Interview by Emily May
Photos by Jess Williams
Dominic Harrison is a star on the rise. Going by the stage name Yungblud, he began his musical career in London at the age of 16. His singles achieved popularity in 2017, with his style being described as “the spitfire suburban poetry of younger Arctic Monkeys and Jamie T and fused with a healthy dose of ska and hip hop spirit”. Harrison hopes to empower people through his music and talk about the issues that his generation faces, giving a voice to those who may not have one themselves. Having been described as a “socially conscious artist unafraid of delivering genre-bending protest songs”, he is not afraid to discuss politics and the socially sensitive issues that the young people of today are facing. He wants to start a dialogue and to help young people fight for their future. Yungblud released a 5-song EP in January of this year and released his debut full-length album on July 6th. With performances on the final cross-country Vans Warped Tour and with upcoming tours and Lollapalooza, ACL, Reading, Leads and Splendor In The Grass festival appearances, Yungblud has a full tour schedule and he couldn’t be happier. Our staff writer Emily May spoke recently by phone with Harrison, who discussed his debut album, empowering his fans and what’s next. You can stay up to date with Yungblud and all upcoming tour dates on his website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can stream his music on Spotify and SoundCloud. You can purchase his music on Apple Music and Amazon Music and can purchase merch from his website shop. Check out his video for “Medication” below!
Your debut album 21st Century Liability was released on July 6th. What can you tell me about the writing and recording process for the album and do you have a favorite track?
To be honest, it was an accumulation of all the anger and emotion that had built up throughout my life. I want this album to be an outlet for people who don’t feel like they can be heard or can’t say what they think. That was a really big part of the writing process for me. All my life, I felt misunderstood. I’ve always had a lot of energy. I have ADHD and people misunderstood that, especially people in power. I think opinionated people don’t like to be confronted, especially by one younger then them. So that was a big part of the writing and recording process, like it was literally just little ole me running around and jumping about, shouting at my producer about wanting to combine genres. Do I have a favorite track? It kind-of changes all of the time honestly. I feel like a bloody kid! Right now I’m loving “Doctor Doctor” and “Kill Somebody”.
You come from a musical and creative family. I read that you moved to London when you were 16 to move along your musical vision and jump start your career and that one of the things you love about London is how fast everything moves. You released an EP earlier this year and now, a few months later have released your debut full-length album. Do you find that you always have ideas for songs and are always writing?
Yeah. I think, to be honest, what I don’t want to do…I don’t want to drop an album in 6 months. At the end of the day, I think the way now is to drop music. A lot of people think it’s quite early for me to drop my first record, but I don’t care. I don’t want to conform to the rules of what’s been done before. I’m not interested. There’s a pocket of people that I fucking love, like my fan base right now. They’re like my family. They’re all close because the most powerful thing for me is how much reach the fan base has, how many Dms I get each day on Instagram, how many kids I meet and how many people there are in every country in the world are screaming my lyrics. It’s really crazy! I want to provide them with an album that would allow people to discover me and be like “Who is Yungblud?”, “This is Yungblud”. Yungblud has just been born and this is just beginning. To me the album is not an end result. To me an album is a start, is a beginning. For me, I just want people to discover it and hear it and relate to it, you know? I think at the end of the day, there’s so much focus on numbers and an album’s week one sales and how many times platinum it goes. That’s not music. Music is supposed to be about feeling but it’s all become very calculated and a game and I hate that. This album is for the young people, or for any people who feel like they can’t be heard or can’t say what they think. It’s for those people and to create solidarity, you know what I mean?
How does it feel to be connecting so well with your fans and having them thank you for being their voice for things can’t say or don’t have an outlet with which to say them?
It’s the best thing in the world! I can’t believe it.
I saw where some of your fans made a video for you as a thank you! What was your reaction to the video when you first saw it?
To be honest, my stomach just went into overdrive and my heart was beating really fast because that’s real man. Do you know what I mean? At the end of the day I just want to be real and connect with people and provide them with answers. I want people to feel empowered. And they did that back. I finally feel like I’m having a conversation with someone. At the end of the day you can see so many faceless tickets and you can sell out 4,000 capacity venues off of one hit record but you’ll never have that connection if you don’t work for it and if you don’t connect with people and write music about shit. That’s what’s amazing to me. There are thousands and thousands of people around the world but I still wanna remain that connected to my fans. Look at artists like Lady Gaga who are connected to their fans even in arenas and stadiums.
Has your rapid success been overwhelming at all or have you been able to adapt pretty well? At 19 years old, how do you keep everything in perspective and stay grounded and true to yourself?
I think, to be honest, I’m on such a clear path in that I know exactly what I want to achieve and exactly what I want to do and I don’t want anything to get in the way of that. I’ve got such a good team around me and keep my blinkers on. It’s amazing and unbelievable! I can’t believe the rapid success, but I’m just getting started. If I’m empowering 10,000 people then I’ll want to empower 20,000 and once I empower 20,000, I’ll want to empower 100,000 and then 200,000…that’s just the way I am. I don’t know why. I just love meeting everyone and don’t want this to stop. I just want this to keep going.
I read that when you first moved to London, you had a lot of record producers trying to mold you into a certain kind of artist that you didn’t want to be. What was the “breaking point”, so to speak, for you when you decided to be the kind of artist you wanted to be rather then what others wanted you to be?
They were trying to have me be like Shawn Mendes, or artists like him, and there’s nothing wrong with that but it just wasn’t me. I was just writing about nothing, you know what I mean? I couldn’t write about “oh, I love you so much baby I’m going to shit myself”. I needed to write what was true to me and I met my manager named Declan Morrel who was like “What do you listen to”? He’s a very similar soul to me I told him about my influences and he asked “Well, why are you writing this shit then?” and he was right.
You’ve mentioned that we are living in a really confusing world with so much going on politically and how baffling it is that no one in pop music is really talking about the issues we’re facing as a society. Why do you think no one is really talking about these things?
Everyone’s so afraid. Everyone’s so afraid to be straight up on these issues. That’s a fact. Everyone’s so scared to speak up because they’re afraid of the repercussions. Everybody wants to be so squeaky clean because it’s easier. They can dilute themselves because if you have a catchy song it will be a hit. To me it’s not just about having a hit…it’s not just about that. I look up to artists like The Rolling Stones, U2, David Bowie, The Beatles, Eminem and Lady Gaga, artists who genuinely made a change in society and in people’s lives. I’m not just interested in radio hits. I don’t care about record sales, I just want to play stadiums. For me, I’m just saying what I think at the end of the day. Everyone’s like “Oh, are people going to relate to you when you talk about politics?” Yes they are, because young people right now are intelligent. They’re not just brats rebelling at the system. That’s just a naïve way of thinking. They’re such an intelligent generation and so empowering. If you look at March For Our Lives, young people are underestimated. No one would think that young people could create a march that would unite millions of people and not just in the US but across the world. You saw the power of young people that day. There’s a change coming and I wanna be a part of it and talk about politics because that is what’s going through a lot of people’s heads and isn’t that what music’s supposed to do…talk about what’s going on right now?
When did you first become socially aware and start paying attention to all of the issues that people are facing in the world?
I think when I moved down to London it kicked in. I took off the rose tinted glasses and saw the world from my own perspective. You have to pay rent and taxes and start doing laundry and watch the news and having conversations with adults. I was 16 when I really started learning about the world.
What do you think is the most pressing issue that the youth of your generation is facing right now?
There’s so many! Obviously gun laws right now. That needs to change for the fate of humanity. There’s a song on my record called “Machine Gun (F**k the NRA)” that I wrote because people get uncomfortable about guns and I’m like “Yeah, get uncomfortable”. On paper, it would be easier for me to get my hands on an assault rifle than a beer in America and I don’t understand that. I think that’s crazy. I think there’s a massive drug epidemic right now with prescription drugs and when people reach out with mental health issues, they’re prescribed medication instead of actually getting to the root of the problem. There’s so many issues. Mental health is finally being taken seriously. There’s people out there learning about it. We’re growing up in a society where people don’t learn not to be homophobic or to treat mental health seriously. That’s why I’m writing music to reach those people who haven’t learned and to make them think, as well, you know?
You’re very tied into the world around you and are looking at it through open eyes. How do you keep yourself from becoming jaded by all of the negative things happening in the world?
By writing pop songs! I’m such a happy person with lots of energy and at the end of the day everyone at my shows are jumping around and having a good time but we’re all there for one cause. There’s a big sense of solidarity. I don’t want people to leave my shows exhausted. I want people to leave my shows and be like “Oh I should grab some food” or “That was the craziest thing of my life”. The Clash did that for me with “London Calling”. That was such a political song but I just wanted to jump about.
You are currently on the final cross-country Vans Warped Tour. How has that experience been and what have some highlights been for you?
It’s been crazy! The highlight was last night (in Nashville), like the singer from Simple Plan came up to me and said “I love your album. Do you want to jump on stage with us?”and I did and it was just crazy. It was mental. Warped Tour is just amazing. It’s such a community and is keeping punk music alive.
You have several festivals scheduled this year. Are there any that you are especially excited about and what else do you have coming up?
Yeah, I’m really excited about Lollapalooza! I can’t wait for Lollapalooza. I can’t wait for ACL and for Reading and Leeds. I can’t wait to go to Australia and play Splendor In The Grass. There’s just so much coming up that I’m probably on tour for the next two years. I can’t wait!
That’s a lot of touring but it sounds like it will be fun!
I just want to work. I’ve just have this vision in my head and just wanna go!
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk!
Thank you so much for chatting! I really enjoyed that.