Harry Hudson Cries With His Friends—and Thinks You Should TooThe musician opens up about surviving cancer and finding his purpose.
Ever since musician Harry Hudson was a kid, music was everything to him. But it wasn’t until he was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 20 years old that he realized it was his passion, he tells Wondermind. Hudson, now 30, has been through a lot since that diagnosis—from cancer treatment to losing his father in 2018. And those experiences, among others, pushed him to chase after his dreams of being a singer, choosing happiness everyday, and connecting with others.
These days, Hudson is remixing some of his songs into meditation tracks that can help listeners practice mindfulness. He’s also the founder of Hey I’m Here For You Charity and is setting up a home base in Nashville, where he established a teen center in a hospital to help kids stay inspired and hopeful during their medical treatments.
Oh, and, despite starting training alarmingly late in the year, he’s a future New York City Marathon runner, thanks to a partnership with New Balance. “It's giving me a whole new perspective of doing something you hate and then, once you can get good at it, you start liking it,” he says. “That's how my brain works. It gives you something to look forward to.”
Continuing his mission of helping others feel less alone, here, Hudson talks about finding his purpose, the role meditation plays in his life, and getting vulnerable with his friends.
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WM: How are you doing lately?
Harry Hudson: Honestly, amazing. Ask me that a couple months ago, I would say awful. But it's been really, really good [this] last month in the sense of just working through it. Life's a beautiful rollercoaster, and you don't know when it's going to drop, but you don't know when it's going to go up.
And for me, I'm an empath and also a creative. So when I feel, I like to feel the most I can get out of it. So if I’m depressed, I'm like, Let me dive into this depression for as long as possible to see what it feels like, or whatever it is.
WM: Like, listening to all the sad music.
HH: Exactly. I've been putting myself in that mode, [doing] a lot of internal work. … This is the year I finally let myself heal. It's time to take off the rug and see what's under there.
Once I realized [that], this last year [became] more about this inner work and [knowing] happiness is a choice. You wake up and you choose that … because there's a lot of things to be depressed about, but there's also just as many things to be happy about. … There's a sunrise happening. There's people at the coffee shop who actually are having conversations. There's a hike that's wanting to be walked on. There's things that you could be seeing. There's the ocean, there's nature, there's trees, there's things that were God-created. So it depends how you want to look at your day. You get to make the choice. … But also, I'm human. I have negative outlooks on life too, and it's back and forth.
WM: You released some new music this year. What would you say is the overall message you're conveying, especially with the meditation tracks?
HH: Meditation changed my life. I got diagnosed with cancer, and when I was battling chemo, meditation was a huge thing for me. I was so stressed and so anxious all the time that it was nice to put on ocean wave sounds. It was nice to put on different meditation songs that I could find and sit with it and not think, not hear lyrics, and not hear words. … A lot of artists put their feelings into their music, so I'm like, I don't want to hear that all the time.
So meditation changed my life in a way of just sitting still and not thinking about anything else except being present and breathing. … If you can escape for five minutes and get back to your life being the best version of you—to me, that's meditation.
WM: You’ve said that when you were recovering from cancer in your 20s, you were depressed and thought dying would be better than dealing with all the negativity in the world. What helped bring you out of that spot?
HH: That's an overlooked thing with cancer survivors. [Some] people who survive are depressed. You have this weird outlook on life where you're so appreciative of your life, and you have the second opportunity, but also, it's like, What are you going to do with that? … You're kind of in this weird standstill, especially as an adult going through it.
So after being sick, I was making sure anything I was drawn to, I did. Music was the one thing that, since I was a kid, I was like, This is the best way for me to represent myself. This is the best way I can express emotions, feelings, whatever. … Music changed my life, and music saved my life during cancer.
I always tell this story: My first chemo [appointment], I was standing next to this woman. I’m scared as shit. I'm sitting in this white room, and all the beeps are going off. I'm with all these different people who are dying. This woman next to me is going through treatment. She's like, “What do you love to do?” And I was like, “I love to make music.” And she's like, “Wow, I love music. Would you die for music?” I’m [thinking], I'm dying at this moment right now. I'm physically dying. That's a weird question to ask.
I didn't know where she was going with it. And then I realized, “Yeah, I would die for music. Music saved my life in so many ways growing up.” And she's like, “OK, so no matter how sick you are, no matter how tired you are, how nauseous, how bad you feel, how angry you are, always make music a part of your day.”
That saved my life right there. Then I'm like, Oh, I have something to fight for. Period. And if you have something to fight for, there's a goal to look toward. It makes you want to work harder.
WM: Are there any stigmas or misconceptions about mental health that bug you?
HH: Vulnerability in men [is a huge thing]. Me and all my homies cry and talk about everything. We're locked in. People are like, “Y'all are weirdos.” That's kind of the misfit outcast thing that we created for ourselves. We posted crying pictures on Instagram years ago, and some people were like, “Y'all are wild!”
But at the end of the day, we're just human, and if we're going to show our personality, you need to be vulnerable. … I'll be in situations where I'll open up about a lot of stuff in my childhood and abuse and things that I've been through, and you'd be surprised how many people do open up after I open up.
Whoever's reading this, you have to lead the group or your friends to be open enough to have the conversations that are awkward and uncomfortable. We're all hurting, but if we know that we're hurting, we can be there for each other.
I was in a conversation the other day with a couple of my friends, and I mentioned something. My friend was like, “Do you know this happened to me?” And then we're all like, “Wait, we didn't know that happened to you.” And he was like, “Well, you just said it, so it made me feel comfortable to say it too.” That's an awesome, beautiful thing. And then all of us got really emotional and were like, “Oh, this is what friends are for.” Again, you choose your happiness. You also choose your friends.
Everybody has their own book. I can go back to Chapter 1 and tell you all about it. Chapter 2, it's funny as hell because it's not right now. Nothing defines me … cancer being one of 'em. AlI I can do is help people going through the same stuff. I'm not like, Woe is me. Look what happened. Life could have been so different.
WM: If you could give your younger self some advice or words of encouragement, what would you say?
HH: You got this kid. Period. Life's a battle for me, and I love the battle. I love it. I need to be uncomfortable because it makes me human, and now I know I can handle anything. … You don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. You don't want to regret anything. Don't hold regrets. Don't hold grudges. Don't gossip. Don't hold weird energy toward anybody else. Just focus on yourself and focus on how you move and who you want to become.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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