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, catching the attention of artist manager Andrew Gertler, and resulting in a deal with Island Records. 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″, Shawn 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 spectacular. “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 a half hour. “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, flying Mendes to New York with Island Records A&R Ziggy Chareton, and discovering that Mendes not only had a legion of fans, but also was an amazing songwriter. What resulted after cutting a few songs in the studio, was a major multi-album deal with Island Records president David Massey. Gertler says he was confident from the minute he first met Shawn, “When I flew Shawn to New York and we met for the first time, I knew he was special. He not only could sing but had this depth of character and amazing heart, and ability to write songs years beyond his age. Not to mention he had this fan base that was showing up wherever he went by the masses. I remember hundreds of girls showed up to the very first hotel he stayed at in NY, and we had to get hotel security to even get him to his room. That moment I knew he was onto something”. Then, less than a month after signing, Shawn’s first single, Life Of The Party, was released & hit the number one spot on iTunes almost immediately. The single sold 100,000 copies in its first day, and over 150,000 copies in its first week, breaking 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. Off of the steam of his first single & EP, Mendes won a Teen Choice Award, 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 successes of his first music releases and headline tour, Shawn has plans to release his full-length debut album in 2015 while he continues to tour and stay on the road. Not a typical life for a teenager. “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.” 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 2.4 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.” Shawn still calls Canada home, and has his family, friends and team to keep him grounded. He loves longboarding, and actively participates in charity work, contributing his time to hospital visits with The Ryan Seacrest Foundation, and now even starting his own charity campaign Simple Acts Of Kindness after the success of his #NotesFromShawn campaign, a viral social action initiative that Shawn partnered with DoSomething.org on, and was recognized by Business Insider amongst others due to its unique approach to helping fight teenage depression & self-harm.
At heart though, Shawn is still a teenager that feels like the same person that started this whole journey. He 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.”
Ever since Jake Miller began posting his original songs on YouTube a few years ago, the 22-year-old Miami-born pop artist has been building a virtual army of fans. His millions of followers on social media call themselves the Millertary and come to his concerts wearing camouflage and greasepaint under their eyes. They are devoted to Miller’s irresistible musical blend of pop and hip-hop, combined with the positive messages in his songs.
Miller has independently released two EP’s: 2012’s Spotlight and 2013’s The Road Less Traveled, which debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes Hip-Hop chart. His full-length album, 2013’s Us Against Them, sold over 33,000 copies and peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Rap chart. One of MTV’s 2014 “Ones to Watch” artists, Miller has shared stages with Mac Miller, Flo Rida, Sean Kingston, Asher Roth, Jason Derulo, Cody Simpson, Austin Mahone, and Sammy Adams at various radio festivals, including Y-100’s Jingle Ball and the Calle Ocho Festival in Miami, where he performed for a crowd of more than 200,000 screaming fans. He also sold out a 43-city House of Blues Tour before landing a major record deal, driven primarily by his incredible social-networking presence.
Now signed to Warner Bros. Records, Miller has been able to extend his reach even further. In November, he released his debut EP for the label, Lion Heart, which sold 8,000 copies its first week alone and climbed to No. 2 on the iTunes Pop chart. Lion Heart features the new single “Dazed and Confused,” featuring Travie McCoy, and “First Flight Home” (produced by Danish songwriter-producer Cutfather), which has shifted 100,000 units, while its video has racked up more than three million views on YouTube. The track is an irresistible calling card for Miller, who credits Eminem, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and Drake as inspirations. Hailing from the South Florida community of Weston, Miller began rapping when he was 17, but began to take it more seriously a year later when his YouTube videos caught the attention of local news and radio stations. This led to his first-ever live performance — a plum slot opening for Snoop Dogg in 2011.
Having built the Millertary on his own, Miller is looking forward to seeing what he can achieve with the support of Warner Bros. Records behind him. “It’s obviously a dream come true,” he says. “The night that I signed my record deal we released a video with my family and friends in it, popping champagne and celebrating, it was the greatest night of my life.”
In November 2014, Miller co-hosted and performed at the 2014 MTV EMA pre-show with Nick Cannon, joined Meghan Trainor, Nick Jonas and others on the national Jingle Ball tour, and performed on Nickelodeon’s New Year’s Eve special. He is currently in the studio working on songs for his upcoming full-length, which will be released later this year.
Jake will also be hitting the clubs beginning in July on his recently announced US tour with stops for the South Florida native include New York, Boston, Atlanta, Kansas City and Anaheim with tickets for several shows going on sale next week.