Harry Hudson is no stranger to defying expectations. Still, get to speaking with the singer-songwriter and fast-emerging pop star and encounter a 26-year old with a distinct maturity, unwavering self-assurance, and a refined worldliness most never achieve until far later in life. “While we’re here on Earth -- traveling the world and meeting new people every day -- we need to use our voice to help others,” Hudson says of his selfless outlook on life, the result of his having survived a tumultuous battle with cancer. He’s since channeled that roller coaster of an emotional experience into supremely visceral and boundary-shattering pop music and says he views the world around him with open eyes like never before. “And it’s essential you say something that’s true to yourself,” Hudson continues. “Be your individual energy. Be your individual self. Because you’re only going to be happy when you’re self-fulfilled.”
It’s a supremely remarkable insight for any person, but standard fare for a creative soul and global citizen like Hudson -- a multi-faceted visionary who is fast becoming one of the music industry’s most intriguing voices. Last year, Hudson — whose single “Yellow Lights” has been streamed more than 10 million times on Spotify and reached the Top 10 on the platform’s US Viral Chart — released his stunning debut album, Yesterday’s Tomorrow Night, a highly personal, soul-infected batch of pop music released via a joint partnership between Roc Nation and his and close friends Willow and Jaden Smith’s MSFTS Music. And now, as he preps his forthcoming new LP, the singer, who recently played to a fevered crowd of buzzing fans at Lollapalooza, says he’s digging deeper into his psyche than ever before.
“It’s this spiritual side, it’s this vulnerable side, it’s this new me,” Hudson says of a crop of new music ripped straight from the journal of a young man who’s seen the abyss, bounced back, and is now on a trek to discover his rightful place in the world. “When people listen to my music now they say they can feel the soul in it. And you realize, damn, soulful music is just letting your soul speak,” he explains. “When I listen back to old songs of mine it feels like the old me died and I resurrected. And now the new me is who’s singing.”
The old Hudson, of course, is still there. The one who was raised in Los Angeles on a steady diet of Cash and Dylan and Springsteen and Motown and, at age 17, with the encouragement of the late record executive John Atterbury, discovered not only that his supple and sensual voice was a profound instrument, but more importantly that he had something to say. “As a kid, I was so insecure so it was a way of expressing something out loud,” he remembers of that initial musical spark. “I would write songs because I didn’t know how to express my feelings out loud. I just knew how to write about it.” At age 20, however, just as he was finding his footing as a budding artist and was primed to sign a major-label record deal, Hudson was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He immediately underwent chemotherapy treatment.
“It was this entirely surreal moment,” he recalls. “I was about to sign a record deal and make music and be famous and do all sorts of cool stuff” only to be told his future on this Earth was uncertain. “Essentially I get told, “This is what death is.” And death and cancer were my two biggest fears.”
With his friends and family unwavering support, Hudson defeated the illness. And once on the other side, the singer says the experience forever changed his outlook on life for the better. “I feel like we all have our journeys and mine was to get this disease and learn how to live a life that’s true to me,” he says. “It was the biggest blessing ever because I know for a fact I wouldn’t be the person I am without going through that. I don’t think I would lead a true life and a happy life if I hadn’t gone through that. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
It was when he was again healthy and having moved to New York City to process what he’d endured that Hudson slowly gained a newfound appreciation for life. And, more essentially, he came to understand his calling in life was to use both his music and his growing platform as a trusted young voice to help others less fortunate than him. When combating cancer he’d taken the brave step to document his treatment via social media, not only attracting national attention in the process but importantly serving as a source of comfort for others fighting a similar battle. “I was trying to be a voice in the cancer community while going through treatment,” he says. “It was super heavy but it’s beautiful. I think God gave me cancer for me to overcome it and connect with people and understand life in a different way.” Once cancer-free Hudson realized his work was just beginning. “I suddenly understood what being human and being grounded was all about. It was a wake-up call,” he says of being motivated to not only spread positivity in his everyday life but also become an active philanthropist. “I realized I’m here to help people,” he says of spearheading a fundraiser with Teen Cancer America to help build a new cancer treatment facility at Vanderbilt University. “I know that’s my role on this Earth.”
Now, as Hudson looks ahead to a bright future as one of music’s most promising young pop stars, the singer says he’s never been so impassioned to continue spreading his light throughout the world. “This is all a dream come true,” he says of his life, his calling, his future. “Now I finally understand who I am in life. I’m more confident, I’m more mature. I’m doing what I love. It’s all part of my personal evolution.”