Harry Hudson is more than Kylie Jenner's best friend. New Jersey-born and California-raised, he's lived quite the life, having experienced so much (if not too much) from his early years and now as he approaches his mid-twenties. Hudson is a complex human being, a creative soul who at the end of the day is not so different from you and me.
His debut album, Yesterday's Tomorrow Night, comes out this spring—a sincere and heartfelt record that draws heavy inspiration from his albeit difficult life experiences. Why difficult? Because back in 2013, Hudson was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2013, a moment that would change his life forever. After undergoing successful treatment, he came out of that experience stronger than ever, however, making the adjustment from sick to healthy wasn't quite as easy for him as one would expect.
"Getting my life again kind of hit me in this weird way because every day I was so prepared to die," he told an audience at an intimate premiere for his album's accompanying short film. "When you're not gonna die, and they're like, 'Hey, here's your life again, what are you gonna do with your life?' I went through this weird phase at that point because [I didn’t] know."
Upon his recovery, Hudson found himself dealing with a deep depression. It wasn't until his best friend (and MSFTS collective co-creator) Jaden Smith booked a role on Netflix's The Get Down, which prompted an invitation to spend some time in New York City. Smith encouraged Hudson to do what seemed impossible. He booked a one-way ticket and spent the year in New York, where he re-learned how to live and found a muse in the city that never sleeps.
Since then, Hudson has grown as both a person and an artist, respectively. His year in the city prompted a desire to create music. It was a creative incubation period that led to his first official singles: "Cry For Love," "Yellow Lights," "Gone," and today's release, "No Good." In addition to music, he also found a muse in the form of film, which led to conceptualizing a 16-minute short film directed by Directed x MODELS.
In a wide-ranging interview with L'Officiel, Harry Hudson discusses creating his debut album, finding real friends, and achieving self-discovery along the way.
It's not necessarily a Country/Western or exclusively folk album, but with Can Cowboys Cry, it’s obvious that you’ve drawn inspiration from those genres. Where did that come from?
[Well,] I grew up on folk and country music. That's my dad's favorite.
Hank Williams and Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard, Bob Dylan. My dad would always force that in my ear. I was like, "I don't wanna listen to this," because it's story-telling music, you know? When you're a kid, you're like, "I wanna listen to what everybody else is listening to," like pop music. For me, I was pushing that off. I had a weird relationship growing up with my family. I was very outcast.
Were you the black sheep?
Always. I didn't know who I was. I was the shyest kid ever and I always had something to say but I didn't know how to say it. So music was my escape. Every time I listen to music, I try to find music that fits me and explains me best.
And that’s when you rediscovered the West?
Through the end of middle school and throughout high school, I never listened to folk music. I'd listen to more urban, hip-hop. I was a very angry kid so I would find anger in rap music. So I kind of let go of where I came from 'cause I was trying to figure out who I was.
[Then] living out in New York after the fact that I was going through chemo [and] depression, I started falling in love with [country] music again and watching a lot of Country/Western films and Tarantino films. I remember listening to a Johnny Cash song and I just started crying one day. I was like, why? It's like listening to your childhood. That nostalgic feeling.
It struck a cord.
Like, why am I running from something that's so true to me? This is when I wasn't making music at the time. I was like: Why am I trying to cover my voice up? Why am I trying to put crazy 808s and synths in the music when I can just kick out a banjo and a guitar and make a story? I have enough.
That’s when you began to write.
From 2013 when I got diagnosed till about now, I've been writing in this diary—a journal of mine. So when I was creating the album, I was looking through my journal and picking out stories that represented me the most.
Which stories? What was that process like?
Milestones of my life. I was taking these stories I was telling and my feelings and circling them, creating them as chapters. Then I met with a producer—Tim Suby—and we just kind of started scoring these chapters of my life. I would tell him my feelings and he would be like "Ahh, the piano sounds like this." And, "This song sounds like this. Oh, this is a sad song, let's make it upbeat." It was this whole thing, like poetic pop.
So you guys kind of connected the dots between emotions and the experiences. And this is what became of it?
Absolutely. So Can Cowboys Cry is this alter ego, you know? You think of cowboys as men—
Like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood…
Gunslingers. Those are the toughest guys; the original gangsters. I’m kind of asking, "Do they have emotions?" [Of course] everybody has emotions. Everybody has a heart, so it's breaking them down to get to the most vulnerable part where everybody feels pain. Everybody at the end of the day just wants to be loved.
Right. Including cowboys. Is that what the film is about? Your sort of emotional journey beyond the surface?
For me, the whole film is [about] losing yourself in the dark to find yourself in the light. To find hope.
That totally came across with the film's narrative. Between the two girls and of being alone in the desert.
You see me ruin both of them. You see me ruin my friendship with my guy friend. It's this whole thing where I'm alone at the end: the time where I'm the most vulnerable. The time I needed to find love within myself because I didn't love myself. I was using those three people as crutches for my own love.
It seems like it was hard for you to love yourself.
It's difficult to look in the mirror and be like, "I actually love you," without being uncomfortable. I look in the mirror [now] and I'm like "I fuckin' love you!" 'Cause it's true. I didn't choose this body, I didn't choose where I come from. You have to embrace that and you gotta look at it like [your] body's a vehicle for life's game.
Where's the best place to start?
Work with what you got. Embrace that. If you embrace yourself, people are going to feel that. You project what you want to get. You project happiness, you're gonna get happiness. You project anger, you're gonna be around angry people. It's a state of mind. I didn't know that until they were like, "Hey, you might have a couple months to live." It hits you.
I want to talk about friendship now because obviously that's been such a very important part of your life. How have your friendships changed over the last few years?
[There are more] truthful people in my life. I've never been called out for something that I did wrong. Jaden and Teo are the first people to ever really call me out on my mistakes. Those are the friends you want to have in your life. We have MSFTS—a genuine group of friends who want each other to succeed. We don't have surface conversations. If it's not deep, we're not friends.
It's rare to find people like Moises (Arias), Mateo (Arias), and Jaden (Smith): those three guys really helped change my life. It's just dope to all be a part of something, especially because we're all part of each other's music. We all are collaborating throughout everything.
Sounds like a weird — and very dope — artistic commune.
That's our dream.
Yeah. Our dream is to build a commune in 2020. So we're all setting up. Jaden's making his album, Teo's making his album, Moises is shooting vids. That's our whole plan. It's to live together. To have a commune and start building up small schools for inner city kids and people who just wanna do something great through science and art.
That's awesome, man.