Yungblud Opens Up About His Album Weird!, His 'Violent' Childhood and 'Pushing Boundaries'
Yungblud is done keeping his guard up.
The "Cotton Candy" singer, born Dominic Harrison, bares it all on his new album Weird!, which dropped on Friday. On it, he's candid and unapologetic.
From his home in London, the 23-year-old talks to PEOPLE about the performance that changed his life, his affinity for Michelle Obama, whom he describes as the "most punk rock woman" and his recent heartbreak, seemingly with Halsey.
"It's an album for the weirdest years of our lives," he tells PEOPLE about Weird!. "It's an album about gender and sexuality and drugs and love and heartbreak and depression and anxiety. And is there a way out? Yeah, there f—ing is, and it can get better no matter how dark it may get. I know that firsthand."
PEOPLE: Hey! It's so nice to chat with you. Let's get right into it — what's this new album about?
Yungblud: I've met every single kid from every single continent, of every single shape, of every single size, of every single color, every single sexuality, and heard their stories and this album is about their stories and what it meant to my life. I think the first record [21st Century Liability] was so f—ing angry and it was me being f—ing naïve and downtrodden and throwing everything I had, going, "Is there f—ing anyone out there like me? Because if there's not, I'm f—ing done with this world." And it turned out, there was a lot of people out there like me.
I wanted to create an album about life that tells the truth. Because the world, it's just so full of bulls— right now. And it's so full of conformity and it's all very formulaic. I care about the f—ing 35-year-old man who didn't want to take his own life anymore because he saw a f—ing way out. Or a young transgender girl in Maryland who was having a hard time because people didn't think she was real until she brought her parents to a Yungblud show and her parents saw the sheer passion. They accepted her as their daughter because they understood that it wasn't a phase, it was a f—ing way of life.
P: You're so candid in these songs. I love the chorus of "Love Song:" "Nobody taught me how to love myself so how can I love somebody else?"
Y: That song is so important to me because I never write love songs, man. I grew up in quite a violent home. My parents used to fight a lot and sometimes physically. And I was always loved by them, they always loved us but they used to fight each other. And I was like, "If that's love, I don't want any f—ing part of it." But then I met someone who completely changed my world inside out and upside down and made me go, "Oh my God, this is what it feels like to be loved. This is insane." And that didn't end well, and I got my f—ing heartbroken, but f—, it felt good. No one's going to prepare you for love. No one's going to prepare you for heartbreak. But I want that song to be there for people when they f—ing fall in love.
I met a community of people where I can f—ing belong. I could finally put my wall of anger down. I think I was so angry at the start because my insecurity was a front to actually not have to show my heart. I showed my rage so I didn't have to show my emotions, but this record is so emotional because it's 23 years of emotion and bottling s— up.
P: It's clear how much thought and care you've put into this record. What set this album apart from your first?
Y: The first record was made in a basement in Soho with a load of weed. This album was made all over the world. And I remember the turning point for it. I had the weirdest 18 months of my life. Nearly lost my mom in a car accident, which was crazy. We got really big, really quickly all over the world. There were paparazzi outside our house, we were f—ing selling out shows everywhere. The DMs kept growing and getting more intense every day. I fell in love, I fell head over heels and then I experienced heartbreak and it was all over the f—ing papers and all over the internet. Everyone was asking me every day why we broke up. I was touring the world. I was making money. I was loving it, but I was still depressed and didn't know why, and everything just felt weird. And weird, weird, weird.
Y: And I remember, we came to Brixton Academy, which is a legendary venue in London. And two years before I was in a two-bedroom flat with my three musicians, me, my guitar player, my drummer. We had a bed and a TV and f—ing kitchen. We’d just say, "God, if we played Brixton Academy, if we did that, we'd f—ing make it. Get us out of this f—ing s— hole." Two years later, we played it.
P: Why was that show so important to you?
Y: It was so magical to me because after every show I meet every kid. I stand outside the shows, no matter how big they get. The night before, we got the police called on us because 2,500 kids were in the street outside the venue. Brixton said, "If you do that, we're going to pull the show." And I never have tantrums, but I was just pointing at the head of Brixton Academy like, "I'm not going on f—ing stage unless I see them.” So they allowed me to keep the venue open. During the show, I said, "When these lights turn on, no one has to leave. I'm going to be in that pit in 20 minutes. Stay there." I was with my f—ing family. I was with people who refused to conform to a world that doesn't want them to exist. I'm with people that lift each other and save each over and save my life every day. And after the show we went out and got drunk, we did naughty things and I couldn't sleep. So I left my hotel room and left everyone I was with and I walked up Primrose Hill. It's a massive hill in London, and the lyric of "Weird" came out that night and this journey started.
Y: I feel like I can cry my eyes out right now talking about it because it was the first time I could show my heart in my whole life.
P: Wow. To hear you talk about your fan in that way and that it was so monumental for your experience, regardless of the music, just in your life… that's something.
Y: I love them unconditionally. It's crazy. That's the thing, there's no agenda or f—ing thing, it's just tell the f—ing truth.
P: I love your music video for "Cotton Candy," where you wear a skirt and are okay being a bit more feminine. Why is it important for you to do that?
Y: I always used to like wearing girly clothing. I'm pushing the f—ing boundaries and now I'm wearing latex out. I'm like, f— it. I look sexy as f—.
P: Love that! What inspired the confidence?
Y: I sound like a broken record, but the conversations I have with my fans every day. There's no judgment here. It's only uplifting. There needs to be no f—ing boundaries, man. People just got to live and love and be and breathe and tell the f—ing truth. And love unconditionally as many people as you can, because then you'll be loved in return. Be 100% yourself, because if you're 80% of yourself, then you're going to find people who are 80% good for you. If you're 100% yourself then you're going to find people who are 100% good for you because they know who you really are.
P: Not to change the subject but earlier this year, you were at a Black Lives Matter protest. And I wanted to ask about that. Why is it so important to you to voice those issues?
Y: I genuinely believe this generation is going to be the f—ing one to change things because we see the world we want to be a part of. Someone's success or the amount of love they get should not be determined by the color of the skin or the sexuality or the size or the shape. Everyone should be treated equally. That's what my generation wants. We don't want to be divided anymore. We want to be united and want to respect each other. Because to intimidate or to feel intimidated is awful. To see that on someone's face breaks my heart. Every one of us who has got breath in our body has a right to be loved and be accepted for who they are.
P: Agreed. You mentioned earlier that you had experienced firsthand what it's like to not want to be here anymore. You also say how being on stage has helped you feel better about your mental health. Now that we're in quarantine and we're all in our houses, how have you been able to cope with that? What have you been doing to take care of yourself?
Y: I think with me, man, if I have something to kick against, I thrive. I think that's just who I am and my personality, I'm really good at being up against something or being under pressure. Just because we can't talk to each other don't mean we can't feel each other. Just because I can't hear them don't mean I can't feel the f—ing energy.
P: To change the subject. Who are some of the people who have influenced you and your career?
P: Talk to me about Michelle Obama. That's an outlier in the group.
Y: She's the most punk rock woman since Vivienne Westwood. She speaks to my generation without judgment. She's real as f—. And she cares about every single one of us, genuinely. My generation can sniff bulls— from a mile off, and Michelle Obama has that thing where she looks you in the eye and talks to you instead of glazing over and reading a script that people have told her to read a million times. I want to meet her one day. I would love to meet her, I'm like her biggest fan.
P: And the first person you mentioned was Gaga. How has she influenced you?
Y: The same way Bowie did. I think Gaga is the closest thing to a modern generation David Bowie. Again, she taught me that if I didn't want to belong in the real world, I could build on for myself and I did. And I owe a lot to her for that, because I probably wouldn't be here if I didn't.
P: Last thing! Describe your album in a single sentence for me.
Y: This is a record about life. Embrace the strange, celebrate the abnormal, and be f—ing weird as f—.
Yungblud's album Weird! is out now.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
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