Scientific studies confirm that, of all the senses, smell offers the best recall. In “Scent Memories,” the Cut asks people about the scents they associate with different times in their lives.
Next up is folk-rock singer-songwriter and cancer survivor Harry Hudson. In the lead-up to the release of his sophomore album, Hey, I’m Here for You, Hudson created his own uplifting scent with the fragrance brand Snif, a purveyor of genderless scents that you can try before you buy. The artist’s limited-edition spritz exudes positive vibes with the help of lemongrass, lavender, basil, black currant, jasmine, and neroli. The Cut recently caught up with Hudson to talk nighttime baths, hand-sanitizer scents, and the best thing to mix into your morning matcha.
My first scent memory is: I think my own shit, from when I was a kid. That’s the grossest smell, but I remember my mom was always like, “You smell … bad,” and it was this conclusive thing in my life. In my head, I smelled good, but no, as a kid, I probably smelled like shit.
Happiness smells like: Waking up in the morning next to my girlfriend. It’s a consistent scent that has just been there now, and it’s just the best. That feeling of waking up, feeling alive, feeling good, and smelling her — it’s the best combo. It’s not a specific scent, but I’m pretty awful at identifying scents; my brain doesn’t really work like that. I’ll be like, “Oh, what’s this smell? It’s cinnamon!” And someone will be like, “No … it’s lemon.” But that smell, I know it smells amazing, and I know it can’t be replicated, which is even more amazing. But it’s body odor, I guess … right?
Love smells like: Orchids. I’m a flower guy; I’m obsessed with them. I love the smell of roses and lavender and all that. I remember one time, I was in Paris and asked my now-girlfriend, “What’s your favorite flower?” And she said she loved white flowers, so I was like, I need to find all the white flowers. I found orchids, and for some reason, I love the smell of them. It’s this unique flower I feel no one really talks about. You have to get really close to orchids to smell them, and I love how the scent just kind of lingers on my nose. We have some in the kitchen right now. I love drinking my tea and smelling the orchids.
Heartbreak or loss smells like: Sulfur. That worst rotten-egg smell. Or cheap vodka when it smells like hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol and you just wanna throw up. And layers of B.O., because I’m not gonna shower for months if I’m heartbroken or experiencing a sense of loss. I’m gonna smell awful. I’m gonna smell like a garbage can. You know, the kind where the trash guy comes and you’re embarrassed for him to pick it up so you keep hiding it? Because you don’t want that guy to smell it? That’s how I smell when I’m heartbroken.
Friendship smells like: Marijuana, chicken fingers, and French fries. I love chicken from Nando’s, specifically. It’s very delicious and has these spices on it. I don’t even know what they are, but they just smell like I’m about to have mad jokes with my friends and it’s about to be a great day.
Regret smells like: A rotten, moldy cheese that you left in the fridge too long. That’s kinda regretful. Or a bad shampoo or a bad body product, one you bought thinking it might smell good and then you put it on and you’re like, Oh my God, that doesn’t work with my skin. Why did I purchase something that makes me smell even worse? And then you’re just stuck with it. I never knew certain scents blend better with your skin and you have to find the right one. But if you wanna get deep with it, regrets are pretty dope if you think about it; it’s just a way of life and a lesson to be learned. Don’t regret life, just live it.
Success smells like: Being happy, loving life, and being ever present. It sounds kind of like the “Stop and smell the roses” cliché thing, but if you’re in the moment, you realize the universe has created so many smells for us — that’s why we have noses. So being present can smell like smelling the grass or smelling a leaf or smelling people, back when we could do that.
The worst smell is: A really shitty hand sanitizer. There’s a lot now, and 85, 90 percent smell like shit. You don’t even know what it is. You put it on your hands and you’re like, What the fuck? Is this even doing anything? Or were the creators like, “Fuck you! We’re gonna make this shit to put on your hands and make you smell like shit!” I don’t get it.
Also, I fed my dog some new food that he didn’t react well to, so he was just farting all last night, and I swear to you, it’s the most vile smell. Sometimes they get diarrhea and the bad farts, and you can’t do anything about it because it’s like your child and you’re like, Well, I guess this is preparing me for when I have my own kid and my kid smells like shit and I’ll just have to embrace it all. Now I know how my mom felt, because I’m like, Yo, this dog is cute as hell, but also, man …
My ideal vacation smells like: Ocean breeze, salt water, palm trees, coconuts, and beachy things like that but also the smell of big pine trees and redwoods, the smell of rain falling, and smelling the dew the next morning. Those are my happy places, the ocean and forest. We took a trip up to the redwoods in Mendocino County, right outside of Big Sur, and we were just submerged in nature. I’ve been so many places in the world, and there’s nothing like it. It’s very spiritual and brings you this peace and this calmness. I always ask myself, How is this eight hours from L.A.? And Why do I not come here every day of my life?
My home smells like: Love, happiness, and matcha with honey and cinnamon. We make it every morning, and it’s like this dessert tea almost. I’m drinking it right now, it’s so tasty. It’s a game changer, you have to try it. We used to tandem-bike to a tea spot every morning to get it, but I learned how to make it at home and eventually to make it even better. I found out they sell the same matcha at Ralphs and Publix and places like that, and I was like, Whoa. I never knew you could just buy the ingredients they use at restaurants at normal markets. Like, you can get your own truffle oil? And make your own truffle fries? I thought specific restaurants all had their own in-house, special-brand things. So I’ve been learning how to cook, too, and it’s been awesome. I’m changing up my vibe. I used to eat only chicken fingers and French fries; now I’m dabbling in tofu and whatnot.
The last thing I smell before I go to bed: I’m obsessed with baths, and I just got a lot of new Epsom salts and oils that I love to submerge in. So after brushing your teeth, you get this mint and then I’ll do something like eucalyptus-lemon for the bath, which is fire. I have to take a bath every night or my nights don’t go well. Being submerged in a hot tub gives me the clearest thoughts in my head. It’s where I find my peace and where I write my music. I feel like I’m in a womb. Brings me back to those times.
A scent or smell I love that others usually don’t: Gasoline is kind of nice. Certain incenses and sages that I like, people are like, “Don’t use that around me.” Also chicken fingers because I hang out with a lot of vegans.
I smell like: Snif, by Harry Hudson, which is me. I know a lot of people do scents now, and I never thought I’d be one of them. I was putting together an album package and was going to send a scent to friends and make it a small thing, not a huge deal. But I worked on it for months with the guys from Snif because I actually wanted people to smell good in the end.
During testing, everybody around me — my mom, strangers, my friends, even my great-aunt who is 99 years old — was like “Oh, this actually smells good?” And I was like, What the fuck? I’ve never been told that in my life! I bought the most expensive colognes, and no one’s ever told me I smell good. People at the coffee shop were like, “What’s that scent?” And I’m like, “It’s me!” And they’re like, “I know …” And I’m like, “No, no, I created it!” It’s not too strong. It just smells light, positive, and happy. It’ll start your day great, however you want to start it. I smell like I’m ready to run a marathon and relax at the same time.
I’m so happy with it because now people think I smell good. It’s full circle: I smelled like shit starting out in life, and now I smell good. I just want to give hope to all those kids out there because it may take years and years, but if you’re patient and you start enjoying being ever present and finding different scents, you can put them together and you can make your own scent. It’s just like creating food. You can take all these different ingredients and mix them into one.