Arguably the most fascinating story in the space right now is LILHUDDY, and his ongoing transition from crown prince of TikTok to bona fide breakout star of Zoomer pop-punk. Hudson had already enjoyed a charmed life since at least 2019, when he decamped from Stockton to L.A., co-founded the influencer compound Hype House, and saw his already strong social presence skyrocket, earning some 32 million besotted TikTok followers who hung on his every word, move and fit. In 2020 he leveraged that considerable influencer clout into a move to music, and without so much as a demo to his name he was taken on by industry vet Adam Mersel (Bebe Rexha, Ben Platt) of Immersive Records, who in turn paired Hudson with power writers and producers, including Andrew Goldstein, Andy Seltzer, Nick Long and Jake Torrey. With writing sessions beginning in lockdown summer of 2020 and recording that fall, they formed the creative team behind Teenage Heartbreak.
True to its title, the record mines LILHUDDY’s checkered history with adolescent love. The much crushed-on Chase, even at 19, has been in no less than seven relationships, inspiring 11 tracks’ worth of dramatic ups and downs. As the LP’s opening title track posits, “It’s a high, it’s a low, it’s a roller coaster.” There’s the blissed, thrashing infatuation of “IDC” and the mopey kiss-off of “America’s Sweetheart” – the acoustic single from last spring that evokes Hudson’s 2020 romance with TikTok supernova Charli D’Amelio. Mid-album, the singer wilds out and ends up with a car in the front yard on “Partycrasher,” while on the August single “Don’t Freak Out” he’s joined by Barker, All-American Rejects’ Tyson Ritter and Gen Z genre-hopper iann dior. Huddy implores his girl to bear with him while he acts up, explaining “I’m sorry/ I’m crazy/ Just hear me out” – just the kind of alternately self-deprecating, self-involved narcissism that’s long made pop-punk dudes at once irresistible and maddening.
LILHUDDY’s past 18 months have been fruitful: Immersive is now a subsidiary of powerhouse Interscope-Geffen-A&M; there’s the support of Barker, who contributes to all but one track on the album; he’s worked with Joseph Kahn, one of the biggest music videographers of the past quarter century; and landed a leading role – despite having no acting experience – in MGK’s short film Downfalls High, opposite the excellent Sydney Sweeney.
Social superstar status will open doors for you, but nothing is guaranteed, particularly when making this kind of pivot — but Hudson is proud to have silenced the skeptics so far. Ahead of the album, Billboard spoke to LILHUDDY about his reception from the music world, the wild ride of relationships that inspired the new LP, Gen Z’s genre-agnosticism, and a certain MILF-lovers classic that he’d love to cover.
Chase, it’s wild that you guys did the majority of this album before the record deal was signed.
Yeah, they put me in the studio and kind of said, “Show me what you’ve got.” And I ended up making the album. And they were just blown away each time I would send them a new song. And so, it just got to the point where they were like, “Oh this is really sick,” and “we’re starting to believe in this kid.” But Teenage Heartbreak was about 90 percent done, I think we only had one song still to do when the first single, “21st Century Vampire” came out [in January of 2021].
You worked with some writers and producers who are super accomplished. Was it intimidating for you at all?
Well, right off the bat I got put with Nick Long and Andrew Goldstein, my first session. And I thought Nick was really dope, he’s a very visionary writer and always working his ass off. Andrew is probably the most amazing producer I have ever worked with, and both are just very driven people, and that’s the kind of people I want to be surrounded with when it comes to the studio. And so to get that chemistry going straight away, I thought, “Okay these people are cool. I don’t know too many people in this space, and I don’t know how many I should meet, but this is working right now.” And so we were gonna keep doing it to see how it worked, and go into sessions for like a month straight and see how it goes. And then we brought a couple of new producers in, a couple of new writers. But it was really a crew of like six people that did the whole album.
A couple of weeks ago on Instagram you posted about being “in rehearsal.” Is there a tour in the works?
We don’t really know yet what we wanna do, and if we wanna take it on the road. It’s gonna kind of come down to how much the fans love it, and just kind of see where it takes us? And if it does really well I think we might tour, but right now we’ve been planning a couple pop-up shows. And also right now with the [delta] variant going on, we don’t really know what’s gonna be going on with state laws. Those might change, but we’re just hoping they don’t, and so we just might go and do a couple pop-up shows.
“Partycrasher” is the new single, and the pool party-rager video just dropped. What can you say about that?
Basically the video “Partycrasher” is a spinoff of Project X , which is one of my all-time favorite party movies. And so we ended up getting the actor from Project X [Oliver Cooper, as Costa], the lead role’s best friend. And so, I’m showing up and crashing his party. And it’s a crazy time, we got ponies, we were slicing through with a samurai sword, we busted a piñata, all sorts of sh-t was happening. And the song – “Partycrasher” is actually one big metaphor for like, crashing into somebody’s life. It’s like, “Actually I’m not sorry that I’m crashing your party and that I’m showing up in your life and I’m gonna be staying here for a while.”
How did you decide to make the entire album all about different phases of romance and relationships? There seems to be a lot of emotional ambivalence, too. Like in the intro to “Don’t Freak Out,” where you’re pushing someone away, but pulling them back. Breaking up, then regretting it.
I think the concept of teenage love is, it’s never gonna be just one thing. ‘Cause your life is moving too fast, too much sh-t is going on, everything is elevated, your emotions are elevated, your hormones, your first-time discoveries. The highs are really high, and the lows are really low. And so, the album is kind of a descriptive way of saying, “I don’t know what’s happening right now. I don’t know if I want to push you away, or if I want to hold you close to me. I don’t know if you want me to stay, or if I want you to stay.” I also wrote it about every relationship that I’ve gone through in my life. And how there are different stages in a relationship. Like in “Headlock,” those were parts in a relationship where I wanted this girl, but I also didn’t know how to get away from this relationship, because she had this like chokehold on me. And I didn’t know how to let her go, even though I knew she wasn’t good for me. Whereas “Lost Without You” is a totally different relationship, where it was like, as soon as we let each other go, we didn’t really know what to do without each other for some time.
So was there one point where you said, “Yes. I want the whole record focused on relationships”?
Yeah, actually as soon as I made “Eulogy” I was like, “Oh this is crystal clear to me now.” Like, “It’s a story, and I need to f–king tell it right now. ‘Cause I’ve been holding back from talking about my love life all my life, and I held back telling anybody outside of my close friends and my parents. And I’ve had some craaazy love life stories, and I am literally a 19-year-old kid. I had three like high school relationships, and I had four crazy-ass relationships in middle school, which are just as deep as the ones from high school!
Some of these ideas in the songs go back to middle school?
Swear to God. Yes. I’ve been an emotional kid all my life. So I would emotionally invest myself in women in like, seventh and eighth grade. I got cheated on for the first time in seventh grade! I’ve been in seven relationships total. And they’ve all been nuts.
Are you the type of person who has to go from one serious relationship to another serious relationship?
I am the type to go from a serious relationship and say, “F–k love, I don’t want to talk to anybody.”
And how long does that last?
It lasts until someone else shows up in my life. [laughs] And I’m like “Alright, I’ll f–king date somebody again.”
Obviously, you were in a high-profile relationship last year [with Charli D’Amelio] — and two guys in your musical orbit, Travis Barker and MGK, are also both dating famous women. What are you feelings on high-profile relationships? Would you rather date another “celebrity,” or someone who’s not a public figure?
High-profile relationships can be good or bad, it can go either way. People tell me all the time, “It’s a blessing and it’s a curse,” with everything in this industry. And I think that’s one of those things where, if it’s not a high-profile relationship, you get the girl worrying about sh-t that she wouldn’t normally worry about when getting into it, so it might stress her out more. Whereas someone else who’s high-profile kind of understands it a little bit more. But then you guys kind of both get the back end, from each other’s fans. And that’s kind of like, a whole other world of chaos. So I think there’s pros and cons to each side, that are there no matter who you choose to date.
On “Don’t Freak Out” you’re joined by Travis, who plays on most all the record, but also iann dior and Tyson Ritter, which I know was cool for you, because you’ve said as a kid you loved All-American Rejects’ “Gives You Hell” because it was the first time you heard the word “hell” on the radio.
Yeah! One day I had written down on a white board all of my dream list collabs, people that I wanted to put on some of my tracks, and one of them was iann, and one of them was All-American Rejects. And so, we had “Don’t Freak Out,” and we really wanted to make that sort of the only collab song on the album. So we reached out to iann and Tyson at the same time. And I think Tyson had seen some of my interviews talking about “Gives You Hell,” and then his sister actually brought it up to him again. Because he just was like, “I don’t know, I haven’t released a song in six years, should I do this? I’m not sure.” And his sister was just like, “Hell yeah! Do you know LILHUDDY? He’s cool as hell, you should do the song!” And so because of his sister, he was like, “Okay you know what? I’m gonna do it.”
And then iann – a great thing about your generation is how there are no musical boundaries, and I think iann really embodies that, because he’ll do a hip-hop track one week, feature on a pop-punk track the next, then an electronic track, and it all works.
I think versatility is one of the most outstanding things about artists, and it’s one of the things I really admire about iann, is that he never fails to get in the studio and lay down whatever the hell! I think we’re in a time now when everything is slowly starting to get accepted, no matter what it is. You can twist genres, randomly. You can even look back to when Taylor Swift went from country to pop, and it was working! Or The Kid LAROI went from being a full-blown rapper to starting to do hip-hop. I think it’s just slowly getting more and more normalized. Versatility is the real proof of what you can do as an artist.
This new generation of pop-punk has taken some people by surprise, and of course Travis being godfather to the scene is perfect. Has the resurgence surprised you?
I think there will always be pop-punk spirit in the air. I do think it was missed, and I think a lot of people are eager to see what this newer generation – MGK, Yungblud, me, jxdn, all of my homies – what this pop-punk revival has to offer. It’s a new day and age for the genre, and I think there are no boundaries with it now. People can throw rappers and hip-hop artists into the space, I mean, I want to pull them in, ’cause people are just like, “Oh my God, this person on a pop-punk record? Holy sh-t!” Like, there are no barriers.
You must be looking forward to playing live shows. Jxdn wrote for Billboard earlier this year about the feeling of playing a live show again, post-pandemic – if we really are post-pandemic – and what it meant to actually see live people out there, and not have them be just streams or numbers on social media. You feel that?
I can’t wait to get out and perform! I think there’s an energy to live performing that you can’t get from anywhere else. It’s just a different kind of love that you get on social media – likes or comments, or whatever. But getting told to your face, “Your music’s amazing” or even “You changed my life”? That kind of thing feels so good. And especially meeting all of the people that support you in the same room? That’s just an energy like no other. You don’t feel that on Instagram when you post a picture of yourself wearing a cool outfit, or a selfie in a mirror, it’s just – nothing compares to face-to-face interaction.
Once there is a tour, I imagine you’ll do most of Teenage Heartbreak. What about covers? Any cover you’d like to put in the live set?
I want to include “Stacy’s Mom”! [Fountains of Wayne, 2003] It’s such a good song. So that’s an old classic, and then I want to do new, trendy song as well. I want to do both.
Your massive social media success has already opened a lot of doors, from the record deal to working with Travis and all these top shelf writers and producers, shooting videos with Joe Kahn, starring in a movie with MGK, now a debut album [and even a Burger King signature meal] – all in a year and a half. Do you ever think, “Am I worthy of all this?”
Okay so, I think social media numbers come from character, and personality, and who you are as a person. You don’t just get 32 million followers for looking good. You have to actually kind of open up to your audience. If you let them kind of understand who you are, and what you’re about, then you’ll get more people liking you over time. And I did show them a lot of my personality, but I didn’t really give them all of myself. But I think I am now, with music. Music’s really helped me open up and show myself in a way I couldn’t possibly do on social media. I used to go live and interact with people all the time, I used to post to my story every day, I always wanted to keep a close relationship with my fans, and I think they have taken me to where I am today because I have been there for them. The accomplishments I get, they’re like our accomplishments, our things. We’re doing this together. My fans have done it all for me. And that’s the reason I got anyone to look at me in the music industry, it’s the reason I got Travis and MGK to ever pay attention to me. I think I owe it all to them, and if I didn’t share myself, and if they didn’t share themselves back with me, I wouldn’t be able to be here today talking to you about this.
You’ve said before that you think some haters want to see you fail. Do you think there are people with knives out, waiting to go after Teenage Heartbreak? I don’t sense that. The singles have all been strong.
I think some people wanted my music to be sh-t. I’ve seen so many people release music and just get so much hate, right off the bat, on social media. But I haven’t given them a product that is a really bad song, and I think that’s what they want. I think they’re looking for something they can make fun of. People on social media, I think they’re waiting for a slip-up moment, like for me to do something stupid, or look dumb in an interview, or just any moment where they can make fun of me. I think that’s kind of how it had been on TikTok for a long time – that’s kind of like half the reason I sort of went off the grid, on TikTok. I started making my account like solely music-focused, and personality-focused. Whereas before I was like, “Oh I want to keep up with all the trends, I want to do this kind of stuff” – ’cause then people were like, “Oh I want to keep up with LILHUDDY, and I want to make fun of LILHUDDY.” People were doing that sh-t all the time, and now it’s like, I’m not really giving them anything to make fun of. I’m just taking this sh-t seriously and it’s a different approach than they expected. So I think a lot of people are just – applauding it? A lot of people will go in the comments section of my music videos now and will go, “Wow, I wanted this to suck so bad, but it’s good and I’m adding it to my playlist immediately!”
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