19 year old David Hugo is an independent artist from Carmel, California. Last year, Hugo dropped out of college and started releasing music, amassing over 760,000 followers and 20M+ likes on Tik Tok. His sound is upbeat, genuine pop paired with honest and relatable lyrics and bright melodies. His new song “9teen” captures that about being a young 19 year old and being young and naive getting to enjoy life with friends.
Hugo showed an affinity towards writing music from an early age. After beginning piano lessons at the age of 10, he began composing original works. After about six-months of lessons, his teacher relocated, and due to the inability to find another who was a good fit, he continued teaching himself with the use of books and the internet. After years of keeping songs and ideas in Voice Memos, in the beginning of 2019 David started recording, producing, and releasing music under the artist name “david hugø”. ECHO had the chance to chat with Hugo about his brand new song “9teen” and much more.
How, how have you been these past few months?
Honestly. Great. I mean, I feel like a lot of the music industry side of the, or, I mean, like the creative studio, the session kind of cultures kind of getting back to normal. Like as far as in-person stuff goes like in small groups, the people that I frequently work with, we always try to limit how many in person sessions we’re doing. We don’t want to be in a different group of in person sessions every single day and have a super large exposure. But I feel like a lot of it’s starting to feel pretty normal as far as it’s just like, we kind of like, we go out and get food and wear masks obviously. But I mean, it’s starting to feel kind of back to normal a little bit, but still not quite there, but yeah.
So, let’s start off, like, kind of talk about how you got started in music kind of.
Yeah. Totally. So, I started playing piano when I was a wee boy. I was eight. I started taking lessons and stuff. And then after six months, my piano teacher she started working for Disney and moves to Florida. So, then after that, I would just kind of self-taught, YouTube videos and just books and whatnot. And for majority of life it was just kind of a hobby, just kind of composing, just messing around, making little songs and stuff. And then all throughout high school, I was super into sports and academics. And then as its kind of got around, where I was going to be applying to colleges and stuff, I was planning on doing like premed and the whole six-year medical school become an anesthesiologist. And I was just kind of thinking I’m really passionate about music. I don’t really know what the process is of being an artiste and whatnot, but I’ve been writing songs and I’m like, might as well give it a go and see what happens. Because I’d much rather be 30 and a failed musician than 30 and an unhappy doctor who can’t go back and try the other one.
You talk about switching from sports into music, how did you kind of break that stereotype of going from sports to music?
When it comes to sports, I was doing rowing, so it’s, I feel like it’s less of a jump. So, as far as sports, not like very like a jockey sports, it was like a very individualistic. I was like rowing like a single so it was, there was way less of a cool factor there. But I mean, I was always doing music as kind of like, it was my main hobby that never really kind of wavered. Because my family always jokes say I would always just try anything. I did like swim team, gymnastic. I think funny enough I never did any sort of musical theater or band. But I would always pick something up for two to six months and then just be done with it, whether it’s a school sport or something like that. But music has kind of just always been there. The one thing I haven’t necessarily given up on yet or left even rowing, I only did that for two and a half years and I was like, all right, no more, done.
So, I think it just kind of got to the point where I’m like, well, it’s still around. Maybe I really do care about this and I’m just going to go for it and see how it goes. It’s got like a, just got logic and some recording, like an interface like cheap mic and my older brother actually does some like production stuff. So, he kind of helped me walk through the basics of how to like produce and whatnot. And then after about a year of making egregious, just the worst. I don’t even know what I can refer to it as, just the collection of sounds that I made in my room and, my family let me put it on Spotify. I don’t know why I look back on it [Inaudible05:39] I hop in the car and like, I have like the songs on my phone and whenever my phone connects to the Bluetooth, it’ll just automatically start playing a random song in my library. And sometimes it’ll be a random song from a year and a half ago.
That’s just like a demo from when I was younger and just making stuff with stock logic sounds and 200 buck’s worth of recording equipment. And it’s just the worst. I’m like this was on Spotify, and I took it down, obviously, thank the Lord. But man, and then it’s such a surreal kind of development thing where you go from not knowing at all what you’re doing to working with people that are really good at their jobs and producing and stuff. And it’s like, you go from my best product of slaving away in my dorm room, on the one track that I think is really good for like months. And then I get into session now and three hours we have like a demo, which sounds like light years better than anything I could have done with any amount of time invested. That’s crazy.
Would you think about using any of those awful sounds, you thought you think you created for Tik Tok?
I mean, it’s not like laughably bad. It’s more like pitifully bad. So, it’s like, not even like bad enough to be like, to like put it on people I think like, oh, it’s like automatically a joke. It’s like almost not bad enough for people who are like, oh, is this for real? So, it’s like the perfect amount of bad where there is just no benefit to having anybody hear it. I knew it was bad when I got to the point where I didn’t think it was at all good. I would think it’s like, okay, for like a little bit and like a week later I’m like, oh no, that’s there. It’s out there. But I mean, it could be kind of funny eventually to put it on Tik Tok. I think like one time, some of the stuff is still on YouTube. So, that’s terrifying. Because I saw someone posted it on Tik Tok and tagged me with playing one of my oldest songs that I, and I was just mortified. I’m like, oh no, this better. Luckily it had 15 views and I was the only like on it and, I’m like, please don’t like, please don’t show this to anyone. But man, that, I kind of do want to eventually bring it to light more, but I feel like I have to have almost more notoriety for it to really be that funny. Because then it’ll be more like a respected, like humility thing rather than just showing how bad I used to be. I don’t know. But it’s fun. It’s fun to look back and listen to how bad it is.
I definitely think every big artist has some humiliation in their past. So, I think that makes sense. And you talked about your brother being a producer. Have you produced any songs that you’ve released recently with him?
He actually helped me produce my very first song. That is not on the internet. It’s definitely like one of the least bad ones that I put out. A lot of it was my vocal performance that was really bad. And how it wasn’t really like processed well at all. I think like for a lot of my songs, myself, similar to a lot of the public saw Auto-Tune as a bad thing. And you see all these comments on my post like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s way too much Auto-Tune. You can’t sing’ I’m like, you know, I don’t even want to use Auto-Tune. And I was like, now looking back, I’m like, man, I love Auto-Tune like if I ever win an award now, I’m like, this goes out to Auto-Tune and Melodyne. Thank you so much. But yeah, I mean, I haven’t worked with him at all recently. He’s does a lot of IT stuff for a college up in Northern California. He’s a super, super smart dude, but he hasn’t been… Father of two, but yeah, we haven’t really worked on music stuff in the last probably a year and a half now, but yeah.
How would you, so describe using Auto-Tune. Is there like a point where you had to make sure that you don’t use too much? Because I did listen to your new song 9teen and also ‘Sleep and Friends’ You have like a great voice. So, do you have to make sure you don’t use too much Auto-Tune where it’s not overkills?
Yeah, I feel like so both of the songs are produced by Grant Sayler. Who’s kind of like executive producing my project and he’s a great friend of mine now we’ve been working together for like the last 10 months and done like 20 plus songs together. I think like in the beginning it was like, I had like, he’d be like, yo like turn on the Auto-Tune. But now we’re kind of like on the same wavelength, I guess, where like we both know we want it to sound more natural and organic. I think 9teen is interesting because like even now I listen back and there is like, I feel like it’s maybe not even the Auto-Tune. There’s a whole lot of like saturation on it and it’s like a stack. So, it sounds pretty tuned and process. I feel like I’m in like a funny position right now, because we have kind of honed in what we want the sound to be, but we haven’t really released anything in the vein of like, because I’m putting out a single in two and a half weeks or it’s Monday, so, and like basically three weeks. And then one after that in four weeks and then EP and it’s different, it’s just more organic, and kind of like jazzy, I guess. But it’s like a question mark, like, is it going to be well received? Because it is like a little different, I don’t necessarily put out anything like that in the same vein. Oh yeah. But as far as Auto-Tune back, certainly background I try to like make things to sound as natural as possible, but I don’t necessarily think it’s a problem as long as it doesn’t, for me, it’s mainly like if you hear the effects of Auto-Tune, I should just redo it better, because it’ll only really pitch correct. And it only really sounds bad if it’s a bad vocal take. So, yeah.
So, what was the inspiration behind it? What about being 19 made you want to like write a song about your life as a 19-year-old?
Yeah. So, I think like, as we wrote it actually in last December, just before new year’s. Wrote it with Sam or Slush Puppy is artiste name is. I also wrote ‘Sleep and Friends’ with him after 9teen, but so it was the first thing that we met and we were hanging out at my house, just kicking it. And like, in my notes, I just like had like 9teen, because I wanted to make a song called 9teen. And honestly it started almost like as like in an homage to Khalid’s song 8teen. Because I would just like listen to American teen album, like over and over again. And like 8teen is one of my favorite songs and I thought it was really cool just to have, like, I like the way he spelled it out instead of having like, just the number and then the teen, I thought that was really dope. And I was like, well we were dealing with like a bunch of different distributor options or stuff like that. Like different deals and stuff that kind of were promising the world. But only if you give us 50% of all your masters from, I’m like, ah, nah, yikes.
And it was kind of like, there’s so much urgency. It seemed like it was kind of like playing to my youth of like, I really want to have something go big before I’m 20, just for the sake of being a teenager and let the egotistical kind of boost that gives. But I guess the song itself is kind of just like, oh shoot, so, I’m 19, that means I have one more year left and then I’m 20 and that’s when I’m like a real adult, adult. Then I’m not even a teenager. And I really wanted to just, I feel like it’s you see so many young artists like Rule or like Billie Eilish and, they’re absolutely killing it and they’re super young and you’re like, wow, that’s crazy. That’s super cool. Like I want to do that. But then it’s like, oh no, but I’m not even going to be like young next year. So, I like one more year to do that. So, it’s like I’m in a rush because I’m 19 and that’s mainly it.
It’s kind of just like, I mean, I had just recently dropped out of college like two weeks before. Leave of absence so, I could return, but I don’t plan on it. And then Sam who I wrote it with, he was 18 at the time. And then we were going to probably put it out like moderately soon and then we didn’t, we didn’t do that. Well, it came out like two weeks ago. So, obviously it was like eight months after we wrote it. And funny enough, I think Sam’s birthday’s in May. And, it was kind of just like sitting around up until then. And I was like, “oh shoot Sam you’re 19. You want to put a verse on 9teen?” And he was like, “Dude, let’s do it on a zoom call,” and we did it.
Do you have a favorite line from 9teen that connects with you in life the most you would say?
I feel like in the pre-chorus, I think that was probably my favorite lyric is like, “We stay up too late, but we don’t go out” Which is just kind of like, I’m not a very social person, but I have a really bad sleeping schedule as almost anybody else in the entertainment industry, which isn’t like that like crazy unique, but it’s like, I think that’s kind of like almost the producer songwriting crew, it’s like you’re not like a big partier. It’s like, yeah. You’ll kind of have it like same kind of like, you’re up super late when you’re working on stuff. Like with friends you’re just hanging out inside or like you’re playing like Mario party or something on switch, whatever it might be. But like it’s like, I like friends about being like, not now at parties because that’d be bad, but like during regular lifetime, like they be of like, I feel like a friend, like call me 3:00 AM was like at like a party I’m like, “Oh, I’m in a session” Like just like the, what’s the word? Well, the difference between the two situations, it’s like, I’m not a huge partier at all, but yeah, I’ve managed to say the same thing over and over again, but yes “We stay up too late, but we don’t go out” Yeah. That’s, that’s probably my favorite line from the song. The rest of the song is pretty much just like very like historical count. It’s like I turned 19 and I dropped out. It’s like, that’s true. I did that.
Why did you drop out of college? Like I know for music, but like what kind of made you want to like kick start your music career by dropping out of college?
Yeah. So, I was going to school at San Diego State, the Harvard of the West. And, not really. I was starting to do like more sessions and stuff. And as a freshman you can’t have a car on campus. So, for me to go to sessions, I’d take up the train to LA and then Uber to a session. And it was a very inconvenient process. And doing that multiple times a week. And then as things progressed, it was like, I would stay at my cousin’s boyfriend’s house in LA for three nights. And it was like, man, this is rough. Normally I just feel bad. And it’s like Ubering everywhere. Just way too much money on Uber. It was gross. But it came like more of a focus thing. Also, I wasn’t really paying attention in school or like even like going to my classes, I think I didn’t take any of my, no, I did. I took one of my in-person finals. But besides that, like I had already like committed to like dropping out. We had a family event thing the day of one of my finals and I’m like, I didn’t even take it. I don’t even care. I’m not going to go back.
So, it really became like a, just like a time thing, a time in I guess effort. Because at that point I wasn’t really caring about school whatsoever and music. Like, it was like, I did my first real session, session in like November of last year. So, it’s like, I’m super new to the session world of like, oh, so you have, co-writer, producer and you go in and you’re like, oh, so what are you feeling today? And then you make a song. But yeah, I was doing more of those. I’m like, wait a second. So, you mean, I can make way better songs in way shorter of a time and not just try to make everything on my own in my dorm room? And it be like way better? And I was like, okay, that works. Because up until that point, I was like, I just need to like save up and get better equipment. And then I’ll be making better music. And I’m just like, no, you need someone who’s actually good at producing. Because you’re going to have the best sounds, but he don’t know how to like actually use them like myself. I don’t know. It’s not going to be that good. So, now I’m like, I’m not going to produce anything. I produce demos to be fair. I produce demos. They’re not very good, but I do them.
Yeah. It makes me think how Charlie Puth does all of his stuff all by himself, because producing and songwriting, writing and creating music is like, it’s a lot. Do you have any like musical inspirations that you would like love to collab with in the future?
Funny, you mentioned Charlie Puth, huge, huge fan of Charlie Puth. Definitely Charlie, Alec Benjamin. I probably listened through like before ‘These Two Windows’ came out. I haven’t like listened to that a ton actually, but like I’ve probably listened to like ‘Narrated for You’ at least like 50 plus times. Super big fan of Alec Benjamin, Of course. He’s great. He’s super dope. I’d love the get in the room with the boy. Also, Chelsea Cutler. She’s very… Maisie Peters, she’s so cool. I’ve never interacted with her, but I feel like I should try DMing her. I still haven’t but I’m such a big fan. She’s super, super dope. But like her songwriting and just her tone and everything. British singers so dope.
I saw her live once, super talented. I hate it. I just like, can I have some of that talent at least, I’m like, God. I heard her song about the ‘Places we were made’ I love that song. And now if you could like set up and per se in a setting for them to listen to your music, what setting would that be?
Wait, wait. Oh yeah. If I had set up a fan, like where they should listen to my music?
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
This is not an answer, but I think we always joke about how we’re kind of making like H and M music. It’s like going up the escalator, a fan listening to music. I feel like perhaps like an aesthetic walk. I feel like it’s like, I think walking music, like you should take a stroll to it. I don’t know where maybe like a garden of sorts. Maybe those like Japanese gardens, those are super dope. Perhaps a stroll through one of those, like really get the rhythm in your step. Then feel free to take a rest. Maybe you don’t want to keep walking the entire time, just like in bask in the ambience. Or maybe even just like really dive into escapism and have like walk through Chucky Cheese, but with full noise canceling headphones, a really, really busy one. Why is this not like…? I have a little bit of phlegm. It’s not exiting my throat. Oh, done. Anyway, but yeah, I would say like a Japanese garden and Chucky Cheese, maybe.
What’s one quote you’ve heard in life that it would want to echo out to fans.
One of my favorite things is just like, be Henry Ford ‘Whether you think you can or you can’t you’re right’ just like, kind of like the whole. It can be so cheesy sometimes, but then it’s like believing in yourself can be like all the necessary motivation you need. Because if you have the mindset that like, you’re going to be able to do something you’re so much more likely to be able to actually accomplish it, than if you don’t believe in yourself, because ultimately you have to be the person that believes in yourself the most. Because like other people aren’t going to do that for you. I mean, they might, but you can’t really count on that so, that.
Take a listen to his brand new song “9teen” now.