Shawn Mendes on Writing His Own Music, Going to Prom, & Touring the World with Taylor Swift (JJJ Interview)
To say that Shawn Mendes has had a good year would be a massive understatement.
The 16-year-old Vine phenomenon-turned-singer signed a deal with Island Records, hit No. 5 with his debut EP, performed for everyone from Ellen DeGeneres to David Letterman, and just hit the stage at his first-ever headlining show to a sold-out crowd at the Best Buy Theater in New York City.
Oh, and did we mention he’s going on tour with Taylor Swift?
JJJ caught up with Shawn backstage after his November 15 set, which included his singles “Life of the Party” and “Something Big,” along with a slew of impressive new tunes like “Strings,” “In Love,” and “Never Be Alone,” all of which will likely appear on his upcoming debut album.
“There was one called ‘Little Too Much’ that I played in London,” Shawn told us. “There was also ‘Bring it Back,’ which is a new one that I played on the Austin [Mahone] tour. But none of them were released.”
Still, fans sang every word. Also watching from the audience were some of Shawn‘s close friends and family members.
“That freaks me out,” he told us about playing in front of loved ones. “It’s so much easier to play in front of people who you have no idea who they are, than in front of people you know, especially when they know the songs before you play them. So many people showed up tonight, so it was really special.”
Click inside to see the rest of our interview with Shawn Mendes…
Shawn is not what you would call a cookie-cutter artist who drops catchy pop tunes at the insistence of his handlers. He’s completely involved with the songwriting process, even at 16, something he says is “everything” to him.
“I don’t think it’s worth doing something like this if I’m not 100 percent into it – every single song that comes out, every single picture, I want to know what it looks like and what it sounds like,” he says. “I want to know all that stuff because if it doesn’t come out being shown how I want it to be shown, then it’s wrong. With the music, that is the most important part.
He adds, “Most of the times, it’s me and a couple of the guys I work with, we sit down in a room and we just jam out and write music that we all truly love. That’s one of my favorite parts about the whole thing.”
It’s then that Shawn takes his phone out of his pocket and shows us a never-ending list of voice recordings, some titled, most not. “Look at this. These are all random voice recordings of songs. Some of them are two seconds long. Just a melody or a lyric. Also, my notepad is [full].”
He only recently received news that he would be opening for Taylor, the biggest artist of the year, on her highly-anticipated 1989 stadium tour. If you don’t remember, Ed Sheeran opened for Taylor on her Red Tour, and well, we all know what that did for his career.
“I would love to have a band up there, but I would also be fine doing the acoustic thing too,” Shawn says of planning the production aspect. “The acoustic thing is a lot of pressure. I haven’t been playing guitar for that long and Ed is amazing at that, so it’s hard to kind of follow that.”
(We think he’ll be fine.) Up until then, Shawn has school to focus on too, as he finishes up the 11th grade. “I’m starting an online type of thing with my high school. They send over work,” he tells us. “They are being so awesome working with me through this whole thing. It’s hard.”
Despite a whirlwind year, he admits to missing regular high school. “I miss everything. I always want to be there,” he says. “When you’re at school, you don’t think it, but learning is the best thing ever. I really miss that whole experience of being in the classroom. And then also, all the sports teams, all the music events, the talent shows, the camps – and actually, they’ve let me go to the leadership camps, and I’ll be able to go to prom. So it will be really awesome.”
We have a feeling he’ll have a few date offers, though Shawn tells us he hasn’t been in touch with that many people. “I have about a trillion Facebook messages that I can’t get through.”
Not that anyone can blame him. The Canadian singer’s career is only just getting started, as he prepares to tour the world and leave his old life behind for good.
“I don’t think I miss it because it’s Canada, but I miss it because it’s home,” Shawn says. “As soon as I get into Canada and I’m on the roads, I feel like I’m at home. You get that home feeling. It’s a really comforting feeling. That’s what I miss when I’m away.”
- Reporting by Sharon Tharp