This FRONTPAGE interview finds musician Landon Barker discussing his personal style, eyeliner tips, and propensity for breaking the rules. Oh — and he just graduated high school.
When I meet Landon Barker over Zoom, I make a confession: His father’s remix of “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” was the only version I was allowed to listen to growing up, mostly because he censored its original lyrics. The second the words leave my mouth, the 18-year-old breaks into laughter.
“I knew you were going to say that,” he says. “That’s so funny.”
Barker is the son of legendary drummer Travis Barker and model and actress Shanna Moakler. In true Gen Z fashion, he enters our video call through his phone, rather than a laptop or (gasp) desktop computer. My first image of him is a kid laying on a couch, tank top rumpled, jet-black hair sticking out in every direction. He’s preparing for a photoshoot while we chat and politely asks if he can turn his camera off. I don’t usually associate tenderness with teenagers who grew up in the limelight, but to my surprise, his voice is as gentle as his dad’s.
Landon Asher Barker was born on October 9, 2003. His birthdate is more than a reminder that people born after 2000 can be adults — it means he was a child during the tabloid era’s peak. At 18 months old, he made his TV debut in Meet the Barkers, MTV’s 2005 reality show centering on the family’s seemingly glamorous life (years later, viewers learned his parents’ relationship wasn’t so idyllic). Its official IMDb photo shows a cherubic Barker strapped to the toddler seat of his dad’s bike, tiny Converse on his feet. Seventeen years, one high school diploma, and over a million Instagram followers later, he’s blazing his own trail as a musician, songwriter, and fashion designer.
Lately, Barker has unintentionally made headlines for his relationship with TikTok star Charli D’Amelio, which the couple confirmed in July. As public as their love story might be, they’re teenagers first, celebrities second. Romance is generally new territory for their age group. That becomes clear when I ask Barker to describe his ideal date and he innocently replies, “I’ve never been taken on a date myself, I don’t know.” I rephrase: Hypothetically, if you were seeing someone, how would you spend your time?
“A nice dinner is always fun,” he says thoughtfully. “Movies, something around that.” He notes that his career requires him to “go out” plenty (though he’s under 21), so it makes sense that he’d prefer to spend personal moments away from the public eye.
Unsurprisingly, Barker’s circle is full of mentors who have helped him navigate fame. Take rapper Machine Gun Kelly, whom he affectionately calls “Kells” during our conversation. “I’ve gotten really, really good stage advice from MGK,” he says.
In March, the pair released “die in california,” a pop-punk ballad Barker initially wrote himself. It marked a pivot in his burgeoning music career: “I started making music when I was 12 or 13, and I originally was making rap music,” he explains. “[Recently] I have been able to take it more seriously and put more time into it. I feel like that’s really the key of music: just time and effort. You’ll continue to grow as an artist and an individual and have more to write about, more of a creative process, the more you go in.”
Gunna, Young Thug, and Barker’s father hopped onto the final version of the track, and the result is 3 minutes and 9 seconds of pure genre-bending, emo kid vibes. In June, MGK invited Barker onstage at Madison Square Garden for a special performance of the song, a moment he calls “incredible.”
“Right before I went on, he was like, ‘Landon, you gotta take it in. Don’t think about doing your best,’” he recounts. “‘Obviously try hard, but don't focus on doing your best — take it all in.’ I’ll always think about that, for sure.”
In one way, that night marked a major career milestone for Barker. But in another, it induced fears no one should have to endure. As he prepared to take the stage thousands of miles from home, his father was being rushed into emergency surgery for pancreatitis. “I was on the phone with him for the past two days before then,” he recalls. “He was almost not in a position to be able to even have a conversation. So it was really, really scary.”
What did those phone calls entail? “He just told me, ‘Kill it for me.’ And then I killed it and I went up there, did my thing,” Barker says. “After that I literally went straight back into the dressing room and got on the phone with doctors. So it was an amazing moment, but a hard one at the same time.”
Barker cites his dad, MGK, Willow, and Avril Lavigne as musical inspirations, but he’s also a force to be reckoned with in the fashion world. One glance at his Instagram account opens the floodgates to bold, boundary-pushing ensembles. Consider the head-to-toe sequin look in this post’s second slide, or the outfit he wore to his father and Kourtney Kardashian’s Italian wedding. Dressed by Dolce and Gabbana like the rest of the group, Barker’s rose-covered suit rivaled his new step-family’s gowns. He topped it off with intricate, pearl-encrusted hand jewelry.
In June, he took his love of style to another level with a clothing collection for boohooMAN. According to Teen Vogue, the grunge-inspired capsule is meant to be seen as unisex, with Barker adding that “When I get dressed every day, I don’t have guidelines.”
Even so, he has a few tried-and-true staples. “I like tailored looks and more outgoing rock looks,” Barker says. As for who inspires his style? “A$AP Rocky, MGK, and Austin Butler. Austin always has great tailored looks. Kells always has great rock, crystallized, crazy pink looks. And A$AP Rocky just has great street style. I like many different types of style; I just like the way people execute them differently.”
Like increasing numbers of young men, Barker has embraced makeup as a form of self expression. His signature look finds his cloudy blue eyes tight-lined in black, simple yet impactful. Barker shamelessly refers to it as “guyliner” and reveals he experimented with it as early as elementary school.
“Even back when I was maybe 8 or 10, I’d do it,” he says. “Because it was a cool thing to do. Billie Joe from Green Day was doing it. I thought it looked sick and then, I don’t know, I was just messing around with it and I found out the little tips and tricks on how to get into your waterline or whatnot.”
I tell Barker how impressed I am, both that he knows the term “waterline” and that he can apply eyeliner to it. I ask if he ever enlists help from makeup artists, to which he immediately responds: “No, no, no. I do it myself, ’cause it tickles and it hurts.”
A makeup novice myself, I badger him for tips on getting eyeliner to stay put in such a delicate area. “You have to lift your eyelid up and stick it in there,” he declares.
Barker may find joy in fashion and beauty, but he seems more focused on internal progress. Following his dad’s hospital visit, he’s made his mental health a priority. “Especially the summer, I’ve been dealing with — it’s probably just growing up — more anxiety than normal” he explains. “Having relaxing days is really the best treatment for me. Not waking up early, sleeping in. You take a long shower and think about yourself — even sitting down in the shower. A long day to yourself is really, really, really needed for a lot of us. Just a recovery day.”
Barker’s stardom is skyrocketing so quickly that it’s easy to forget he graduated from a public high school mere months ago. He plans to use his newfound free time wisely. “Everybody's having summer right now, so last year I would’ve technically had this time off as well. But when it starts into the actual school year, and January of next year, I feel like I’ll really be able to tap into my creativity and create more stuff with the time I’ve had freed up,” he says.
As for how he’s spent the summer, Barker says he’s been “making a lot of music every day.” Whatever he creates is bound to come from a place of passion and sincerity, a potent combination for an 18-year-old. How he’s remained level-headed despite lifelong fame, I’ll never know. But I’m certain of one thing: Landon Barker was clearly raised right.