Henry Hall isn’t well-known to most people. But if his adoring mother has anything to say about it, that may be about to change. Especially considering that she happens to be Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Before Hall’s Mercury Lounge gig earlier this month, the comedy icon posted a photo of him with his guitar and the caption: “2 days from now my son rocks.” So what’s it like to have a comedy genius for a mom?
“My mom would come down to breakfast and slip on a banana peel every morning,” he says, only admitting the quip when pressed to verify he’s trying to make a joke. “But, no, my mom was very supportive of my music and still is and comes to all the shows. It’s great to have creative people in the family and bounce things off of. I really respect her opinion on all things creative.”
For the video for his new single, “Frenemy (Just Be Nice),” he collaborated with actor Ron Crawford – a “close family friend,” according to Hall – to combine the wacky visuals of The Royal Tenenbaums with a creepy Spring Breakers twist. In the video for the dreamy pop ballad, a “bumbling duo” – Hall and Crawford – skateboard, wear velour suits and rob a bodega armed with baseball bats. The wacky imagery is a counterpoint to Hall’s haunting countertenor as he sings “just be nice.”
He admits that the inspiration for the song does come from his own personal experiences. “I feel like I’ve encountered a lot of frenemies in my life,” Hall explains. “I don’t really like to confront people because I’m kind of a nice guy, so I lead people I don’t like on and keep them as friends. They end up being frenemies. It’s sort of a childish term, but we can all relate to someone who is in this weird middle ground.”
Hall says he’s a “huge Prince and Frank Ocean fan,” as well as finding inspiration from the Weeknd and Paul McCartney, who have given him the confidence to sing in a high register. “When I was young, I would sort of sing like those guys, and try to sing their parts,” he explains. When his voice changed, he didn’t want to stop. “I kept singing in that higher register. I find singing high forces me to sing with a lot of energy. I have to support myself. I can’t be lazy about it.”
And having a funny mom on TV may have helped with some of that self-assurance. Hall says he enjoys watching her, no matter the uncouth subject matter or filthy language. In fact, he went to high school with Sarah Sutherland, who plays Catherine, the daughter of Louis-Dreyfus’ Veep character Selena Meyer. “I think maybe Mom thinks, ‘What would I do with my kids? OK, I’m going to do the opposite with Catherine,'” he explains of the way she ignores her on-screen daughter and puts her down. “My favorite part about Veep is to hear my mom saying, ‘Fuck.’ The more cursing and raunchy humor, the better.”
Hall has another gig at Mercury Lounge in July and a residency at New York City’s Bowery Electric in September. Don’t be surprised if you see a familiar funny face singing along in the crowd.