The Northern neo-rocker opens up about mental health and quarantine cabin fever, as well as his experience at Black Lives Matter protests in the US.
Since the release of his debut album, 21st Century Liability, in 2018, Yungblud’s life has been a whirlwind. In the following years, the effervescent Northerner (born Dominic Harrison) has collaborated with Machine Gun Kelly and former Blink 182 member Travis Barker, dated chart-topper Halsey, toured the world and gone platinum with single “11 Minutes”. All the while, his emotional candour and no-filter personality has racked up over two million Instagram followers.
When COVID-19 hit, the singer-songwriter’s schedule came to an abrupt halt. At the time, he was far from home in LA, which is where he has ended up spending three months of lockdown — without a decent cup of tea in sight, we presume. But, as he explains, cabin fever has bred creativity… Below, Yungblud tells us about the process behind his back-to-basics lockdown YouTube show and latest single “Weird!”, as well as his first-hand experience of LA’s Black Lives Matter protests.
Where in the world are you right now?
I’m currently stranded in Venice, California. We were going to come home when all of this happened, but we got stuck here.
How have you found isolation so far?
I miss home a lot. I miss my family. I miss cups of tea, HP sauce. Fish and chips with salt and vinegar. I think everyone feels the same right now, I think that’s why I’m trying my best to create things that bring people together. Because I feel quite alone right now, and I don’t want to feel alone. I know a lot of my fanbase feel alone right now, and I don’t want them to feel that way so I’m trying to turn my insecurity and my anxiety into something positive.
How have you found being in the US in light of recent events?
Being in America, especially in this current climate has probably been one of the most life-changing, eye-opening experiences of my entire life. When I was out at the protests, something as real as white people having to go to the front of the line because the police are less likely to tear gas, hit you or fucking shoot you with a rubber bullet if you’re white was a literal smack in the face, a sign that my generation has so much work to do. To make sure that we are speaking loudly and shouting as much as we can, to make sure that in the coming years and months that the demographic of racist, evil, naïve behaviour becomes so small it’s just a paragraph in a history book. It’s up to us. Being in America has opened my eyes to a lot and made me so much more inspired to fight for what I’ve been fighting for all along, but on a greater, more serious level.
Have you found you’ve been more creative during this period? If so, what have you been working on?
We’ve been doing this online YouTube original series where it shows me – no fucking bullshit, no makeup, no insecurities – just me in my underpants in the kitchen. Just because I want people to feel connected to me on a personal level. And then I dropped my new single called “Weird!”. Which I wrote about the weirdest time of my life imaginable (well…I thought it was until this happened) and about realising that no matter how weird things get, we’re all going to be alright in the end because I have people around me that I love and that love me back. I wanted this song to be a neat whiskey, uncensored version of how life is right now.
I read some of your thoughts that you shared on Instagram. Have you found yourself being more reflective?
Absolutely. I think to be honest that when you’re stuck between four walls, you end up seeing every monster inside your head jump out your skull and run around in front of your eyes. I think you’ve got to think a lot more. It’s a time for thinking, and without sounding too fucking hippy, Mother Earth has seen us neglecting humans and humanity and the planet. So she’s given us a big slap round the head and is telling us to give a fuck.
I read you said sometimes you don’t feel like you belong in your body. Tell me a bit about that feeling and where it comes from.
It’s such a weird, unworldly experience. It’s like I’m watching myself in a movie. I think I can get so out of touch with my head, that I don’t believe what I’m doing is real. So I’ll act in a certain way that isn’t very like me because I don’t feel like I’m inside myself. It’s such an odd way of being. It happens every couple of months but I think that’s what drives me to create so much because every time I connect with a person it pulls me closer and closer back into my body. It attaches my muscles back to my bones and makes my heart beat and pumps blood through my veins so I know that I’m feeling something.
You’ve had a pretty rapid rise over the last few years and I can imagine your life is worlds away from your upbringing. Do you feel you’ve come to terms with your new lifestyle?
Yes and no. It’s kind of cool being able to fly all over the world and do everything I love and connect with the people I love. It’s everything I ever wanted. I feel like I’m finally myself. But on the other hand, there’s a lot of pressure from multiple different angles. Like when you walk to the shop and there’s a fucking camera following you – it’s kind of odd. It’s a lot to deal with. It’s just bizarre and I’m still trying to make sense of it all.
You’ve spoken openly about your mental health in the past. Do you have fans reaching out for support and what advice do you have for people struggling, especially during this time?
I do struggle with mental health, it’s what I built everything on. I’m still learning…every day there are a lot of challenges I face that I can’t figure out. My advice to people is that it’s okay to feel anxious, it’s okay to feel unstable it’s alright to feel that way because at least you’re feeling something, and everyone is in the same boat as you. See if you can find solace or solidarity with someone who’s going through something similar to you. Always talk about what’s going on in your head.
Musically, tell us what you’re working on now.
The next album is very much on its way and it’s not about growing up but about coming of age. It’s a different thing. You can come of age at any time in your life, at 95 before the lights are about to go off. It’s like 21st Century Liability my “first” album was part of the story of this album. This album is about life. Genuinely, a no-holds-barred document about life and liberation in terms of sex, identity, drugs, love, heartbreak, anxiety, self-harm and suicide. It tells these stories about all the things we face every day, but I want it to feel like a series of Skins. I was reading Spring Awakening when I was making it, I was watching Skins and Sex Education. I was watching Euphoria. These incredible pieces of art that talk about changes in your body that can happen at any time from 4 years old to 94 to 104 if you’re lucky.
Where are you most likely to draw inspiration from for your work?
The world. Everything I’ve felt. I want everything to be real, I want to react to everything that’s come into my life. This album is about every story, from every kid and person that I’ve heard for the past two years. Good, bad, ugly, happy, sad, weird, strange. Every single feeling that I’ve felt, leading me to be the human I am right now in this moment which is different from the 19-year-old kid in the North who didn’t know what’s going on. Which is going to be different from 25-year-old Dom when he’s got his shit together a bit more. All this was about was growing a culture that I can grow up with and grow old with and I feel like we’re just taking another step in that journey.
What are three common misconceptions about you?
That I am a bratty kid who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It’s a misconception about my generation really, I think if you listen to us, you’ll understand that we are very intelligent, and our ideology is built on nothing more than love and equality and being together. I think people don’t really know what I’m talking about sometimes in terms of my musical knowledge. I pride myself on knowing my shit because I’m a product of my influences, so I always want to keep informed in music. And thirdly, that my Northern accent is a bit too fucking Northern. But I’m just Northern.
What’s the first thing you plan on doing post lockdown?
Seeing my mum for a cup of tea and then getting back on the fucking road.
25 June 2020