It can be difficult to stand out on the playing field of varnished pop stars, those who strum and sing on pitch and look good doing it. There are musicians like Ryan Beatty, a 25-year-old Brockhampton-affiliated singer-songwriter, or Ruel, the Aussie heartthrob, or vampy sweetheart Conan Grey, all of who have carved out their own veritable fan bases. But if you’re a guy who is not Shawn Mendes trying to break through the pop tart noise and get noticed, what do you do?
You double down. You set your inflated ambitions to music like David Hugo. The 19-year-old singer was born in northern California. He began taking piano lessons at the age of 10, and dropped out of college to pursue music full-time. Though he still lives under his parent’s roof, Hugo shares a manager with Troye Sivan, which has fast-tracked him past the YouTube covers and mall performances to a bona fide career.
His newest release, 9Teen, is a collaboration with his friend Sam (who goes by the name Slush Puppy). “Turned 19, tryna move out /But I don’t got no money or enough clout” he earnestly sings. The rest of the song paints a picture of his hunger for a Billboard chart hit before he turns 20. With less than a year to go, and with a pandemic that’s permitting any IRL fan-building activity, Hugo has an uphill battle – but he’s armed with buzzy earworms and ready for a Troye Sivan-sized cosign.
10%: Where were you born, where were you raised and where are you now based?
I was born and raised in Carmel, California and lived there until my first year of high school. I moved to Ventura, California for my sophomore year and have lived in the area since. Even though I’ve only lived here the past four years, I think of southern California as home because I got my drivers license and became a real independent person who does life stuff. [laughs]
20%: At what point did you realise you’d be able to do what you love for a living?
I guess I saw the vision beginning of 2019 when I decided I really wanted to fully pursue an artist career. But as far as actually making a living, honestly hasn’t happened yet! My parents have been super supportive the last months since I dropped out of college last winter. I’ve been able to stay at home and work on music full time. They think of it as my music industry tuition and I’m very very grateful for their support. It’s allowed me to be patient and make good decisions.
30%: What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?
Growth mindset! The whole “if you think you can, you can, and if you think you can’t, you can’t”. It can be kinda cheesy but you can really do (almost) anything if you work on it 100 per cent.
40%: What can you tell us about your most recent project?
So I met Sam (Slush Puppy) a couple weeks after dropping out of college. The first time we hung out, we wrote 9teen about wanting to achieve as much as possible before we get super old in our twenties. It’s pretty surreal putting out the song eight months after we wrote it.
We did a fun one-day video shoot on the UCLA campus for the 9teen video so, go check it out! It’s a lil personality piece.
50%: What kind of emotions and experiences influence your work?
I feel like I write a lot about relationships that didn’t, won’t, or aren’t supposed to work. This is probs because I am currently not in a relationship, and all my previous relationships have, well, not worked out! There’s also a lot of hopefulness on the upper half of that coin; looking forward to the love story that does work out!
60%: What’s a bad habit you wish you could kick?
My sleep schedule is so bad. But it doesn’t really hurt my productivity. It’s just unfortunate when I stay up too late, then get up early and have to stay up late again and I feel like my immune system is crippling and [I’m] like, “omg I’m gonna contract corona because my body is going to revolt against me.” Also I get anxious when I get sleep deprived. But also manic, so that’s fun!
70%: Break down your typical day at work.
So [a] typical day usually [starts] with the “holy trinity” session (me, producer, co-writer), we just start off hanging for the first like 30 minutes, especially if it’s with people I haven’t worked with before. Then the iconic “so what are we feeling today, what’s the vibe?” question is posed. Then you write a song! Get that concept, and them chord vibes, and tempo and stuff all locked in and run with it! Next thing you know you’re driving home at 3am with a new favourite song thinking about which of your friends are awake this late so you can share it.
80%: What can artists do to help save the world?
All change starts with people changing internally, and art is one of the most effective mediums in doing that. Music, as well any other art, can move people’s emotions powerfully and leave a lasting impact on their beliefs, whether good or bad. Adding a social influence behind an artist amplifies that entire dynamic by assisting the artist in reaching as many people as possible.
90%: What’s the most pointless fact you can share?
All facts are important [laughs]. Uh, I Googled this to try to find a good answer and couldn’t find anything cool, but most car horns honk in F major!
100%: Who would you most like to see on the cover of The Face?
Is it lame if I say me? [laughs] But perhaps Zach Fox, I’m a big fan of his work!