Harry Hudson may have first found fame as the hilarious kid who kept popping up in Kylie Jenner's snapchats, but the 23-year-old says there's far more to him — and to life itself — than the moments we've glimpsed on social media.
In 2013, Hudson was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin's Lymphoma and told he had less than a year to live, an experience which he credits with teaching him to let go of ego and pretense, and instead focus on embracing a message of love and positivity — not in fear of death, but in a spiritual embrace of it.
As Hudson prepares to release his debut album next month, he's been reflecting on how facing the thing humans fear most, death, has altered his perception of the world. His public-facing life, which began with his famous friendships with the Jenners and MSFTS bandmates like Jaden and Willow Smith and grew along with his artistic presence, has allowed him a front row seat to the pathos and obsessions of the current generation.
In stark contrast to his embrace of an eastern-style philosophy and a mindfulness-centered approach to daily living, what he sees around him is the insecurity, jealousy and fear bred by social media and adjacent heavy reliance on external validation. Hudson's mission is to create music, like his new singles " Cry For Love," "Yellow Lights" and "Gone" that leads by example through sharing his own journey to peace.
Hudson visited the PAPER offices during Fashion Week with his band in tow to speak about his work, depression, the cognitive dissonance of fame and why facing your fears is the surest path to clarity:
You have a new short film coming out soon to accompany your album. What was the process of making that like?
We filmed it in Lone Pine, which is like 5 hours up north of LA. It's like this modern day western love story. I'm just a huge fan of western movies. It just takes you to this nostalgic world. It was really important that the music and picture matched to make the perfect combination. It was just really exciting to make because it was a different way for me to tell my story of the album. The album is very much a tale of a dark point in my life to a light point in my life. It's dark the whole album, until the last song where I found who I am, what I want to do in my life, and my happiness. The movie represents the exact same feeling but told in a different story.
Where does the darkness come from?
It was actually after the fact that I beat cancer, I went through a really bad depression. I was just really lost and at a dark point in my life where I considered suicide or considered all of this bad shit, and it made no sense. Doing Xanax and all of that stuff all the time, because I just wanted to numb how I felt. Society was so numbing to me, and everyone was so fake and so insecure. It's not their fault, it's just that they're afraid to live. It's like you beat cancer and you're full of life and you're like, "I wanna live life!" You're going around to everyone hoping they have the same attitude but no one does, and everyone thinks you're so weird. Like, "Why are you so happy?"
So that just made me really depressed, and it was like I didn't want to live in this society, truthfully. I didn't truly love myself. If I love myself I wouldn't care about society. I could wake up everyday, talk to somebody and you'll project an energy. Now, I can talk to anybody. I constantly always meet new people and always make new friends, but before I wouldn't go out of my way to have a conversation because I was prejudging people, like they're probably going to be an asshole. Until the point where I loved myself so much, but I had to find that love. Whatever you project, you're going to get it right back.
Was there something that inspired you to make that change? Was it something you read or was it meditation?
Meditation for sure. A lot of meditation. I was going to this place called Lake Shrine in LA, and I was reading this book called Autobiography Of A Yogi. During that whole time, it was just me figuring out what I wanted. Finding my peace, my stillness, my happiness, and actually coming to a point where I know what I want to do for the rest of my life. I know who I'm going to be for the rest of my life and I'm going to stay consistent because all I want to do is project love. I talk to a monk every Monday, and every night too.
Really? What kind of monk?
He's a yogi. He's been a monk but he doesn't practice as much any more. He's more of a yogi and a spiritual guide. I talk to him every Monday and he gives me new tasks everyday for prayer and meditation. I have to call him every night to talk about the realization that I came to.
How long have you been doing that?
I started this year. I had to train for three months before I got into it because it's very patience driven. You have to do the work every night. If you want to go out, you can't until you've done the work. Until you come to the realization of what he said. So he gives me notes everyday. [ A text pops up from the yogi] Literally, as we speak!
[ Reading the text aloud]: "May your day be full and meaningful. There's a silence and stillness that is ever present. Go within and know this changeless state. Come from it as you speak today. Be in silence beneath your words, be in stillness under the movement of your body and vibrations of your thoughts. Enjoy your blessed life, your ability to live it. Text and call me when you're done. Love you."
So, I have to understand what he just said. That is the perfect example of what it is. Everyday it's a new thing that he gives me. I'll call him at the end of the night and explain what I got from it. He'll say either yes that's it, or no that's not what you're supposed to get out of it. That's changed my life because I have someone who is literally guiding me. I know what actually matters. This is the shit that makes me happy so that's why I do it.
Do you feel like people are responding to that?
People do feel it. It's in my energy. Some people are like, "Dude you seem different, you seem more calm." I'm not worried with stress anymore, I'm good. I get to wake up and make music everyday and be with people I love to be around. I get to travel with them, make good music, have fun, and perform songs that we love. That's what life's about. We're always tested and we always grow. Everything's a test, life is just a lesson. That's the fun part. It's like a chess game where a negative thing might happen, but a positive always comes out.
So much anxiety and depression comes from social media, whether that's the cause or the conduit. How do you deal with that?
I try to do a little bit of both. I'm active because a lot of people who I genuinely want to help are on social media. That's why I have social media to represent love and positivity, and me searching for my own happiness and weirdness. I always post weird pictures of me smiling or me crying. I'll post something of me performing to show people to take a risk and do something that you love to do. But it's just really distracting too. It's really negative. I'll find like my ex hanging out with my friend, and I'm like why am I looking at this? Why am I upset when I could've been outside benefiting myself, writing a song, or going on a hike? Doing something more important than being on my phone. I could've been talking to somebody, but instead I am freaking out and now my energy's pissed off. Now, when a person says hello, I'm like, "Don't talk to me."
I don't want to be that person, because I've been that person. We all have, I believe. That's the distracting part, but there are a lot of benefits too. Life is Yin and Yang and that's what social media is. I just posted something about World Cancer Day the other day. I was like, "If people know somebody that's going through it and need advice, or if someone's going through it and needs advice, DM me. I have so many DMs right now. I'm going to go through those DMs, but it's going to take a while because I didn't think I was going to get so many. That's why I like social media: connecting with people. I'm not different from anybody else. It's just that I'm actually executing what I like to do, and you're following me because you probably want to do the same shit. I'm telling you to love yourself through what I do.
How does this newfound mindset that you have apply to your music?
I think it just makes it more carefree. We'll have three songs done in one jam session. You say how you feel and you can really be honest with yourself. The more I'm honest with myself, the more I can be honest with everyone around me, and therefore a really good song can come out of it, because it's just an honest song. I don't look for anybody's validation. This is my honesty, this is my truth, and you can either fail or pass. I think you can pass if it's the truth. I feel like that's how music is for me.
Who did you work with on this album? Are there any MSFT features or is it just a solo album?
It's just a solo album, but I worked with producers like Téo who's a MSFT, he produced "Yellow Lights." Other than that, there's a producer Tim Suby, this guy Daniel Braunstein. There's a lot of just really good people that I had produce. These are guys that I met on my journey of life.
Do you see yourself sticking with music for the long haul or you want to get involved with other things?
Well music is going to be for the long haul because I think that's the foundation. That's what I love to do and through passion you find purpose. I want to build hospitals. I'm building a teen cancer center in Nashville. That should be like the end of this year. That's one of my dreams to do, so it's starting there. I think I was given that opportunity because of music, and I think there's just a bigger picture. I just want to help as many people as I can, and it starts with music.
What will the cancer center be like?
It's at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville. They're building out a cancer center, and I get to design it and build it out with them. I raised money to do that. I'm super excited about that. With Teen Cancer of America and Kylie, we did that together. Me and Kylie kind of kept it under wraps, but she was there with me throughout my whole cancer experience. From that she's always wanted to do something in the cancer community and help. It's cool because we're not trying to promote it, it's just a thing that's going to happen. It's a thing that we're very proud of and excited for because we're just going to give kids the opportunity to express themselves while they're going through cancer. It's going to be fun when it's done. That's legit my dream. For me it's like, fuck everything else. I get to perform music and do something like that! That's my life and that's how I want to live it, where you just give with no intention to get back. I get to be with my friends and play music, can't really ask for more than that.
What is the biggest misconception people have about you?
I think people look at me like a social media kid and associate me with celebrity friends of mine. Imagine just growing up with normal people and somehow everyone starts looking at your friends. You're like wait, what's going on? Then you start getting established with people. I feel like that's where people think I come from — a celebrity or money background. I just like making people happy and the people in my life are actually genuinely happy people. We actually all genuinely love each other. I think that's the misconception, they just put that label on it.
So many of the headlines have been that you're "Kylie's best friend."
Right, and that's cool, that is my best friend and I love that she's successful, but that's not me. I'm Harry, I have my own name and I have my own thing. It's so strange because I knew her before anything crazy, and you don't realize how relevant they are. With anything like that, with Jaden or whoever it is. People are their own people.
How old were you when you met all of them? Because you moved to LA at a young age.
I met them when I was about 17 or 16. Even like walking through Times Square today and seeing their whole billboards, it's just a strange thing to me. It's a weird concept. You can't have a normal fucking meal. It's just really confusing, but I want them to be successful because they deserve it. People don't know what's going on behind the scenes. You just want to judge because everybody is jealous and fearful. You're going to label me and I get it, because you're going to get more clickbait establishing me with the name but I'm just trying to live my life and be happy. I truly have people in my life who are genuine. People need to know that I'm just a normal person as fuck and we're all just normal people. Life is just the weirdest thing of all time.
I think people outside of it just don't really understand how it works.
People don't understand themselves. They just want to throw jealousy and hatred on people, but you don't know what anybody is going through. That's why I don't like phones and social media, because you just want to talk shit about somebody. That's why I'm just under the wraps, and I just make music and have my friends. My friends help me when I need it, and I help them when they need it. It's a family, because we don't have to talk to each other 24/7, but we just know at big moments of our lives we're all there to support each other. That's what friendship is. If something happens we all call each other up. That's anybody in my life.
A lot of people are afraid to go after what they love to do in life. I know people who are 60 and 70 who are like I wish I did what I love and I had someone to push me. Everyone needs that one push. Henry [member of Hudson's band] was talking to a kid last night and he was like, "Give me your number, and I'm going to check in on you." The kid almost started crying and he was like, "No one ever wants to check in on me." That's what we're about! People need love at the end of the day.
I've been through my biggest fear, which is death. I've come face to face with it. I had a life conversation with that, and that's how I grew as a person. So it's like okay, I embraced death, and I was prepared to die. I know what it's going to feel like when I'm dying. I'm blessed to feel that at 20 years old. Like "Oh whoa, I actually did die now I'm back again." Death is a beautiful thing for me. I think it is equally as beautiful as a birth. That's what people don't understand. Once you get to that point in your life, then you can understand a lot.
We don't talk about death at all.
It's a fearful thing. I sound crazy sometimes when I talk, but it's something that I truly feel. I've seen it. Death was my biggest fear in life. I was insecure my first 20 years of living. I was fearful and telling white lies, just wanting to fit in. I came from a weird background, so I would lie to people telling them I didn't. You're going through high school and middle school and you just want to fit in. You don't want to be bullied. It's just one of those things where everyone gets lost. I didn't fully truthfully live my life for myself those years, so now I get the rest of my life to do that.