Rock

How Lil Huddy Traded Social Media Fame For Pop-Punk Stardom

LILHUDDY
Damon Baker

LILHUDDY

When Chase Hudson, known to the Internet as 18-year-old social media star Lil Huddy, decided to go into music, he hadn’t finished a song yet.

“I actually met with Interscope before I had anything,” says Hudson, who had propelled to fame through posting videos of himself dancing and lip-syncing to music on TikTok, where he now has 30 million followers and 1.6 billion likes. “It was just kind of all an idea at first, and then I started to go in the studio, and really prove to them what I'm capable of. And then it happened, just after a couple of demos.”

In January, Hudson became the first signing on IGA’s new Immersive imprint. He finished his debut album, due this summer, in three months, with producers Andrew Goldstein (blackbear, Katy Perry, All Time Low) and Andy Seltzer (Maggie Rogers, Nina Nesbitt, Fletcher). The first four singles -- “21st Century Vampire,” “The Eulogy of You and Me,” and two yet-to-be released tracks -- were written within a week.

Not only are the first two singles modern rock songs with loud guitars and thrashing drums, but they also fit into the wave of pop-punk that’s been creeping back onto the charts. Meanwhile, the acoustic version of “Eulogy,” out today (April 1), lightens up the instrumentals in a way that brings out the song’s captivating hooks, but also Hudson’s vocals, which contain the same kind of conviction that defined emo waves of the post.

For Hudson, who’s currently taking guitar lessons, his music career has taken off so fast that he’s having trouble getting his head around it. “It’s just been so mind-blowing,” he says. “Everything about it’s been exciting for me. I don't even know how to put it. It's wild.”

Hudson’s father was nicknamed Huddy, so Chase Hudson became Lil Huddy, both at home and online. Originally from Stockton, California, Hudson’s interest in music started early: he got into pop-punk through his older sister, swiping her iPod when she was at cheerleading practice and listening to her favorite songs.

A self-described “shy kid” when he was younger, Hudson became famous on the lip-syncing app Musical.ly and then on TikTok, posting videos of himself doing viral dances or mouthing along to popular sound bytes. He often collaborated with the app’s biggest stars, like Charli D’Amelio (whom he briefly dated last year) and Noah Beck, and in 2019, he co-founded the creator collective Hype House.

“Some people view me as the social media star,” he says. “That’s something that people are just going to say until you've proven yourself heavily in the music industry. But right now I'm just getting started and easing into it. I can't get everyone to think I'm this musician off the bat, but people will slowly catch on.”

Hudson describes his music as a blend of pop, rock and punk --but he listens to emo, rock, indie, K-pop and rap, and has cited influences like Blink-182, My Chemical Romance, Machine Gun Kelly, Black Sabbath and One Direction (Green Day, he says, are one of his dream collaborations). “21st Century Vampire” has a classic rock feel, complete with fuzzy guitars and lines like, “I guess I'm just meant to be sleepin' all day/ I don't got no f--king life, I'm just a 21st century vampire.” Beyond the track’s glam-rock sheen, Hudson wanted his first song to empower people.

“I really wanted to just write a song more so about vampires,” he explains. “And then it turned into this metaphor that I use on the daily which is: be yourself. And that ‘21st Century Vampire’ character embodies me, and everything that I stand for.”

But Hudson started picking up momentum when he released “The Eulogy of You and Me,” a catchy pop-punk song with a euphoric chorus and emo-rap-style delivery in the verses. Hudson nods heavily toward a goth aesthetic on the track: “I guess the last kiss was the kiss of death/Now you're dead to me, and it's R.I.P.,” he sings.

Both of Lil Huddy’s singles came with elaborate music videos directed by Joseph Kahn, which recall the grandeur of My Chemical Romance. The first sees Hudson “waking up and doing my daily vampire routine”; the second, which Hudson describes as a “wedding-funeral,” finds him confidently strutting around a graveyard.

“Eulogy” had an assist from Blink-182 drummer and increasingly influential music-biz mentor Travis Barker, who produced and co-wrote the song. Hudson was already friends with Barker’s 17-year-old son, Landon, by the time his co-writer, Nick Long, showed Hudson’s music to Barker.

“[Barker] was like, ‘Yo, hey man, I love your stuff. Would you like me to drum on it?’” Hudson recalls. “And I was like, ‘Hell yeah! Like what the hell, let's get in the studio!’”

Damon Baker
LILHUDDY

Over the past year, Barker has become the unofficial leader of pop-punk’s mainstream revival, producing Machine Gun Kelly’s chart-topping rock crossover Tickets to My Downfall while also signing Jaden Hossler, who releases music under the moniker Jxdn, to his label, DTA records. Hossler, like Hudson, has chosen to transform his influencer status into a shot at pop-punk heroics, and it’s paid off: his song “Angels & Demons” has reached No. 5 on the Billboard hot rock & alternative songs chart.

These artists are constantly collaborating with each other as well: Hudson had a starring role in Downfalls High, Machine Gun Kelly’s accompanying film for his latest album, which also featured Hossler and Barker. MGK had reached out to Hudson via DM for the part, despite Hudson having no acting experience. And Hudson recently participated in the anniversary edition of Yungblud’s virtual variety livestream, “The Yungblud Show,” as the British singer-songwriter’s 2019 single with MGK and Barker, “I Think I’m Okay,” continues to garner alternative radio spins.

“I think the best part about making music is the community,” says Hudson, “the friendships that you build through music, and the conversations you are able to have with other people just because of the music that you create, or they create, or you guys are both inspired by somebody. I feel like there's a music language.”

The community that Hudson has joined is blurring genres -- smashing pop-punk head-first into hip-hop -- and is largely taking place on TikTok, which is bolstering new songs along with older hits. Hudson believes it’s also resonating with younger and older fans alike.

“When I play it for any adult, they’re like, ‘Oh my God, I remember when I was 10 years old listening to something that sounds like this,’” he says. “It’s the angst, honestly. That's what it is. It never dies.”

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