Less than a year ago, Canadian singer-songwriter Shawn Mendes posted his first cover to Vine. With only a 6-second clip of him singing, guitar in hand, the video took off like wildfire. He continued posting, and his following grew by the thousands. Now over 3 million Vine followers later, and only 16 years old, Shawn has become one of the most buzzed about young artists in music. Hailed by Billboard as “Music’s First Vine Star” and TIME Magazine as one of the "Most Influential Teens Of 2014", singer-songwriter Shawn Mendes has emerged from teen viral sensation to major best-selling status almost overnight.
For a humble teenager who grew up in Pickering, Ontario, Shawn’s new reality seems to be anything but. “I have been working at such a rapid pace,” he says, still astonished at his status as a rising star. And it’s really paying off. He just wrapped his first solo headline tour, which sold out in minutes, and his debut EP from Island Records, The Shawn Mendes EP, hit number one on the iTunes charts in just 37 minutes. “That was surreal,” he says of receiving the news. “It was insane.” But insane doesn’t even begin to describe it. Shawn catapulted onto the scene earlier this year after artist manager Andrew Gertler found some of his videos online, and introduced Mendes to his now-label Island Records. In less than a month after signing, Shawn’s first single, Life Of The Party, hit the number one spot on iTunes within an hour of its release. The single sold over 100,000 copies in it’s first day and broke into the Billboard Hot 100’s Top 25 charts with zero radio play, making Mendes the youngest artist ever to break the Top 25 with a debut single. He even won a Teen Choice Award as Choice Web Star in Music, and landed a spot on Taylor Swift’s 1989 World Tour in 2015. All of this happening in only a few short months.
As girls around the world discover Shawn, they’re adopting him as their newfound crush. You can almost feel him blushing as he describes the sudden attention: “At one show, we had like 300 fans surrounding our bus” he says. “They busted through a fence and chased us." But with his newfound stardom, there is also a sense of maturity in his music, and the lingering promise of staying power that often evades teen sensations. Reminiscent of a young John Mayer, the young songwriter’s music is rooted in acoustic guitar based songs, as well as complex rhythms and textures, forming a sound atypical to traditional pop. The lyrics are deep and empowering, Mendes often writing well beyond his years. Life Of The Party is anthemic in its message of embracing individuality. Show You tells listeners to believe in themselves, even if others have doubts, and The Weight demonstrates a vocal and emotional range reminiscent of Ed Sheeran, one of Shawn’s primary influences. Overall, The Shawn Mendes EP manages to successfully replicate the charm and intimacy of the videos that first made fans fall for Shawn online.
Following the immense success of his EP release and first tour, Shawn has plans to head back into the studio to record a full-length debut album. “I’ll be all over the place, so I’m going to have a tutor rather than go back to school,” he says. He’s going to miss being a regular high school student, though he admits his mind was on something else. “All of a sudden with music and guitar – I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I’d be sitting in class, holding a pick and just counting the seconds until I could go home and play or write.” Or Tweet. Shawn, who has been hailed by Billboard Magazine as “the first Vine sensation,” notes that a lot of artists underestimate the value of social media: “It’s so essential to keep yourself in the loop and see how people are feeling about what you’re doing,” he adds. “I guess I always watched YouTube and Vine videos; I just never realized it would be my future.” He currently has over 1.8 million Twitter followers and over two million on Instagram, in addition to his three million plus on Vine.
Despite these huge changes in his life, Shawn says he’s not worried about people treating him differently, adding “people will only treat me like a big deal if I act like one.” Luckily, Shawn has his family, friends and team to keep him grounded. He loves longboarding and soccer and speaks with his five best friends from home almost daily. For his 16th birthday, Shawn’s dad and buddies flew out to meet him on tour and take him camping. His smile is contagious when he talks about that day. “It was so fun – definitely my best birthday so far.” He adds that he wants people to think of him as a normal teenager “with a not-so-normal career.” He does want people to take him seriously though, regardless of his age. “It all depends on the person, not the number of candles they blow out on a cake.” Determination, talent, and enthusiasm, not age, are the keys to Shawn’s remarkable success story.
“Take your shot, it might be scary,” he sings on Life Of The Party. Shawn did take his shot: he posted a video on Vine and learned that sometimes the greatest risks are worth taking. “I’m excited to see what the future holds,” he says. “Five months ago I wasn’t even close to where I am now – imagine what could happen over the next year.”