the first time that Nick ever produced a record, so he was learning production and we were like, what does it feel like to be independent? It wasn’t until after that album we decided to go Qveen Herby. It was a stretch and I think people can relate to that. If you’ve ever felt a big transition or a big transformation happening, it’s not something that happens overnight.
It’s cool to hear that journey. The first time I heard Karmin was that “Look At Me Now” cover and I think that’s the same for a lot of people who can look back that many years. It’s fascinating to see that evolution carry on to where you’re at now. And if you go back to some of the Karmin releases compared to the music you’re dropping now, the authenticity that has come into the picture and the creative freedom speaks volumes to, and hopefully inspires, younger creatives. I hope they can look at your journey and remember to hold true to their vision and what they see in their heads as opposed to listening to what other people tell them will or won’t work.
It is really funny how my story evolved. A lot of my followers are creative people and I continue to tell them, it’s so important that you do exercises like writing in your journal to really pull out who you are and have the confidence to demand that for yourself. I think a lot of systems like the old major labels are expired now. Thank God for all the tools we have as independent artists now and if you are a little bit savvy and a little bit talented, you can take over the world. I’m grateful for that. You don’t have to be afraid of trying things either because there will always be a thread of who you are in anything you do. But if you’re not evolving and you’re not changing then basically you’re dead. I’m a big advocate for freedom and transformation and having the confidence to step into your best version of yourself.
It’s also cool the ways you, as a white female in hip-hop, stay mindful of acknowledging your privilege and paying respect. What does that mean to you as far as who you are, the culture you’re in and not dismissing the fact that you haven’t had to experience or go through certain things?
The truth of the matter is, white privilege is something that needs to be discussed. I think a lot of people are afraid to talk about it and they don’t know how. The point is to just start talking about it and to make people aware that black people, brown people, there is a systemic oppression working against them to start with. I just found an artist that did a really cool series on white privilege and what it means and what you can do as a white person. Because it really is just talking about it and bringing awareness to it, especially in this social media age that we’re in. There are still a lot of white people that don’t think it’s real and that’s what bothers me the most. I just hope I can contribute to the conversation in some way. I grew up listening to primarily black artists and idolizing primarily black artists and black art is the foundation of all of popular music basically. So, I guess I feel honored to be able to speak about that and to amplify voices of other black artists that I respect and love and collaborate with.
That’s what’s up. What about those Tiny Piano performances? I fucking loved those!
What inspired the stripped down versions of your songs?
We knew that it was going to be a little time before “Check” came out. And we were trying to get the timing right – ironically, we were trying to avoid SXSW and then the pandemic happened. So, here we are. It was kind of like, let’s make some content to fill this space and time. But we have hits, we have these mini hits – “Sade in the 90s,” “Mint” popped off, shout out Shane Dawson for using that in one of his series. I was like, we really should reimagine these songs. The challenge was I have to play one instrument and just reimagine the whole thing. Then we got going like, what if we set the scene? It’s not a music video per se but it’s still set in the Qveen world, you know? And we got all those done and dropped them just in time. But thank you! I’m glad you like those.
Oh, of course!
I wasn’t sure. People want these hard, big, heavy beats from me but apparently they like the acoustic stuff, too.
I’m such a sucker for when songs with in-your-face production get stripped down. So I absolutely loved them.
Yeah, it’s so refreshing.
Once things settle down, do you guys have plans to go on tour in support of EP 8?
One million percent. We were supposed to go out in May and that got pushed to June and now I’m not really sure. We’re staying on our booking agent every day trying to figure out the best time. All the tours that were canceled are getting pushed to the fall, so those people have a lot more work to make up than I do. But it is my top priority. I can’t believe I haven’t toured yet as Qveen Herby.
You mentioned earlier how you view the EP series sort of like a fashion line. Who’s responsible for the Qveen’s fashion? I’m not even into fashion like that, like I’m not trying to put up some front here like I’m a fashionista or anything but your style pops. It’s so visually stimulating just to see the outfits that you or the background dancers have on.
Um, thank you! It’s me for the most part. One of my really good friends, who has been the creative director for some of my music videos, she showed me Pinterest. So shout out Kayla! It changed my life because I started pinning pictures that I liked and it became a mood board for my entire brand. I started sitting with a mentor and he told me to look at myself like a brand so now, when it comes to these outfits, I shouldn’t just be myself 100% in the music but 100% in the things that I’m passionate about. I’m just now starting to speak about some of these things, I’m just now starting to wear the clothes that make me happy even though they might not be popular or in fashion. I’m inspired by Vivienne Westwood, who’s a really quirky punk activist icon designer, Marc Jacobs is super inspiring to me…there’s an interior designer named Kelly Wearstler that basically turns rooms into art. Now, for me, it’s like what is the outfit and what is the chair she’s sitting in and what’s on the table next to the chair. You start building this world and that has become sort of a new passion for me.
Who else is on the Qveen’s team? Who’s behind the scenes helping to make this a reality even though they don’t get the spotlight?
I have a little village of people. Now, we all miss each other and it’s really sad and we’re getting on FaceTime every couple of days. My manager is Jeff. My husband, Nick, who produces all my music with Pompano Puff, who is a brilliant producer. We’ve got a creative team – Alex is my day-to-day assistant, Kayla, who I mentioned before, Lucky, who has done music videos for Jhené Aiko and Nicki Minaj, and just legendary people that have come into the fold since this thing started. I have a vlog called Qveenland and I’m about to upload the second episode. I made it because I needed to show people how this all happens. There are so many people involved in this and to watch them work is probably my favorite part of the job.
Oh, that’s awesome. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this interview. Do you have anything else you’d like to add before we say our goodbyes?
Thank you for the great questions! And the great energy. I do appreciate you covering the songs when they drop and I’m always seeing it on Twitter like, hey, look!
That means a lot! Thank you.
For real. You’re doing a great job.
Thank you. Stay safe, stay happy and we’ll be looking forward to hearing more from you.
Beautiful. Same to you. And hang tight, I think we’re almost out of it.