Yungblud: A mouthpiece for the underrated youth

Arts and Entertainment

In the middle of recording his new EP, Yungblud discovered an ability he didn’t know he possessed.

“I found this place in my voice where I can just scream,” he says. “I don’t know how I do it, but it just comes from the core of me.”

You can hear it on the chorus of his new single, Original Me, as the 22-year-old purges his feelings of self-loathing: “Some days I wish I was anyone else“.

The song is “about embracing the parts you hate about yourself,” he explains.

“I have those days where I wake up and I’ve got a knot in my stomach and I look in the mirror and I hate what I see.

“But you have to remember, your biggest superpower is to be completely, unconditionally, unapologetically yourself.”

And if being unapologetically yourself is a superpower, then Yungblud is an alt-rock Iron Man: Resourceful, idealistic, borderline manic and very, very loud.

We catch up with him first thing in the morning, as his tour bus makes the 436-mile journey between Kansas City and Minneapolis, where he’s sold out the infamous First Avenue club, that was the focal point of Prince’s Purple Rain movie.

“I’m looking out the window, freaking out,” he says. “America is so big. Every state is like a different country, but it all looks the same. That’s the craziest thing.”

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It’s a long, long way from the working class town of Doncaster, where Yungblud was born Dominic Harrison in 1997.

He was surrounded by music – his grandfather played with T Rex, while his dad owns a guitar shop – but as he grew up, he realised he didn’t fit in.

“Six or seven years ago, Donny was a lot more toxically masculine, a lot more industrial, a lot more baggy, and people just didn’t understand where my head was at,” he explains.

“For example, I’d want to wear a skirt to school, or paint my nails or dye my hair. My mum would love it, but youth leaders or teachers would make me feel like I was doing something wrong.

“It made me feel really small and misunderstood and like I didn’t belong in the place where I was from.”

Disney career

He found kindred spirits on YouTube: Musicians like Lady Gaga, Marilyn Manson and the Arctic Monkeys, “who didn’t fit a mould, and built their own world”.

“I looked at myself and said, ‘I wanna do something like that,’ so I moved down to London and started playing music.”

As luck would have it, his dad’s guitar shop was based in Soho, so Dom got a job there (he had to apply like anyone else) and began taking lessons from store manager, Shane Gilliver.

“He’d just hang around, constantly playing guitar,” remembers Shane. “So I showed him a few things, gave him a few lessons and he just ran with it.

“Very quickly, he was writing songs with the little that he knew. And the more he knew, the more he wrote.”

Initially, Dominic was groomed for a career as a cookie cutter pop star. After scoring a role in the Disney TV series The Lodge, the singer spent “a year fluttering my eyelashes trying to be a b-rate Shawn Mendes” until his guitar tutor intervened.

“He looked at me and said, ‘Screw what’s going on around you, you write what you want to write, and you sing what you want to sing,'” recalls Dom.

“I just believed in him,” Shane explains. “He’s lived his life, hasn’t he? So he understands the stuff he’s writing about more than his record label or whoever.”

And so Yungblud was born.

Dom’s teen idol tresses were traded for an unruly shock of jet-black hair, smudges of eyeliner and figure-hugging dresses (he says he’s “very fluid” about his sexuality).

Reflecting his ADHD, the music became a hyperactive mash-up of emo, rock, hip-hop and ska, while his lyrics became more direct, tackling subjects like sexual assault, corporate greed, depression and anxiety.

“I just started talking about the stuff that my friends were talking about,” reasons the singer, but his honesty and vulnerability were a beacon to like-minded fans.