RIYL: Parson James, DNCE, Charlie Puth, Nick Jonas, POWERS
The entertainment business is a brutal landscape with the capacity to draw in a victim — the younger, the better — and claim them as its own, molding them into something formulaic and unhappy. Los Angeles native Hudson Thames knows all too well the influence that this industry has on its young prey. Beginning his run in the spotlight with some small-screen acting roles at a young age, he witnessed the appeal that draws youthful talent into the limelight.
Currently signed to Republic Records, he knows there are certain expectations that come with being part of an internationally successful roster of artists. In an effort to create accessibility, an artist of lesser conviction might squander their authenticity. Thames is not one of those artists. In fact, with the understanding that his competition is more fierce now than ever before, he remains rooted to the musicality that allows him to stand out as a talent that deserves to be heard.
Drawing inspiration from his multi-talented father, Byron Thames, he has proven himself a true lover of the blues tradition. Blending that musical background with his youthful songwriting and pop-sensible production, he creates a sound that radiates young love. Complementing the music are his boyish charm and a certain humility that speaks volumes about his artistic maturity. He is well aware that the success he has enjoyed thus far is the result of how much hard work he has put into it.
When we spoke to the 23-year old singer/songwriter about the current state of his career, there was a genuine excitement in his voice that could only mean one thing — he is still having fun. With a national tour and some freshly-released singles under his belt, Thames is on the move, and the pressure to keep up the momentum leaves little room for failure. It’s an exciting journey for Thames, and one that he has been enjoying every second of the way. Check out the conversation below!
Listen: “LA Models” – Hudson Thames
A Conversation with Hudson Thames
Atwood Magazine: Hey man, where are you calling from?
Hudson Thames: I’m in Los Angeles. Where are you at?
Cool, well I’m back at school in New Orleans. I saw you here at the House of Blues opening for The Summer Set and back home at your Hounds show last summer in Los Angeles. And then I saw you again at Sweetfest this summer in Silverlake at that new poke place.
Hudson Thames: Oh, no way!
Yeah, those sets were really funky and bluesy. So now that you have some new music coming out that’s a little more in the mainstream lane, can you tell me a little bit about your what your live sound is going to be like?
Hudson Thames: To be honest, I grew up playing a lot of blues and soul. My dad actually lived in New Orleans for a while before moving to Mississippi, so I just grew up playing a ton of that — soul, gospel, that kind of stuff. And then my first song ended up coming out with Hailee Steinfeld. I had to make sure that there was some length of time between that poppy stuff and the bluesy stuff. So with this latest single, “LA Models,” I was able to finally incorporate that old-school soul into the production and bring the live show to what I’m releasing visually because I started out playing live, you know?
Yeah, and your live rendition of “LA Models” had the horns and everything — it was definitely way more in that lane of what you were talking about. I remember you saying it was your first time playing that live in front of a crowd, so it was really cool to see that.
Hudson Thames: Yeah, it was! And I’m stoked too because all of the stuff I’m releasing moving forward has really lined up with the live show, so you’re going to be hearing a lot more of that with the tracks I put out from here on out.
Any crazy stories from on the road with The Summer Set?
Hudson Thames: When we were in New Orleans after that House of Blues show, I woke up on Tulane’s campus in some dorm and almost missed my bus. My buddy, Connor, and I ran past kids walking to class and barely made it. And then in New York, we actually did miss our bus call, and then we slept in Central Park and took a Greyhound to Rhode Island, so we got in trouble for that one.
So the Los Angeles scene seems to play a big role in your artistry choices: your show at that trendy new poke place, your latest release, “LA Models, ”and even down to your sense of style and skateboarding vibe. Tell me a little bit about how the whole L.A. scene plays into what you’re trying to do.
Hudson Thames: I think it’s less about the L.A. scene and it’s more just my hometown and all the stuff I grew up with. I had some skate sponsorships because when you’re a kid growing up in the valley, that’s what you do for fun, you skate. So when we got to be like fifteen or sixteen years old, we’d go look for skate spots and end up sneaking into parties and bars. Me and my friends were little hoodrats for a while, and I kind of established some relationships with people where it became less like going out and more like seeing all my friends in different places that were all really familiar from mobbing around all the time.
So clearly you’ve seen a lot of success with that collaboration with Hailee Steinfeld on “How I Want Ya.” You’re at the point where you’re definitely a recognizable name to anyone who has a passion for pop culture. Do you feel like you can say yet that you've “made it?”
Hudson Thames: I don’t know, man. I don’t think I can ever necessarily say that I’ve “made it.” It’s always a process and it has to feel like a process in order to always want to be achieving more. I could say I’m “making it.”
Watch: “How I Want Ya” (lyric) – Hudson Thames
So what would you define success as in your own music career?
Hudson Thames: I think success is just being able to make every creative choice that you want to make and be your own boss, creatively. And have the money and resources to support that and not answer to anybody else when it comes to your art.
You had another collaboration out with Carneyval, who — if I remember correctly from our conversation here in New Orleans after the show — you said was your roommate?
Hudson Thames: Yeah, Carneyval! He lived in New Orleans for four years at Tulane too.
I’ve seen him here in New Orleans at the Republic. And that song “Love & Emotion” is a little bit more heavily produced. Would you say that the sound of that single is going to be a staple in the direction that your sound is progressing toward?
Hudson Thames: I don’t think so. I really like to write a lot of different styles of music, and that gave me a really good opportunity to have fun with a style of music that I don’t usually release personally. So I think I’ll probably do a lot more collabs like that with various artists, but it probably won’t be under my artist project.
Who’s your dream collaboration?
Hudson Thames: Frank Ocean, Jack White, Kendrick, John Mayer, to name a few.
So we’ve talked about your musical inspiration with the blues scene, but you’re also a major label artist. Do you ever find it difficult to create music that is true to yourself while also toeing the line to please your label?
Hudson Thames: Yes, I do find that difficult. It’s difficult because you’re trying to be accessible to a large variety of people, and they’re trying to look out for that and protect your success in that way. And I think it’s just a necessary balance.
I saw your blues version of “How I Want Ya” and your acoustic version of “LA Models.” Tell me a little bit about your songwriting process and how the songs we hear come about.
Hudson Thames: Yeah, 90% of the time I sit down with the piano, and the melody comes first and lyrics after. But I travel a lot, so I always have my phone out when I’m walking around a new city, and when something inspires me, I’ll just bang out a voice note.
Watch: “How I Want Ya” (Blues Version) – Hudson Thames
Are you pretty involved in the production aspect?
Hudson Thames: Yeah, I am. I always work with another producer and engineer because I’ve spent years songwriting, but I need to get better at the physical production aspect of it. But I’m always heavy-handed with the production side.
The Republic Records roster has a reputation with hugely successful acts. How does it feel to be held to such high expectations now that you’re a part of it?
Hudson Thames: It’s awesome. It makes me feel very validated, but it’s also a big challenge because now I’m competing with the very best in the world. It’s a healthy competition that makes me want to succeed even more, and I also have a bunch of friends on that label, so its nice being able to talk with them about it.
Has music always been your goal? I know you got your start with acting, so how long go did you decide to pursue music?
Hudson Thames: It’s funny because acting was always more of a hobby, but my parents put me in acting classes when I was eight or nine because I had way too much energy and needed to go do something. So I always had fun in improv class, but I always knew music was something that I wanted to do with my life and acting was just a fun thing until my teacher told me, “You know you can make money doing this? It’s called an audition.” But I took a break for the past year and a half with the music stuff. But I think I’m going to come back to acting in the fall because I do miss it a bit.
Is there anything you can tell us about what’s in store this fall with your music — any new releases or tours?
Hudson Thames: I can’t give away details yet, but yes, new music is coming, and we’re working on a tour.
Cool, well thank you for chatting with us!
Hudson Thames: Yeah man, it was awesome to talk to someone who is from the same area and gets it. Kill it in New Orleans, homie, it was awesome talking to you.
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