When Thomas Headon was 18, he made a deal with his mother. In the middle of 2019, he would fulfil a longtime dream and return from his hometown of Melbourne to London, the city of his birth, to follow his ambitions of becoming a professional musician.They agreed that, if after the first year he failed to make progress, he would concede to his mum and return home to attend University.
“I’m still here, so I guess it’s going alright!” he reflects from the English capital three years later, after worldwide tours, hundreds of millions of streams and signing to a major label. In that time, Headon has emerged as a deeply charismatic and idiosyncratic songwriter that sits on the fringes of pop music, incorporating all the sugar and melody of radio hits but with a unique, off-kilter edge.
After being plunged into lockdown shortly after he arrived in London, Headon quickly set about writing and finding his voice. He learnt how to self-produce and released two EPs in that year, ‘The Greatest Hits’ and ‘The Goodbye EP’. “I moved to London in May and the first song came out in September,” he remembers. “The first song that started to pick up traction then came out in November, so I didn’t have long left before my mum’s deadline! I’ve been hanging on ever since…”
With a few original songs on SoundCloud and covers posted to YouTube, Headon had begun the rumblings of a life in music during his childhood in Melbourne, but it was his move to London that signalled the true beginning of his ambition. Since the move, he has slowly moulded his artistic voice and evolved as an artist, but kept the authentic core of his songwriting intact.
“There wasn’t really anything for me to fabricate,” he says. “I didn’t grow up listening to music that had big concepts or stories behind it. For me, it was natural to just write about girls, how I don’t have enough money, how I hate the government.” Across his three EPs, this authenticity shines through, with hit single ‘UrbanAngel1999’ appearing on Netflix’s massive series Heartstopper, a queer love story that shares a lot of the same heartfelt, emotionally open DNA as Headon’s music.
In the subsequent two years, Headon signed to Warner Records for a third EP, 2022’s ‘Victoria’, which went on to become the highest charting EP of last year. He’s also racked up over 90 million streams worldwide, nearly 20 million likes and half a million followers on TikTok, and over 100,000 Instagram followers. Last year also saw Headon tour North America with his good friend and previous collaborator Alfie Templeman, support Elton John and Sigrid and sell out London’s 2,300-capacity Kentish Town Forum in front of a rapturous crowd.
In this time, he has also developed a huge and dedicated fanbase, first virtually during the pandemic, and then at raucous sold-out shows. “One of the most fun parts of my job is having an audience of people that will interact with me,” he says of his relationship with his fans, which is more of a mutual conversation than a transaction between artist and fan – in 2021, he played a ‘Living Room Shows’ tour of intimate gigs in front of a few lucky fans, and will often hop on Instagram Live to chat with fans. “It’s kind of like having like 100,000 friends,” he adds of his online following.
To begin 2023, Headon emerged with new single ‘i loved a boy’, which presents a transformation in his songwriting process and signals the start of a new era. “I wrote this song after a friend came to me as she was going through a breakup,” the songwriter explains. “She was basically talking to me to vent, but I am so unserious and just don’t know how to give anybody advice. Later that day, I went into the studio with Taka Perry in Sydney, and it just floated out of me in a really natural way.”
Writing from other perspectives as on the new single adds another string to Headon’s bow, and is another sign of him branching out and becoming a better all-round storyteller. “I wrote it at a time when I didn’t really have a lot of my own stuff going on to write about,” he remembers. “That can be challenging, or it can be great, because then you can take stories like this one and run with them.”
‘i loved a boy’ is the first of a series of new material Headon is set to share in 2023, the fruit of extensive co-writing sessions across the world. “I’ve just been writing better music recently,” he says, enjoying the experience of opening up his creative process to allow others in, after getting his start as the sole songwriter of his music.
“I’m super lucky at the moment that, everywhere in the world that I want to go, there’s someone that I’ve really been clicking with,” he explains of his army of collaborators across the world. “There’s people everywhere!” With a 2023 largely free of the kind of relentless touring that dominated last year, Headon is assembling a worldwide team to help mould his remarkable songs and take him forwards.
Another new track from these sessions is ‘2009 Toyota’, written, as with ‘i loved a boy’, alongside Taka Perry in Australia. Above vibrant pop music sprinkled with auto-tuned vocals, he takes the cues of ‘i loved a boy’ into another song which embellishes the truth (“I’ve never actually driven a 2009 Toyota, I was 8 in 2009! But, my friend Charlie really does live in an apartment with a rooftop, so there is some truth in it.”) and pushes him forwards both musically and lyrically.
At the other end of the sonic spectrum, ‘Georgia’ originated with just Headon and an acoustic guitar, using metaphors of the US state to hint towards deeper meanings. Across the six new songs, the depth and breadth of his songwriting becomes brilliantly clear.
“I thought I’d be at Uni by this point to be honest,” he laughs, processing a whirlwind three years at the beginning of a new era that will take him to even bigger stages and towards becoming a true 21st century star. “I would love to play arenas, but also if I died tomorrow, I would be very content.”