For Houssein, being a performer is a way of life. In fact, the 19-year-old Londoner can barely remember a time when he wasn’t performing. The beginnings of his music career started at aged nine, when, as a student at Stagecoach, he landed roles in UK-wide touring productions of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and later The Sound Of Music. Over 150 shows and two years on the road blossomed into a huge social media following and now a burgeoning music career that takes cues from the likes of Troye Sivan, Ed Sheeran and The 1975. “People always ask me, ‘When did you decide that you wanted to perform?’” he recalls. “I don’t believe I ever decided, it just happened! One thing has transitioned into another: If I hadn’t done theatre then I probably wouldn’t have got into posting music on social media; and so I may not have been given the same opportunities that I now have in the pop industry. Everything naturally succeeded after one another.” Growing up in Surrey, Houssein admits that he wasn’t the typical pupil at school – “I’m terrible at sports, I was just the kid who sang” – but unearthed a passion for music after his dad bought him a drum set when he was six and later when he joined the school choir. In pursuit of a music career, he quickly grew a massive following on various online video sharing platforms – garnering over 250 million views, and amassing a combined 100 million interactions. His debut single 5 Bucks, released in 2018, has over 200,000 views on YouTube. Keen to pursue a music career whilst he was still at school, he says a “combination of determination and good parenting” helped him accelerate his way through to complete his GCSE’s and A Levels within two years. As if that wasn’t enough, he’d also learnt the guitar and piano, inspired by his first musical loves: Queen and Green Day. “I was obsessed with watching Queen’s performances when I was younger – I loved their showmanship,” he recalls. “When I started learning guitar, Green Day songs were all I wanted to play. There’s something so cool about the way Billie-Joe Armstrong performs on stage. He’s a legend.” Nowadays it’s a mix of the world’s most successful singer-songwriters – Ed, Shawn, Troye – plus rising stars Declan McKenna and No Rome that inspire him. “The slightly-alternative-but-not-too-far-away-from-pop sound is very much my thing”. His ultimate idol? The 1975’s Matty Healy, who he says, “embodies everything I love about music and performing right now.” Since his debut release in 2018, Houssein has been nurturing his songwriting skills and evolving his sound – from the wistful, dreamy synths on Tokyo to the stadium-sized power pop of Summer Night. His latest offering, Walking Away – Co-written by Aiden Grimshaw, Ryan Keen and Dan Dare (Charli XCX, Giggs) – he says is the best indicator of what his future releases will be like, both lyrically and in sound. A blend of Ed Sheeran-meets-The 1975 stuffed with pop hooks, Houssein describes it as his favourite track so far: “It’s got a slightly more indie British sound to it than my other songs, which is the kind of style I want to make. It’s still pop, but with a bit of an edge to it.” With his music taking off – receiving over 1 million streams online in 2018, and high-profile TV performances on Nickelodeon and CBBC under his belt, what is Houssein’s next big goal? “I’m still trying to define myself as an artist, and I feel like I’m etching closer to that point now. My personal goal is to do my own headline tour and release an album. Even just imagining it is an overwhelming feeling.” “I’m really excited with where everything is at right now. People tell me the most important thing is to make good music. I completely agree, but additionally all the other details – the artwork, the visuals, the overall aesthetic – are so important to me. The overarching purpose of it all is positivity and having a good time – that’s what I’m all about.”

– Rob Copsey, Official Charts Editor