Kid Harpoon (real name Tom Hull) has told Music Week that his hitmaking career is kicking into gear as he celebrates being crowned our Songwriter Of The Year.
In a brand new interview inside the Music Week end of year special issue, out now, Hull reflects on the magnitude of the 2020 hit singles he helped shape and traces his journey from his days living in North London venue Nambucca writing songs as Kid Harpoon, to residing in LA and writing pop songs.
Hull has been nominated for Grammy and Ivor Novello awards for his work with Florence + The Machine and has also made records with a host of stars including Years & Years, Calvin Harris, Jessie Ware, Haim, Lily Allen, Mabel and more.
The songwriter and producer was at the epicentre of the small team that made Harry Styles’ platinum-selling second album Fine Line, which spawned several hit singles that defined 2020. The album has changed everything for him.
The million-selling Watermelon Sugar (1,053,395 sales, OCC) became ubiquitous in multiple countries, hitting No.1 in America. Adore You (926,390 sales), Falling (628,633), Lights Up (523,198) and Golden (209,909) also continue to fly.
“The No.1 was awesome, I’ve never had that before,” Hull said. “Especially in the current wave of music, particularly in America, the charts are so full of hip-hop. Hip-hop really feels exciting and it’s really hard to break through, so to break through with a song called Watermelon Sugar about oral sex is awesome and kind of fun.”
Hull told us he prefers working on longer projects and enjoys “digging in with an artist and discovering things”. He repeated the trick this year on Shawn Mendes’ Wonder, after the pair met for coffee and ended up working on several song ideas immediately.
I can relate to a lot of artists’ anxieties
“With two day sessions, people just chuck everyone in a room and it all makes sense on paper, but everyone’s got a level of anxiety,” Hull said. “The artist does, because they’re with someone they’ve maybe just met, then you’ve got anxiety because you’ve just met and everyone’s auditioning. You’re trying to figure it all out and on top of that you have anxiety over the one or two ideas you get time to work on, you don’t want to blow it.”
Hull said the extra time is crucial to his success. “Having that time just relieves the anxiety a little bit, everyone can hone in and be themselves,” he said. “You can experiment, you can be cynical and try something more commercial if you want, or you can go really left. It’s lots more fluid. For me, 2020 has been more conducive to that. Normally, everyone’s got a million things going on. As much as I love working like that, it doesn’t always pan out.”
As well as “bubbling” with a range of artists working on music throughout 2020, Hull has been keeping up with his close network of songwriters and producers. He told Music Week that that extra time they had in 2020 could reshape the songwriting landscape, as care and consideration overtake the conveyor belt approach to making hits.
“At the beginning of Covid, I was working on some production stuff, but I was also re-learning songs, on piano and guitar,” he said. “There’s been a lot of that going on and it’s sparking a more music-centric writing process, as opposed to listening to the radio and reacting to what’s happening right now.”
Citing Taylor Swift’s Folklore and Mendes’ Wonder, he said that our biggest stars are shifting course and reconnecting with their roots.
“More of those big pop artists are looking to explore where they came from and what got them excited about music,” he said. “I definitely saw that with Shawn and you can hear it with the Taylor record. Artists are going back to their roots and working with fewer people.”
All this chimes with Hull’s approach, he likes to forge an emotional connection with artists over an extended period.
“I can relate to a lot their anxieties, being a solo artist is really tough,” he said. “I’m trying to pull something out of someone and use all my experience as a songwriter and musician to help a vision come together. As an artist, one thing I found really hard to do, and something I admire in people that can, is having a solid vision, consistently on a daily basis. I love playing and making music and now that’s easier for me.”
Hull said Fine Line was a watershed moment and although the artists he’s been working with in 2020 must remain a secret for now, more success will surely follow.
“It’s about fulfillment to just jump into new things and get challenged,” he said. “That’s one thing I’ve taken from all I’ve done. It’s a personal journey of figuring out what you’re good at, I feel I’m at the point where I’m getting closer to that now.”
Read the full interview – including contributions from Hull’s manager Jeffrey Azoff and Universal Music Publishing Group UK boss Mike McCormack – in the new issue of Music Week. Subscribers can read it online here.
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