LILHUDDY took an elbow to the jaw. Not in a mosh pit—there haven’t been many of those during the COVID-19 pandemic—but playing basketball with some friends in the courtyard of his multi-million-dollar home in Los Angeles. It’s the kind of common injury that could happen to anyone. Except, of course, LILHUDDY isn’t just anyone. Most people don’t live in mansions, or have modeling and recording contracts, or lucrative sponsorship deals, or inspire so much conversation online, a photograph of them going to dinner is deemed breaking news.
HUDDY (that’s Cole Chase Hudson to his real friends) is one of the most popular teenagers on the planet, a 19-year-old multihyphenate whose internet fame started on Musical.ly and TikTok and rose to great heights when he co-founded Hype House, the now-infamous TikTok collective (home to Thomas Petrou, Addison Rae, Dixie D’Amelio and her sister/HUDDY’s friend/ex-girlfriend/confidante/something Charli D’Amelio). Years in the making, it has all led to this moment: the one where HUDDY gets to introduce himself as a legitimate musician. It’s a dream come true, and some people hate him for it.
When HUDDY hops on Zoom with Alternative Press, it’s from the master bedroom of his elegant Los Angeles home—ornamented with marble columns and his own teen tastes: a gaming chair, a goth-y black throne, Superman and Batman comic book art, snakes in their reptile terrariums, designer duds lazily tossed on the floor. His nails are painted black and white. His sheepish smile shines under an oversized black hoodie. He looks like a 21st century rock star—no doubt misunderstood by older generations intimidated by youth, despised by pop-punk purists and, most importantly, adored by legions of fans across the globe.
The numbers speak for themselves: At the time of writing, he’s amassed 31.9 million followers and 1.6 billion likes (that’s with a “b,”) on TikTok, a slow build from the 100 loyalists he rallied on the platform in eighth grade. There are 11.6 million followers on Instagram, 2.9 million on Twitter and 2.25 million on YouTube (an account he’s been active on for less than a year).
But that’s only part of the story: He starred in Machine Gun Kelly’s Downfalls High film, where he was directed by MOD SUN. “Don’t Freak Out,” a blockbuster single from his forthcoming debut album, Teenage Heartbreak, a concept album on, well, teenage heartbreak, is his only collaboration to date: Co-signs include All-American Rejects’ Tyson Ritter, blink-182’s Travis Barker, up-and-coming artist iann dior and background vocals from Lauv (that last one may take a couple of listens to hear, but it’s there).
His first single, “21st Century Vampire,” is delicious, radio-ready pop punk: an ascending chorus, an earworm hook, an angsty sentiment that doubles as a call to action. “It’s a little bit of ‘Don’t be afraid. Be yourself. Go for it. Be honest. Be straight up,’” he says. “You can be the coolest kid you want to be.” It also happens to be one of the best pop-punk releases in recent memory. “[Teenage Heartbreak] is all the shit I wanted to bring back,” HUDDY says, smiling. “I wanted to find a way to reinvent everything I like, in my own manner.”
Love him, hate him, HUDDY’s divisive—and what’s more punk rock than a provocateur?
You’re on the digital cover of AltPress with your first album. That’s unreal, and it proves that alternative culture is evolving. Do you consider yourself an alternative artist? What does that word mean to you?
I don’t know. I never went into music, like, “Oh, I want to sound exactly like this.” Or, “I want to be this person.” I just went in knowing what I like and knowing what I thought would sound the best. There’s so much music that I grew up on. I knew that I had this rasp in my voice—I noticed that I was able to have a high range and a low range. I had never been into the studio. A year ago was the first time I had stepped foot in a studio. I went for it with no intent other than “I want to make pop punk.”
In the 2000s, pop-punk bands had years to become great: playing in bars and basements for four people, working their way up. You don’t get the time to learn how to become an amazing live performer. People expect greatness immediately. How do you deal?
I saw the pressure on social media. I’ve already gone through [that]. You can’t come out the gates trying something new, being bad. I knew that. So, I was like, “I’m going to take a year of preparation. I’m going to really try and get my head on straight before I give anyone any music.” I finished 90% of the album before I came out with “21st Century Vampire” [in January 2021]. I already knew what I wanted and how I wanted it all to play out. I knew I wanted to introduce myself with a concept album—I wanted to create a whole narrative around everything that I do and have this persona. And I’ve always had this persona for myself. Music gives life to it.
It sounds like you spent a lot of the COVID-19 lockdown writing this record. As a content creator, you’re probably used to staying home and having some kind of repetitive routine—but all that stuff gets amplified, right? How did you handle it?
I had my first meeting with Interscope right before quarantine. We met in January , and the lockdown started in March. I was already going through a rough time. I was going through my first glimpse of so-called “fame,” seeing people throw themselves at you, throw a bunch of hate at you.
A year ago, everyone called me “too skinny” and “cringe-y” and all this kind of stuff that really beat me up. It got me to a breaking point. I was emotionally unavailable. I kept to myself. A lot of my childhood, I kept to myself. I kept all of my relationships to myself. And that is exactly why I unleashed it all on the album. I let each story of each relationship flow together. But I wasn’t going to give it to people word for word. I’ve been in seven relationships, and I’ve had six pretty shitty ones. I just wanted to write it all out.
One thing I find so fascinating about your career is that you were signed to Interscope [Billie Eilish, Kendrick Lamar] having only recorded a few demos.
Zero. I had nothing to my name.
How does that happen?
I met someone through a branch of Interscope. They were like, “I’m telling you; this kid has the craziest creative vision I’ve ever seen from a little 17-year-old kid. Trust me.” Then I met with John Janick, who is the CEO, and he was like, “I don’t know. This kid has never made music before. How do I know to trust him?” And he was like, “Just trust me. I’ll get him in the studio, and I’ll report back to you.” We get in the studio. We made a couple songs. This guy’s best friend, Jacob Kasher, has written Charlie Puth hits, Maroon 5 hits, One Direction hits. Crazy stuff.
He’s like, “I see where your head’s at, but I need to help you get your vision out of you.” We started going to the studio every day and went back to Interscope. They were like, “We’re fucking down. We see where your head is at.” We kept going. I wrote “21st Century Vampire,” “The Eulogy Of You And Me,” “America’s Sweetheart,” “Partycrasher” and “No More” all in the same week. We sent those to Interscope, and they were flipping the fuck out. “How the fuck did you do this? And where is Travis Barker?”
You’ve mentioned having a persona earlier—where’s the line between LILHUDDY and Cole Chase Hudson?
Me in my natural element, me in a hoodie and sweats, shorts, whatever—that’s me. That’s Chase. That’s me in my purest form. I like to lay low. I like to dress up and be cool, put on a lot of fancy clothes and wow people, but a lot of the time, I’m a dressed-down, casual kind of a guy. I’m very personable. I come alive when it comes to music or things that excite me. When I get into my zone, I start to become this person who excites me so much, who gives me so much adrenaline, and I’m the same person at the end of the day.
So, LILHUDDY isn’t a character. It is a different version of yourself.
I’m a more alive version of myself when something creative comes to mind. When I’m not doing poses every five seconds, I’m this guy—I haven’t showered; I’ve just woken up. I’ve got a bunch of animals. But someone [captured in a photo shoot], wearing eye makeup, playing a character? I come alive when I turn my creativity on.
Last spring, you wrote on Instagram, “I’m taking a stand against toxic masculinity. I want people to wear whatever it is they want to wear,” what fans considered to be a response to a photo of you dancing around in a crop top, reacting to a comment that said, “What’s up with all these dudes wearing crop tops?” What inspired you to speak out?
My level of not giving a fuck has just grown. It grows more and more each and every day. Now that I’m out of an environment where people are toxic about that stuff, now that I’m in L.A. where you can be whoever the fuck you want to be, that has shown me, like, why should I care what the rest of the world thinks? Fuck what everyone has to say. Their opinion doesn’t matter. The only opinion that matters is yours.
What’s your relationship with masculinity like now?
I tend to not think about it, which is what I think all guys need to do going into their day. “Oh, my God, is someone going to say something about my outfit? What if I look stupid?” I am so far away from caring because all my friends love and embrace differences. I think that people shouldn’t be judgmental about anything, and that’s been my motto. So even though you’re asking this, “How do I think about [masculinity]?” It’s that I don’t. More people should think like that. More people should not think. Just do.
You’ve been vocal about the ways in which social media can affect mental health—how has it affected yours?
I think it is important to be honest with everybody. I’m really bad at hiding my emotions. When I’m having a hard day or when I’m stressed out, you can tell. A lot of people told me, when I first started doing well on social media, to do everything I could to not show my emotions online. I cried one time about all the shit that I used to face before I got on social media and how that’s changed my life; I went live, and I fucking sobbed. People ran with it.
They were like, “OK, I’m going to make a million videos of Chase crying.” People are dickheads about everything. I’ve been able to explain my feelings through interviews and music, and that’s the only way I’ll let it be known. People can understand it better than me just tweeting about it. So, I try to highlight the importance of how tough life can actually get. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
Just because you have this glamorous life in L.A. doesn’t mean it’s all good all the time. Hopefully, your music will remind people of your humanity. But I wonder, when you’ve gone online and said you wouldn’t be alive without your fans in the past, what did you mean?
They’ve changed my life in so many different ways. I was in high school four years ago, and I remember being so stuck that I didn’t know what would come after. I wanted to be out of high school so bad that I begged my parents to pull me out of school every day. Kids would bring posters to school and sign them and be like, “Chase Hudson Sucks Dick.” People would be such prickheads at my school. They thought it was hilarious. People would send death threats to me on Instagram. I had a really shitty freshman and sophomore year. [It was] a really, really rough time.
I had suicidal thoughts—I had crazy mental problems, [and] I couldn’t figure out my own emotions. My therapist was a little lost with where my head was at. I dug myself into a deeper hole every day. Now that I’m able to live a life so freely, I don’t have to worry about those problems anymore. I finally have enough money to have my own place and not have to worry about the things that would stress me out for years. And the fans really changed my life. It’s been so crazy to get to meet them and tell them things they’ve done for me and hear the things I’ve done for them.
And you give them hope—high school ends. There’s a way to manage depression and anxiety. Be creative. Work hard.
It’s been a journey with my mental health. Through social media, I’ve been able to meet good people who have changed my life for the better.
So, what’s next?
I’m ready to go out into the world and give them this album. I’ve never worked as hard on any project in my life. Not in school, hell no. Not in life, before. I’ve never treated something like it was my child. Now I can say I raised a baby, and it’s Teenage Heartbreak.