Unpacking child stardom with pops new teen dream.
There’s something curious about contemporary child stars. It’s as though with each new generation that comes of age, the hype and mania surrounding becomes more manically excessive. Instagram helps to fuel the fire – a constant stream of over-sharing helps our gen-z teens to feel as though they know their idols. Every Instagram story translates as a shared experience. There’s quite possibly no one that knows this better than teen-dream Harvey Cantwell aka HRVY, the CBBC alumni who has amassed 3m loyal Instagram followers, all intent on knowing his every move.
“My family and friends do find it a bit weird,” he admits when we sit down to talk in North London. We’ve just wrapped on a 6-hour shoot and I’m surprised to find that he’s just as spritely as he was when he walked on-set. “I’ve had fans just run out in the street, jump on me and fully take me out. This one girl came up to me crying and she just melted on me. She couldn’t even stand because she was happy-crying so hard.”.
The hysteria surrounding HRVY isn’t unwarranted. A self-made star, he first gained prestige for a cover of Sia’s “Titanium” which clocked up a few million Facebook views – there’s no signs of nepotism here. Born and raised in Kent – where he still lives now – his first foray into the entertainment industry was back in 2014 when he appeared as presenter on the BBC’s BAFTA-winning children’s programme, Friday Download, aged just 14. Aside from his TV appearances, he could also be found on-stage supporting Little Mix on their Salute tour – not bad for a lad who at the time was not yet old enough to buy a lottery ticket. But it’s not like he needs to rely on luck anyway. He’s now successfully navigating the transition from fawned-over child star to professional adult icon – and he’s bookmarking his coming-of-age with the release of new music that targets an all-encompassing audience.
“I brought out a song recently called “Wish You Were Here” and it’s basically about wishing that someone was with you.” HRVY explains of his recent release. “I’ve got a lot of songs that are Spotify friendly but I just wanted to go for something that was a little bit different. Capital have listed it and so have Radio 1, which is really cool for me because it’s the first time that I’ve had radio support. A lot of the older people actually like this song. I’ve had a lot of mums coming up to me telling me they like it.”
Made with production duo MoJam who have been responsible for hits by Emilie Sande, Sam Smith and Naughty Boy, “Wish You Were Here” is pop perfection – and a testament to HRVY’s musical evolution. But despite his musical prowess being on the up, he’s not yet ready to release a full body of work, admitting that he wants to wait until the time is right. “I’ve recorded so many songs, so I’m just going to keep releasing singles, for now anyway. I’ve got enough music to make an album, two almost! There’s that many songs.” He explains. “I just want to make sure it’s the right time, [that I] pick the right songs, and then just wait until we’re really ready to release an album.”
Despite the fact he’s yet to release a full album, his fans are still very much with him every step of the way. Across his social media channels, he has a combined following of 5.3million, mostly made up of adolescents who are still in school. I wonder if having so many young followers is frustrating, especially given his status as a young role model for the next generation. “Sometimes, when I’m about to post a story on Instagram and I’ve sworn on it… little things like that. Literally millions of people see that so I have to reign it in,” he says candidly. He’s only human after-all. “I don’t really swear online. I know it’s petty because everyone does it but I’m like, it’s not a good example. I might have someone who is like 8 years old following me. I know you can’t make everyone happy but I try to be as good as role model as I can.“
This level of responsibility is not something that many of us can relate to – and it’s probable that keeping up his squeaky clean persona is an everyday challenge, especially for someone so young. While most of his peers are enjoying wild nights out with their new-found legality, HRVY is keeping himself calm and composed, ensuring that his young fandom are lead by example.
Despite kicking off his career in his early-teens, HRVY is adamant that it didn’t have any big impact on his upbringing. “At school, I used to get stuff said to me all the time but I’m very chilled out and things don’t really affect me,” he explains when I grill him on the impact his premature stardom had on his school life. “ I had a really good friendship group and I was well-liked. I was friends with everyone. But when I started doing music and TV, a lot of people would say stuff and shout stuff.” When I quiz him on whether he was bullied, he says that he definitely won’t class it as that, saying that it wasn’t severe enough from him to label it as so. He does however enthusiastically ensure me that he managed to get all of his GCSE’s, despite not actually being at school very much. If there were any signs that his early exposure did have an affect on him, he’s good at hiding it. You can tell from the way he talks about touring and teaming up with producers that this has been something he’s had his heart set on since a kid. He tells me that he could be found putting on music shows at family BBQ’s in his younger years, where he’d perform tracks from his idols including Justin Timberlake and Neyo.
His infatuation with music goes pretty much unrivalled, and he’s looking forward to sharing his new material. Later this month, he will also perform at his biggest ever UK headline gig, taking to the state at London’s Hammersmith Apollo on December 16th.
With that in mind, I finish our conversation by asking HRVY what he’s hoping to achieve, given that he’s already accomplished so much. “To be known around the world for my music!” he states resolutely, and after sold-out shows in Australia, Mumbai and Manila, he’s on the right track to achieving world domination.
When your combined follower count equates to the population of a capital city, it goes without saying that you’re going to be inundated with likes comments from a flurry of fans desperate to know anything and everything about your personal life. With than in mind, Notion trawled through HRVY’s comments to seek out some of the most common questions in the hope of finally giving his fans the answers they’ve been looking for. After a good few hours of comment scrawling, these were the most common enquiries on the ‘gram.