Rising star Thomas Headon speaks songwriting, Harry Styles, and making music to get girls

“I want to be huge, baby!” - HUNGER sits down with Thomas Headon to discuss TikTok, his shotgun wedding that never happened, and writing from a place of endless honesty…

As Thomas Headon jumps on a call in the early hours of the morning, with tired eyes and roll-out-of-bed posture on camera, it seems like the most natural start to our conversation is to address the elephant in the room. 

The elephant being a cardboard cutout of Harry Styles propped up on his wall behind him. 

At first, it feels a bit weird. A young, One Direction era Styles is staring right into the camera from the back of the room. Even more strange, Thomas answers the first introductory “how are you’s” as if he doesn’t know the boy band member-cum-rock/pop icon is standing in the shot, like some B movie horror made by 1D stans. 

“Every time he wasn’t in the background of livestreams, fans would be like, ‘what the fuck, where’s Harry?’. I used to take him down because he gets in the way,” Thomas tells me. 

Soon, it becomes relatively clear why Styles is so present in Thomas’ life. They have the same twang in their voice, despite the fact that the 21-year-old, indie pop/rock artist was born and raised in Australia and still carries the soft accent. He ruminates upon questions in a similar way to Styles as well, looking off camera and pulling his shoulders closer together, replying with a brief “oh, I don’t know” before answering questions. He’s in no way trying to be the artist, but you can see who his idols are.

As is the case with a lot of young artists nowadays whose fanbases seem to no longer coincide with music releases, Thomas puts a lot of his success down to TikTok. Moving from Australia to the UK before the pandemic, he says that he arrived in London with no more than around thirty people who might have listened to his music. He was given a year by his mum to get a job. If he didn’t, he’d be on the first flight back home. 

Without TikTok, Thomas may be soaking up the sun back in Melbourne. Instead, his dream has quickly become his career. And London is still his home. 

‘How Do I Know’ is the latest instalment to the artist’s discography – an upbeat, indie look into a past dating experience. It explores the initial excitement of a first date, and the questions around whether what you experience is infatuation, if your vision is blurred by drinking , or if you’re simply “in love with the moment.” 

But if you didn’t think Thomas Headon was a star in the making already, then his inspiration for the song will confirm what the rest of us know. He proposed on the first date, just to get a free bottle of champagne, and then had to fend off waves of onlookers, all wanting to congratulate the happy couple. That’s rock ‘n roll in 2022. 

HUNGER sat down with the musician to dive deep into his inspirations, how he always writes from a place of honesty, and what his red flags are…

Why did you want to get into music? Beyond being able to play and sing…

I think I started doing it to get girls. Yeah, I definitely did. I don’t think it worked incredibly well. I was also just a massive attention seeker. I’m kind of a walking red flag. I wanted to be an actor at one point, really bad, like musical theatre. And then I couldn’t dance, so I stuck to music. Here I am, it’s my job. I kind of fell into it… in a good way. 

It properly became real when I moved to the UK, but I was putting covers on youtube when I lived in Australia. I moved over with a tiny following like 30 people that would’ve bought my merch. I got here and TikTok was just becoming the most popular app, and then I went that trajectory with it. And that’s when it really kicked off. Which was like [in] May 2019. 

Why is now the right time for an artist like yourself?

I started doing this at a time when it became increasingly popular to do a lot of things by yourself. I think you see so many artists and bands come out of lockdown… There was this real genuine industry shift when lockdown hit. There was no chance you could make it by a band or artist anymore just by playing as many gigs as possible. I think I came out of that. 

What are your greatest ambitions as an artist? 

My sister took me to a lot of gigs when I was 12. They were in 100 capacity rooms, and then years later they were playing in arenas, which was sick. So it’s a bit cliché, I don’t think I have one, but I wanna play fucking arenas. It’s not like I’m going to be unhappy until I do. I want to be huge, baby. 

What’s your barometer for success as an artist, then? 

Chart success, nominations, blah blah blah, all that doesn’t really matter to me. I think if you can play venues of a size that you’re really happy with and can make music you want — that’s all you really need. If I could do that and never make the charts once, then fuck yeah, that would be my ideal scenario. 

What was your inspiration for your latest single How Do I Know? 

I wrote it after I went on a first date. You know when you meet someone and you’re like, they’re fucking great. I was infatuated with this girl. It was really fun – I proposed to her on that first date, just to get a free bottle of champagne. It was a questioning thing afterwards: is she really that amazing? Or has the first date been really fun?

Where were you when you proposed? 

It was a bar. I was in Australia, in Melbourne. It was with an old friend from high school. I went back to Australia for a little bit and she asked if I wanted to catch up. I proposed. It wasn’t worth it though because the amount  of people that come up to you after you’ve proposed is fucking ridiculous. Just the amount of lying we had to do. One person came up afterwards and said I design wedding videos, and we were like ah shit this isn’t good.

What direction would you like your music to go in?

I think for the first time since I’ve been making music I’m really happy with where I’m at right now. And I can see myself going forward, making the kind of music that I’m making now. I think, lyrically, as long as it’s still a documentation of my life and what I’m going through, then sick. I never really realised until my roommate said the other day: no matter where your career goes, when you look back on it when you’re 35, I can see what I felt when I wrote these things. Which I think is pretty sick.

Funniest memory of your career so far? Apart from the shotgun wedding that never happened.  

I played a show in Sydney. Five people snuck backstage and were just like, “hi!” It really threw me. It was like the third show I’ve ever done. Other than that, I’ve fallen over a bunch of times on stage. That’s just embarrassing really. 

Who is the greatest artist of all time? 

I listen to two kinds of music. I definitely don’t like all kinds of music. I listen to either indie rock or Drake and Justin Bieber. There’s no in between, which is mental and makes me insane. At the moment, I rediscovered that song GREECE by DJ Khaled. That’s a terrible answer, but let’s go with it. 

Do you find it easier to write from a place of happiness or sadness? 

Definitely happiness. I find it weird to write sad songs. With happiness, it’s really fun and I can put loud drums on it and everyone can have fun. I don’t hate writing sad songs, I just don’t find it as enjoyable. Every time I write a sad song, I’m usually sad when I’m writing it. 

Do you listen to happy music most of the time, then? 

Totally. I’m quite good mental health-wise anyway, but I think music really is therapy. I’m happy that I can stay that way. A lot of the rock and pop stuff I listen to is radio and festival bangers, rather than the slow stuff…  

Writing about intimacy and love, do you often feel the need to retain some emotion and memories for yourself?

I’m quite honest with it, I think, which is sometimes a bad thing. I’ve tried to keep details out of songs sometimes, but I feel like it just makes a song worse. There’s something really nice in knowing that songs are 90% true. Anytime I’ve written a song that isn’t based on true things, I just feel shit about it. It’s just a subconscious thing. My managers will say it’s a good song, and I’m a bit weird about it. 

Are you like that with everything you create? You don’t think it’s good enough? 

Definitely. A lot of the time. There’s a lot of self doubt in it. But that’s just being creative. I’m sure it’s the same with writing. Everything like that. 

Is writing therapeutic for you, or is it often quite difficult to approach certain topics or memories?

I think it’s massively therapeutic. When it is difficult, it’s not ready or good enough to be written about. I think my best songs come out in like 20 minutes. If I’m really angry about something, the best thing for me to do is pick up a guitar because I get it out of my system. And then I feel fine. 

If you knew tomorrow was your last day on earth, what would you do?

Ah, so drunk. I’d probably go lay in a park. Oh, it’s cold, I wouldn’t do that. Probably eat a lot of food. I’d definitely go have a few in the pub. That’s a good media trained answer… 

How do you want to be seen as an artist? 

Cool, I think. That’s a lame answer. At the moment, I would love for everyone in the world to listen to my music. But at the same time, I completely get that some people aren’t my audience. In that sense, it relates; if you like one song, you’re probably going to like the rest of them. I think that’s how it works with my catalogue. Just cool is my way of describing it. Youthful… fresh…

‘How Do I Know’ is available to stream now. And check out this week’s HUNGER playlist, curated by Thomas Headon below…

  • Writer Ry Gavin
  • Photography Jordan Curtis Hughes
  • Styling Amanda Holden-Brown

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