Singer Harry Hudson opens up to PEOPLE about why this has been the "best year career-wise" but "mentally, the worst"
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Harry Hudson is making his scars visible, both figuratively and literally.

The 25-year-old folk-pop singer — who previously battled cancer — gets vulnerable in the new music video for his single “Just Slide,” which also features pal and fellow MSFTS music label artist Jaden Smith, 20. In the clip, he puts the pain from his past on full display.

“I think that’s the best thing in life, to show vulnerability,” Hudson tells PEOPLE. “I’ve come from a lot of insecurities with battling cancer and going through a lot of different emotions with getting a second opportunity at living. It’s important to show off a masculine side and also a vulnerable side because everybody is in pain and everybody hurts and everybody is uncomfortable.”

Jaden Smith and Harry Hudson

In June 2013, when Hudson was 20 years old, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and set his career aside to undergo treatment.

“I was basically just a 20-year-old kid figuring out who I was in life,” Hudson says. “If you put your biggest fear in your face, that’s what it was. Overcoming that, I was very adamant about showing my vulnerability and showing my pain. I knew in my heart that I was going to beat it because I didn’t want to give up fighting on life, [which] is so special and means something. For me, I wanted to figure out what that meaning was so I wanted to fight to stay alive. Getting cancer pretty much made me who I am, and the reality of everything really shaped me and who I want to become.”

After eight months of chemotherapy, Hudson overcame the illness in January 2014. This past January, he celebrated five years of being cancer-free.

“It has been pretty stressful, but it was the best feeling ever to get that news,” he says. “I have a clear-headed mind knowing that I can continue going on and doing positive things. I’m starting to build a teen cancer facility in Nashville that will be done in the next couple of months so that I can take all of my pain and the things that I went through to help other people going through the same thing.”

Harry Hudson
| Credit: Brooke Ashley Barone

For the music video, Hudson shot scenes in idyllic locations across Mississippi, Ontario, Utah and California while he was on his first-ever headlining Can Cowboys Cry tour last fall. Additionally, having Smith involved made it extra special.

“That’s, like, my brother in this world,” he says. “We just have a connection that I’ve never had with anybody else in my life. He has been a huge support.”

Though Hudson — who is also close with the KarJenner family and frequently appears on their social media — and Smith are as thick as thieves now, he says it wasn’t this way when they first met years ago.

“Me and Jaden are very alike in the sense that we hate [bulls—],” he says. “When we first met, we were like, ‘Let’s not talk about anything real.’ I was always joking around and he was always joking around and there was nothing serious to talk about so were like, ‘Oh, we don’t really like each other.’ One day, we were like, ‘Yo, why don’t we like each other?’ Then we realized we were so much alike in so many different ways, but we just never really had a real conversation.”

“People just want to f—ing be cool and brag to you about what they want to do or what they have or who they know or all that, but people don’t embrace the stuff that makes you happy,” he continues. “No amount of success, no amount of money, no amount of power, no amount of fame, none of that means s— if you don’t have people to push you to be great. That’s what I think we base our friendship on, those kinds of ways of being a friend and being a human.”

Jaden Smith and Harry Hudson

These days, Hudson is proud to make music with a positive message — especially after his battle with cancer and going through depression following his father’s death last February.

“It has been the best year career-wise I’ve had in my life, but mentally, it was the worst year I’ve had in my whole entire life,” he says. “It will always, forever, be the worst year I’ve had in my whole entire life. It’s taking that and realizing that life is short and my dad’s biggest thing he was always telling me was, ‘Live the life that makes you happy and always fight for happiness.'”

“I want to make my dad happy, I want to make my mom happy and I want to live a life that makes me happy,” he continues. “I can be depressed and I can let that f—ing ruin me, or I can take it and be great and do something great with it because we all lose somebody that we love. That’s just life. I’m blessed to have had a dad that loved me.”

Credit: Brooke Ashley Barone

In the year ahead, Hudson hopes to release more new music and go back out on tour.

“I’m going to be in a better headspace than I’ve ever been in,” he says. “I’m just making art for hopeful people, and I think that’s just the most important thing.”