Shawn Mendes, dubbed by TIME Magazine as one of the world’s Most Influential Teens, will be performing on March 18, 2017, at the Mall of Asia Arena. If you haven’t already heard of him, he’s the young artist behind Handwritten, the album that bagged the top spot on the Billboard 200, as well as the singer behind the certified 4x Platinum single, “Stitches.” Even before his debut album dropped, his 2014 single, “Life Of The Party” broke records, topped the iTunes Charts, and sold over 150,000 copies in its first week. Because of these, Shawn has more than earned his title as the youngest ever artist to break into the Billboard Hot 100’s Top 25 with a debut single.
Here The Neighborhood catches up with the young musician ahead of his March 18 concert.You’re very genuine with how you conduct yourself in interviews and through your music. How do you keep that sense of self together while touring and meeting so many different artists and fans?
I think its really just about making sure to stay true to who you were when you started. I still live where I grew up, have the same friends, and make sure to still spend a lot of time with my family. And when you’re on the road its just about keeping great people around you and always making sure my relationship with my fans doesn’t change regardless of how big it gets.
When it comes to recording albums, how do you keep your music genuine and untainted despite all the fine-tuning of the production process?
I’m always in the studio with the producer and am very hands on to make sure the songs come out how I want them to. This last album, we did all in one studio in Upstate New York, in a cabin in the woods basically. It almost entirely all real instruments that we recorded while up there, to really give it that authentic and organic sound.
In an industry that admittedly has a lot of artists drawing from similar influences and playing in similar styles, how do you separate your performances from others’?
The most important thing to me is that I give my own perspective on things. I have a ton of influences that show in my music, but to keep it fresh it’s about injecting my own personality into it always. I always make sure I do things how I would do them, not necessarily looking to how anyone else would do them.
What’s the process like for you in translating your records to live performances, or vice-versa?
Usually when I’m writing and recording songs, I think a lot about how it’ll translate live. It’s a big part of the process to make sure the songs I’m making are also great to perform live.
Your music initially drew in a young audience, but with Illuminate, your audience has been maturing along with your sound. Does this awareness of your listeners affect your songwriting or your performing in any way?
I think my music is maturing as I am maturing, and my fans are just growing up with me. It’s been really great to see that as I get older, and am writing more mature music, my fans have been able to follow that journey with me.
Do you see yourself experimenting with your sound in the next few years? Is there any tension for you between developing your own sound and giving the audience more of what they want to hear?
I definitely will always stay true to myself, and as I grow my sound will definitely grow. I’m always consciously thinking about what people want to hear, but I want to be able to deliver what they want to hear, in my own unique way. So the sound might change for sure as I grow, but I don’t think it’ll ever go somewhere my fans don’t want.
In what ways has growing up as a musician on tour been restrictive or freeing for you? —Especially as someone under 21?
It’s really freeing in the sense that I get to travel the world at such a young age and am not tied down to a regular job. But it also can be hard at times, it’s definitely a demanding schedule and very hard work. Overall though I couldn’t wish for anything better.
Have you laid out a plan for yourself — both musically and personally — or would you rather take things as they come?
I really just take things as they come. I don’t like to think too far into the future, I’m more of a live in the moment type of person. I do have goals though in terms of wanting to act in the future, and of where I want my music career to keep growing. But I also don’t think too much about it.
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Photos courtesy of Shawn Mendes Official Facebook Page