Just one year ago, Harry Michael was an Aussie musician slowly rising up through the ranks with the music he released under the Masked Wolf moniker. He’s had a few songs released into the world, and while many of them were slick pieces of work that showcased his masterful craft, none of them had really caught on just yet.
In 2020 though, things changed, and Masked Wolf found himself on the rise to superstardom, with 2021 seeing him considered something of a household name.
So what happened? Well, with 2020 seeing more and more eyes locked onto social media, tracks like his 2019 single “Astronaut in The Ocean” suddenly found a new audience, with platforms such as TikTok helping it go from a hidden gem in the global music library to an international chart hit.
As it stands, “Astronaut in The Ocean” has topped charts in Hungary, Greece, the Czech Republic, and Turkey, while managing to hit the top ten in Australia, Canada, Russia, the UK, and – maybe most importantly – the US.
While the US market is often seen as the most difficult for any artist to break into, it seems as though Masked Wolf is making swift inroads, with the Billboard charts seemingly unable to shake his inescapable hit, and the Aussie artist even set to make an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon this evening.
As his profile continues to rise, and as he preps the release of new music, Masked Wolf spoke to Rolling Stone about his whirlwind year and the massive success he’s seen over the last year.
Let’s take a look at the start of things here, where does your musical journey begin? How did you get to where you are today?
It started when I was 13, my parents got divorced and I moved in with my grandparents, this is where I really started to write and use lyrics/words as a therapeutic outlet for myself. From then, it was then finding American hip-hop, loving it and trying to use my lyrics and turn them into songs.
“Astronaut in The Ocean” was re-released back in January, but it was originally launched back in 2019. How far back does the song go? What were its inspirations?
There was actually no re-release, the song was just made and released in 2019, it sat there for about a year and a half not doing any massive numbers, then just after Covid a trend started to occur and things started to pick up, so really from the end of 2020 is where the song started.
What was the feeling like when you first completed the track? Did you see it as one that would one day have global appeal; enough to make you a household name down the line?
I never saw it as a global hit, I didn’t see it as a hit. I always try to write songs that I think are single-worthy, but to be a top five song in the world I never expected that, it just happened and I am very blessed that it did.
What was the initial response like? It was only about your fourth single at the time, but still your biggest song to date. Was it well-received?
I think it was just a slow take off but everyone that heard the song loved it, they told their friends about it and I would get messages from their own friends telling me how good it was, which is a great feeling.
At what point did you learn the song was starting to take off online?
I think a few months after Covid starting hitting the world, everyone was locked inside and listening to music and I believe that was a bit of a catalyst for people to find out about me quicker.
What was the feeling like when you first saw “Astronaut in The Ocean” gaining this sort of massive international traction?
I was kind of like, ‘This is possibly happening’. You keep saying to yourself, ‘OK, soon it is going to stop and drop off,’ but it just kept going and going and going and now I don’t know when it will stop. I’m just enjoying the ride.
Considering its a song that features lyrics related to self-doubt and resilience, how does it feel to have this sort of validation that you were on the right track all along?
I think that is the best part, touching on topics that are very important but also sensitive and have people resonate and really approve what I am saying is a true blessing. That feeling is priceless.
“It’s almost like I am challenging US hip-hop and creating more competition.”
The song sort of rose in popularity again early this year after your signing to Elektra for global rep. What was the reception like this time around?
It’s charted globally, and there’s a lot more eyes on it now. From what I know there was no re-release, it was just pushed to more playlists via Elektra under Warner as I signed with them in December 2020
How has life changed for you as a ‘viral artist’ now? How have you been adapting to life in the global eye? What sort of options has it opened up?
Adapting has been a bit difficult because I was always used to working 9-5 full time and now that I don’t, the mindset is very weird and I still need to get used to it. Obviously the doors I can go through now have increased a lot, plenty of collaborations I would have never been able to do in the past, so I am excited about that.
When songs such as this suddenly go viral and receive massive chart success, folks like yourself find themselves thrust into the spotlight as an example of what Australian music is currently sounding like. Is this a daunting prospect for someone like yourself?
No, for me I want to show the world what Aussie music can be like especially for the fact that I have an American hip-hop sound and structure. It’s almost like I am challenging US hip-hop and creating more competition.
“My new music is amazing, I believe in myself and what I have on the way, and I am here to shake the industry; so be ready.”
What’s the most unexpected piece of success you’ve had since the track took off? The likes of J.Lo have even shown fondness for the track – that must be a rather surreal feeling?
Yes, I mean, she is an absolute Icon, who wouldn’t be happy about that? And the fact that she chose the song and wanted to dance to it makes it more unreal. Thanks, J.Lo.
You’ve mentioned that you have new music on the way, but does this recent success give you some nervousness about living up to expectations and hype?
I don’t believe in pressure. My new music is amazing, I believe in myself and what I have on the way, and I am here to shake the industry; so be ready.