The Untold Truth Of Mod Sun

Mod Sun burst on the music scene with the release of his 2010 debut release "The Hippy Hop EP," a five-song collection that set a template for the numerous singles and albums that followed, redefining rap to forge a new sub-genre all his own. Since then, Mod Sun has defied expectations while following his own distinctive path, which not only includes music but also writing, painting and more. As an author, he's written several books, including his three-volume "Happy to Be Here" collection, poetry collection "So Long Los Angeles," and "Did I Ever Wake Up?," a self-help tome. He's also a painter, and offers his artwork for sale.

Mod Sun's star had been on the rise for a decade when he released his 2021 album "Internet Killed the Rockstar," which demonstrated a bold musical shift and also came at a time when his high-profile romance with Canadian pop-punk princess Avril Lavigne began making headlines. "I felt like I could bring something different to the table," he told Nylon of his place within the music industry.

Worshiped by fans who've followed him for years while garnering the kind of mainstream media attention that had previously eluded him, Mod Sun has established himself as a musical artist with a deep past and a promising future. To find out more about this iconoclastic musician, keep on reading to discover the untold truth of Mod Sun. 

He played in other bands before becoming Mod Sun

Long before launching himself into the music world with the moniker he's known by now, Mod Sun was Derek Smith. Growing up in Bloomington, Minnesota, he revealed in an interview with Paper, the teenager became a fixture of the local pop-punk scene. "Anything that happened from 1999, 2000 to like 2008 — that was the heyday of pop punk, emo, scene, post hardcore, screamo, all of that," he told the magazine. "It all happened right then. And I was right there. I was in the front row watching the bands." 

Not just a fan, he was also a musician, and went on to play drums in bands including Four Letter Lie and Scary Kids Scaring Kids. As his Billboard biography pointed out, it was while he was a drummer for the latter band that he also served as their opening act, debuting his Mod Sun persona (Mod Sun, explained a profile in The Badger Herald, is an acronym he cooked up that stands for "Movement on Dreams, Stand under None").

When Scary Kids Scaring Kids disbanded in 2010, noted Billboard, Mod Sun became his full-time gig. That led to the launch of his first solo release, "The Hippy Hop EP." Years later, recalled Billboard, Mod Sun teamed up with rapper blackbear to form a group they called Hotel Motel, releasing the 2016 album "Pink Lemonade."

Mod Sun has a massive line of branded merch

Mod Sun is not only a musician, he's also no slouch as an entrepreneur. That's confirmed by a glimpse at his official website, which features a link to his online store. There, fans can find all manner of branded merch, ranging from a tie-dyed hoodie to a vinyl edition of his album "Internet Killed the Rockstar." In fact, Mod Sun offers dozens of items, including phone cases, pillows, his books and artwork, even rolling papers — truly something for everyone. 

Meanwhile, Mod Sun and pal Machine Gun Kelly partnered on a new clothing line called No Safety. In an interview with All Things Loud, Mod Sun explained that his clothing concept was inspired by fashion icon Vivienne Westwood. Making her name in the late 1970s for styling punk legends the Sex Pistols, he added, "Her whole thing at the beginning was safety pins to put together clothes, instead of nicer materials. And I have an obsession with putting things together that don't belong together, which matched up."

Getting the No Safety line off the ground, however, was apparently a work in progress that was a long time coming. "Finally getting the clothing started is going to be amazing," he told Nylon in 2021, declaring the line would be available at some point.

He was in a polyamorous relationship

While Mod Sun was busy building up his ever-expanding fanbase, he began gaining media notoriety — not for his music, but for his unorthodox personal life. In 2018, he was reported to be dating actor Bella Thorne, a former Disney Channel star who appeared alongside Zendaya in the TV series "Shake It Up."

In a interview that appeared in the February 2019 issue of Gay Times, via People, Thorne discussed being in a polyamorous relationship with both Mod Sun and YouTube personality Tana Mongeau. "I don't think anybody will really understand the bonds that I share with Mod or Tana," Thorne said. "Yeah, we joke around about poly, but we aren't in the sense that we don't put a word, a box or label too many things. It is what it is."

Whatever it was, it came to an end shortly after that. Toward the end of February, Thorne issued a Twitter post to reveal that she and Mongeau had split. "Tana and I aren't together anymore, pls stop asking," she wrote, indicating that the polyamorous threesome had evolved into an apparently monogamous twosome, with her and Mod Sun remaining romantically entwined.

His split from ex Bella Thorne was a messy one

In April 2019, Bella Thorne took to Instagram to announce that she and Mod Sun had broken up. "I will always love you. All good things must come to an end," she wrote, accompanying a photo of herself and her ex, indicating they ended on good terms. 

However, as Refinery29 detailed, the breakup took a strange twist when Mod Sun subsequently joked in an interview with TooFab about selling Thorne's stuff on eBay. Thorne responded in a tweet, sarcastically writing, "looks like moddy really wants some press," adding, "also didn't u call the cops on me when I wanted my computer?" He replied, "Well u came over uninvited. ... ur not the most trustworthy person."

With the gloves apparently off, Mod Sun then gave an interview to the Domenick Nati Show to reveal he called things off after something unforgivable apparently happened. Page Six implied that Thorne had been unfaithful while she attended Coachella. 

The music icon who's been his biggest influence

Mod Sun has drawn from a lot of various musical influences, yet there's one artist who looms larger than anyone else. "Bob Dylan, without a doubt," he told Ones to Watch. Mod Sun credits Dylan — who, like him, grew up in Minnesota — for turning him on to the writing of Jack Kerouc and Arthur Rimbaud. And while he's been influenced by a number of artists, there's a short list of famous figures who take the cake. "Others have affected me like Jim Morrison, Charles Bukowski, Miles Davis, the list goes on BUT no one like Mr. Bob Dylan," he said.  

While he isn't typically associated with hip-hop, Mod Sun believes otherwise. "Bob Dylan is f***ing rap," he declared in an interview with Nylon. "Tell me I'm wrong." When he first listened to the "Mr. Tambourine Man" artist's music, he explained, "I heard rap, dude." Along with his vast musical output over the years, Mod Sun also declared his utmost respect for his artistic longevity. "I had to look at careers like that," Mod Sun told EarMilk. "As it sits to this day, he is my favorite artist in the whole world. And that is someone that still gets on stage. This dude is like 80 years old."

Interestingly, Mod Sun is also friends with (and has toured with) rapper Pablo Dylan, who happens to be Bob Dylan's grandson.

Embracing sobriety impacted his art

Becoming sober can be a life-changing experience, and that has certainly been the case for Mod Sun. Speaking with Nylon in 2021, he candidly shared, "I had to change my entire f***ing life to get to where I'm at." In the interview, he referenced an app that he utilized to keep track of his sobriety. "I am 621 days drug and alcohol free," he said. "I think that was a big part in me being able to find the person that I am now."

Speaking with The Badger Herald, Mod Sun admitted he worried that getting sober might mess with his creative process. "At first, I thought it was gonna be impacted harshly," he said. "I thought I wasn't gonna be as productive because I wasn't on drugs, up for days, manic." When it comes to the creative process, he said, "Being manic is sometimes great."

Gradually, however, he came to realize that sobriety definitely proved to be beneficial to his productivity, and also aided his focus. "My music is definitely insane, whether or not it's because I'm not on drugs or drinking," he explained, proclaiming that sobriety has given him more creative energy. "I'm not f***ing out of it all the time," he added.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

He's a new kind of rocker

When it comes to his musical intentions, Mod Sun is as ambitious as he is audacious. That comes through in his 2021 album "Internet Killed the Rockstar," a return to his early roots in pop-punk and a shift away from the "hippy-hop" rap he pioneered. The album, he told EarMilk, is both a reflection of the sobriety he came to embrace and his take on rock stardom. 

The album is also something of a rebirth, not just for Mod Sun personally but for the pop-punk scene that he grew up loving. "It's crazy because I grew up in what I call the scene, and then it died," he told Billboard. "And now it's like me and my best friends taking over the d*** world."

In addition, "Internet Killed the Rockstar" is also meant to challenge the venerable stereotype of the drug-using, debauched rocker who lived fast and died young. Mod Sun, in fact, wants nothing less than to set a whole new paradigm. "There's been this idea of the rebirth of what a rock star is nowadays," he told Billboard. "I don't do drugs or drink alcohol anymore, I'm running three miles a day, eating healthy ... I made it past 27. I changed up my lifestyle and I want to live a long time."

He's collaborated with some industry heavyweights

It's been said that a lot can be gleaned about people by the company they keep. In Mod Sun's case, that's reflected in his musical collaborations with other artists. Among the many musicians he's worked with, reminded Billboard, have been Machine Gun Kelly (on the track "Bloody Valentine"), blackbear (on their joint single "Heavy") and Avril Lavigne, with whom he teamed on their single "Flames."

As Mod Sun told Billboard, he and MGK wrote and recorded "Bloody Valentine" in the span of just a few hours, with the song emerging "like vomit." Collaborating with Lavigne, he added in an interview with Rock Sins, took his concepts to a whole new level. "She's one of the greatest singers, she's got perfect pitch...it's a dream come true seeing, you know, ideas that I have in my head being performed by a pro," he gushed. 

Discussing his future dream collabs, he singled out Canadian duo Tegan and Sara. "I mean they wrote some songs when they were like 14 that like affected me, changed my life," he shared, expressing his confidence that he'd eventually work with them someday. "I know that's gonna happen ... I know in my heart ..." he said.

The 10 songs that changed Mod Sun's life

Mod Sun has always worn his musical influences on his sleeve, and in an interview with Kerrang he lists the 10 songs that he believes changed his life. At the top of the list, not surprisingly, is Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," which is also the first song he ever remembered hearing, when he was just four. He also shouted out "Hit or Miss" by New Found Glory, "Cavanaugh Park" by Something Corporate, "Dumpweed" by blink-182, "Semi-Charmed Life" by Third Eye Blind, and "Iris" by the Goo Goo Dolls. He had especially high praise for the Goo Goo Dolls' smash single: "It's undeniably one of the best songs ever written," he told the outlet.

Interestingly, the remaining four songs on his list are songs that he penned: "Karma," "Smith," "Bones," and "Internet Killed the Rockstar." Sun told Kerrang that he believed "Internet Killed the Rockstar" to be the best song he'd written to that point. "I'm so proud of it," he said. And hey, there's no shame in admiring your own work. As Mod Sun himself once tweeted, "if you're proud of what you've created there is no failure."

Mod Sun's sound has evolved radically over the years

Having pioneered the rap sub-genre he called "hippy hop," Mod Sun is well aware that his music hasn't always been easy to categorize. As he told 303 Magazine in 2017, "Am I in the genre of rap? I don't know, if you listen to the radio, my songs don't necessarily sound like that."

The release of Mod Sun's 2021 album "Internet Killed the Rockstar," however, took his music in a whole new direction. The album also marked something of a return to the pop-punk sound he fell in love with as a teenager — and in the bands he played with before going solo as a rap artist. Interviewed by Alternative Press about that album, he discussed the radical change in sound. "I took a very hard detour to get to where I'm at now, in the last 10 years making all this different kind of music, and I feel like now I've really brought the youth in me," he said of the album. "I hear my youth in my music."

Discussing his own musical evolution with Euphoria., Mod Sun took a somewhat circumspect attitude. "I think there's two routes to go as an artist," he said. "One would be to constantly evolve, and the other would be to just stick to what you're great at. Both of them work tremendously in music, when done right."

He wants everyone to believe in themselves

Mod Sun has plenty of heady, quasi-esoteric ideas that he tries to impart through his music. Speaking with Alternative Press, he shared the key takeaway he wants to leave with fans. "You are an artist," he said, offering a definition of art that expands the boundaries beyond what most people might consider.

"Art is so much deeper than what you end up hearing, what you ended up seeing or what's captured in a movie," he explained. "A lot of the art is the making of what you're doing. You can make your life look like art, you can make your life feel like art [and] you can make every step you take feel like a brushstroke. Believe that there are bigger things going on that are on your side because you're proving to them every day that you are worthy."

Meanwhile, Mod Sun also marveled at how technological advances have placed the ability to make music in the hands of those who, in earlier eras, never would have had that capability. Thanks to platforms like SoundCloud and programs like Pro Tools, making and sharing songs is easier than ever. As he told Euphoria., "We're all able to say, 'You know what, I don't need my friends to make music. I can sit alone in this room all day.' And that changed music."

The law of attraction changed Mod Sun's life

In a 2017 interview with 303 Magazine, Mod Sun was asked how he's managed to maintain the "positive mantra" that he holds about himself. In his response, Mod Sun attributed his positivity to the law of attraction. "100 percent changed my life," he told the outlet. The central tenet within Rhonda Byrnes' bestselling self-help book "The Secret," the law of attraction is the belief that the power of one's thoughts can be harnessed to bring about changes in that person's reality, that thinking about a desired goal in the right way can actually make it happen.

"That's what I base everything I do upon," he told 303 Magazine. As he said in Nylon, he discovered the music of Bob Dylan at the same time he became aware of "The Secret," a combination that got him where he is today. "Mod Sun stands for 'movement on dreams, stand under none.' It is all based off of manifestation, the law of attraction," he explained. 

That belief has also shaped the philosophy that drives him ever since. "I believe that if you're going to do something in this world, you should be doing something that you're adding to it, something that's missing from it," he explained.

How working with Avril Lavigne led to a proposal

Working with Avril Lavigne proved to be life-changing for Mod Sun, and not just musically. That was evident in March 2021 when the two confirmed that they'd gotten engaged in Paris. "It was the most perfect, romantic proposal I could ever ask for," Lavigne gushed to People, revealing Mod Sun popped the question while they floated along the Seine in a boat, sipping champagne as a violin player provided musical accompaniment. "It felt like time stood still, and it was just the two of us in the moment," she shared.

In an earlier interview with People, Lavigne revealed their romantic relationship began after the two began working together. "I just followed my heart," she said. After they got engaged, Lavigne waxed poetic about the early days of their courtship to People. "He made every day better. It was like I had known him forever," Lavigne said. "As time went on, things kept getting better, and it felt incredibly natural."

Meanwhile, Mod Sun proclaimed his love for Lavigne in a post he shared on Instagram. "I'm so lucky, I love this girl so much," he wrote alongside a photo of himself giving the "Sk8r Boi" singer a kiss on the cheek. A few weeks later, they made their red-carpet debut as a couple at the 2021 edition of the MTV Video Music Awards. "Everything is a dream when I'm with her....." Mod Sun wrote on Instagram.

Mod Sun has mad respect for TikTok

The expansion of Mod Sun's career from 2010 to the present has unfolded in parallel with the growth of Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and the like. Not surprisingly, Mod Sun regularly uses social media as a tool to promote his music or even just share his thoughts with fans. Boasting more than 730,000 followers on Instagram, over 645,000 on Twitter, and about 147,000 on TikTok, he's admitted that his respect for the latter platform has grown significantly since he's joined. 

The way Mod Sun sees it, TikTok isn't just a fun distraction; it can be an eerily accurate predictor for what's next, with the kids who use it declaring their love for certain songs and artists at the kind of grassroots level that hadn't really existed before. "TikTok is the listeners telling you what's going to be big," he said in a 2021 interview with Paper. "That is so cool." 

As he pointed out, this is a marked difference from the way the music business had traditionally functioned, with executives at record labels calling the shots. "It's not a dude who's bald and 65 years old, and literally doesn't give a f*** about anyone, going, 'This is the next big star.' It's these kids making the artists huge," he explained. "It's never happened in history before," he said of the unprecedented paradigm shift, declaring TikTok to be a tremendous platform for up-and-coming artists.