Upon meeting Harry Hudson, one is immediately met with the realization that he operates on a different wavelength than most people. Hudson comes off as an acutely calm and energized individual, especially for someone who just caught an early morning flight from Utah and hasn’t slept in 24 hours. “I just got back from Sundance,” he says. “I’m a huge film nerd and love to watch movies. Especially for their scores. I thought about only composing for cinema at one point. I’d still love to do so.”
It is with this same genuine curiosity and thirst for life that Hudson goes after everything. At only 24 years old, he’s experienced more than the average individual will in a lifetime; from battling lymphoma as a teen to once living in a priest’s home in Sweden, the folk-pop singer likes to think of his life in chapters that only exist for moments of time before they die off and allow for a personal evolution. Still, most people only associate Harry with his self-described second family, the Kardashians. You may recognize him from Kylie Jenner’s social media channels, where the youngest Kardashian often posts content with the singer-songwriter.
Highsnobiety Music sat down with the upcoming solo artist in Los Angeles to learn more about the man behind all the Snapchats and to discuss the formation of his upcoming debut album with MSFTS/Roc Nation in partnership with Interscope.
Did you always want to be a singer/songwriter or was there a defining moment for you where you knew this is what you were meant to do with your life?
I grew up with a lot of hip-hop music. I remember the first track I really got into was Eminem’s “The Way I Am.” I was in first grade - I remember watching the music video and feeling so intrigued. As a kid, I could relate to him and his pain... his anger. I was such a shy, sweet kid, but I had a lot of anger built up and never knew how to release it. I wanted to be just like him so I started writing poetry.
And that led to songwriting?
Well then high school came along and I started rapping with my best friends. We never went out and would make tracks on GarageBand. Then one of my friends pulled me aside and said, 'Dude, maybe you should actually rap and not take it as a joke. I think you could do something with it.' I told him that was bullshit, but he booked me a studio session anyways. I did it and became obsessed with recording and writing music. I got a meeting with John Atterberry [former VP of Death Row Records] and he was the first person who told me to start singing. I said, 'fuck no,' because I was so insecure, but he passed away two weeks after that meeting and I took it as an omen that I had to sing.
I got a songwriting internship in Sweden via a pop music producer I had met and it was a complete shift in my life. I stayed in this priest’s home and helped with melodies all day long while it was negative degrees outside. I was working sixty-hour shifts because it was dark all the time and I reached a point where I had to ask myself what the fuck I was doing. I went from sunny L.A. to freezing Sweden in a town that was three hours away from any type of civilization. It was tough, but then I came back [to L.A.] and knew how to write a pop song.
So now I’m back in L.A. and the same day I have a big meeting with a major label to discuss the pop album I just made, I went to the hospital and was diagnosed with cancer.
Wow, that’s insane. I’m so sorry to hear that.
Yeah, imagine going from someone saying to you, 'Oh, you're probably going to get your first record deal,' to, 'Oh, you're probably going to die.' During that year of treatment, I’d wonder whether or not I was going to wake up every morning. At that point, I was just fighting. Every day was a constant struggle. That's when I found my soul. My friends started wondering why I didn’t talk or seem the same anymore and it was because I now had something deeper.
And what was the 'something deeper?'
I think cancer was very much a blessing because I've always wanted to be a role model. I never knew how though. I started writing music the whole time I was doing chemo in the hopes that I could share it with people later on and inspire hope among others.
Did you get right back in the studio then once you finished chemo?
Once I was done with treatment, I took a year off from music just to figure out how to be a normal guy again. In some ways, it was scarier than dealing with the disease itself. I started riding bikes and moved to New York City and got a girlfriend. I learned how to take the subway. I took a train by myself to the Hamptons because I've never been. I was in the most vulnerable state of my life.
Then I met this producer [Tim Suby] and was explaining to him what I went through the past couple years and the poems and songs I wrote to help me through it. He asked me if I wanted to make an album out of them so we sat down and went through my journals and chaptered it out. From song one until the finale, the album consists of chapters of my life from 2015 until now.
On the subject of your many different chapters in life, you grew up with the Kardashians and are still very close with them. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems as if your view on life greatly contrasts with what they stand for. How do you still find common ground?
I honestly wouldn’t say that’s true. Their whole thing is that they created a way to make money off of social media, but I’ve known them since they [Kendall and Kylie] were ten years old and that’s not their whole life. The reality is that they were the people that were there for me at most of my chemotherapy sessions. They’re like sisters. The whole family is. They’re the most kind-hearted people in the world - people who genuinely care about each other and want to see one another succeed and be happy more than anything. That’s what people don’t see.
Do you think most of your fans have originated from the Kardashians’ following?
I think it's a mix.
Going back to finding more depth in life, I saw that you were recently baptized. Have you always been religious?
Yes. I was baptized Catholic as a kid and then I kind of lost faith. There was something in the Catholic religion that I was just very iffy about. When I was in New York, I was depressed and found Hillsong [celebrity LA/NY church attended by Justin Bieber]. It brought so much light to my life. I go to church twice a week now and also study other religions. It’s a meditative thing. I enjoy finding a higher being. The whole point of life is to get closer to where we came from.
How does faith tie into your music?
I wouldn't say it's all faith-based, but most of it is. It's hopeful. I want people to love themselves through my music. I have a second chance at life. I could be doing anything in the world. I have a voice and I have a lot of things to say, and that's why I'm here.
Is that what your latest single, “Yellow Lights” is about?
Yes - that and just realizing who you want to remember you once you're gone. I want my fans to question what kinds of relationships and friendships they want. Do they want something serious or do they want something that's a new age kind of fling? Because that’s how this generation is. I've seen it a lot, more than not. Ask yourself, 'Who’s really going to really love you once you’re gone?'
Right. That rings true in the song’s last lyric when you say, “What would you do if I died before you? Would you sing about me like I sing about you?” You’re very comfortable discussing sentiments like that about death for someone so young. How did you come to be so at peace with mortality?
No one likes to talk about death and that used to be my biggest fear, because I was afraid of the unknown. I'm trying to change that idea. Death is a celebration. It should be the same thing as when someone is born. Death can also come in different forms. You can have a death of consciousness or a death of self where every moment is new. For example, I just died three seconds ago because that was an old version of me. People don't really look at it like that, but you can change anything about your life anytime you want. Life is a constant evolution. Have you seen Yes Man with Jim Carrey?
Yes, fantastic movie.
It's pretty much like turning your life into that.
I love that notion, although for most people, it’s probably not the most comfortable space to exist in. How did you grow to become so content with the uncomfortable? It shows up in themes throughout your music and what you choose to post on social media.
I'll do things to make people uncomfortable because I'm so confident in myself and I love myself. For example, everybody is so uncomfortable looking at someone cry. If I cry, that's fully who I am. I don’t understand how someone can think it’s weird for me to cry on Instagram, but they can post an ass pic without questioning it. What the fuck does that mean? I embrace what I go through in life and the feelings that come with it. You don't have that long on this earth, so why represent yourself with fake bullshit? You don't cry after this life.
Is that what “Cry for Love” [your second single] is about?
Yeah - but at that point, I wasn’t who I am now. I wrote that song six months prior to the release and I didn't cry for love then because I was numb. Every girl I liked was hooking up with somebody else and no one was being honest with me. This girl I was seeing left my house and my brother saw her making out with another dude literally an hour later. I don't usually care about that kind of stuff but I expect people to be honest with me. You should say, 'Yo, I'm going to hook up with you, but I'm going to hook up with nine other dudes too. Is that okay with you?'
Well Los Angeles is known for not always bringing out the best in people. Do you find that to be true having grown up here? Do you like LA?
No, I don't like LA. I love the nature side, but the industry bubble is gross. You meet someone out here and they tell you, 'Oh, I came out here to do something and I don't know who I am, but I've seen Marilyn Monroe on TV in Hollywood and I'm just going to be like her.' It's this whole fucking thing. That’s why I don't go out here. If I did, I'd call everybody out.
I think I've convinced four of my friends who work in the industry to quit their jobs this year. One of my good friends had a crazy good job as a manager and was making great money. I was like, 'Dude, do you really like what you're doing?' He said, 'No, but it’s cool and makes good money.' We had a heart to heart for two hours and the next day he quit. He said, 'You're right. I need to figure out who I am and what I really want.'
Which I think you obviously have done. What’s next for you in 2018?
My next single comes out on February 16 and then I have a short film debuting on February 23. It’s pretty much a visual representation of my thoughts on life in Western form. You’ll come out of it really understanding who I am as an artist before you listen to the album. The music videos I’ve released for “Cry for Love” and “Yellow Lights” are a little sneak peak of that. We put a lot of work into it and I’m really proud of the film. I’ve watched it 400 times and it’s still honest to who I am. I’m really excited just to have people see it and understand what I’m doing. I want to make an impact and move forward in life with positivity and love. That’s all I really care about.
For more of our interview features, read our chat with 88rising label founder Sean Miyashiro on their rapid rise.