FLAUNT MAGAZINE – Shawn Mendes would rather take a drive to the beach than go out to the club. However, he’s a Leo, and he’s not exactly shy. He’s a tender-voiced, albeit outspoken, peach-fuzzed cat of 18 who rocketed to fame after posting to the Vine social media platform short looping videos of himself singing. Three years, and almost half a billion plays later, I’m listening to his new record, Illuminate—every song of which seems to either be about love or the loss of love or heartbreak or how he can get that person back or why he just can’t do it anymore.
“Love is probably the strongest emotion that you can feel.” Mendes tells me, “It’s very natural—and I wouldn’t want to say easy—but natural and comfortable to write about, and there’s so many different forms of it, millions of layers, you could write forever about it.”
An 18 year-old telling me this makes me sweat—I’m quite a stretch older than Mendes and I can’t seem to keep a relationship going for longer than a month—I dread the notion of writing about it forever. “The second you start trying to write about things that other people want to hear,” Mendes advises, “it’s not as honest as it should be”
Mendes, tell me more, dude, I need it… and yes, we are calling each other dude and man, and it feels good. “My family, growing up, all my cousins, all of us, we all spoke about how we were feeling, it wasn’t a hide your emotions type family,” he says sniffling from the Canadian cold (where he is at the moment, at home in the suburbs of Pickering, Ontario, about 20 miles east of Toronto). “If you have good intentions and your heart is in the right place then you’re gonna be okay,” he counsels, “I’m trying to stay as real as I possibly can.”
And what about this new album is Mendes trying to illuminate? His coming of age? His impending adulthood? (Which I foresee being filled with Grammies and houses at the top of Holmby Hills and retreats in Palm Springs—probably more on the level of Gstaad—and lots of champagne and girls and boys and first class tickets and the best seats in the finest restaurants and swimming pools and an entourage of Chows, presuming he likes dogs…)
But how? He’s 18. When I was 18 I was eating lots of bagels with cream cheese, smoking joints with my dad and calling it quits. Compare and despair. Quit it! But for Mr. Mendes, will there be ups and downs? Will the wave of life not always be a sweet, opalescent, purple Hawaiian swell that drags on for a mile, so meditative, so rich? (more…)
Yesterday, Shawn attended the 2016 American Music Awards! He looked super great! He performed Treat You Better, Mercy and Three Empty Words. The gallery has been updated with HQ photos and you can check out videos from his performance over at abc.go.com. To see Three Empty Words, you’ll need to check out XFINITYon Demand. And you can watch an interview from the red carpet below!
ON AIR WITH RYAN – Since capturing the attention of label heads with six-second Vine covers of other artists’ pop hits in 2013, Shawn Mendes has gone on to release five platinum hits from his debut effort Handwritten, perform at stadiums as both a headliner and opening act for Taylor Swift, and is now on a media blitz to promote his newly-released sophomore album Illuminate.
For his latest set, Mendes, along with a few songwriters from Handwritten and Ed Sheeran’s producer Jake Gosling, worked from an isolated studio in Upstate New York where he cited John Mayer’s Continuum album to create music driven by authentic emotions.
“All I knew was, I wanted to create an album that I could feel,” he told On Air with Ryan Seacrest in-studio Tuesday. “Beforehand, I was really into Continuum by John Mayer, and the reason that album was so good to me was because I wasn’t just listening; I was actually feeling. If I could accomplish that with music, then I know I did a good job.”
With disarmingly honest songs like “Mercy,” “Three Empty Words,” “Ruin,” and “Bad Reputation,” Mendes’ album serves a soundtrack for the many stages of love, a motif that is still a taboo for many artists.
“As an 18-year-old guy, to go and write an entire album that’s majority about love, people would be scared to do [it], but I think it’s beautiful,” he said of his emotional honesty, which was encouraged by his parents.
Mendes’ career was also heavily influenced by Swift, who he opened for on select dates of her massive 1989 World Tour. During his trek with the global pop superstar, Mendes learned how to captivate an entire arena with just an acoustic guitar, and picked up the mindset to go full-throttle even when you’re at the the pinnacle of your career.
“With Taylor, the biggest thing I learned, and I always say this and I love to say it, is that there’s no amount of success that stops you from working hard,” he revealed. “She, at the top of her game — stadiums around the world, No. 1 artist in the world — works harder than everyone and it’s crazy.”
Mendes will now embark on his own tour in support of Illuminate, which he said will be a departure from his previous shows. “I’ve never felt something change so rapidly in my life,” he said. “From doing an entire acoustic set, to having a band all of sudden, to the production being involved.”
He added, “The set has just transformed like crazy. Right now, I start off acoustic and it goes into this beautiful, beautiful band section. It’s just true, real live music…I like to think of it as an experience and less of a show.”
You can purchase Mendes’ Illuminate album on iTunes now.
ROLLING STONE – Shawn Mendes is sitting in his dressing room in New York one recent Saturday afternoon, feeling a little disoriented. Partly, this is because he just saw a guy’s leg get crushed in a gnarly traffic accident. But it’s also because the 18-year-old is about to headline Madison Square Garden for the first time. The show sold out in five minutes, and young girls with wide smiles are lined up around the venue as we talk backstage. “It’s nuts for it to be packed here for me,” says the singer-guitarist, who worries he’s “under-rehearsed” for the gig. “I don’t know what, how or why it’s happening, but I’m gonna do the best I can.”
Mendes’ whole career has been a little disorienting. In three years, he’s gone from hockey-loving teenager in a Pickering, Ontario, bedroom to Vine star to chart-topping sensation. His first LP, 2015’s Handwritten, debuted at Number One, and it’s a good bet Mendes’ new album, Illuminate, will as well. Unlike past teen idols, Mendes has achieved that status not with bad-boy bravado but with small-town charm and catchy acoustic folk-pop tunes.
The singer-songwriter caught up with Rolling Stone to discuss his sophomore album, his experience recording with eight collaborators in an upstate New York cabin called “the Club House” and his dreams of pursuing acting in the future – though he’ll have to tackle an international arena tour first.
The last time we spoke in depth, it was right before you went to the Club House to finish recording the album. You were talking about working on your vocals and musicianship. With the album completed, are you feeling that you’re getting to that point?
I’m feeling the same. I’m feeling better! I feel amazing. We’ve practiced so much. But I’m never going to feel good enough for what’s happening, to be honest with you. It’s so surreal and so crazy. It’s nuts for this to be packed here for me. I don’t know what, how or why it’s happening, but I’m gonna do the best I can because that’s all I’ve been doing. I’m just gonna go out there and have fun and connect with the crowd and do what I always do.
Listening to the album, it does show a lot of growth. How do you think Illuminate compares to your first LP?
It’s such a difference: vocally, lyrically. Just the songs are so much better. I love Handwritten but I really love Illuminate. It’s so much better to me.
What was the experience of recording at the Club House?
There were eight of us there. If you could picture a bunch of grown men at camp, it was literally the most stress-free, do-what-you-will environment. We were sleeping right beside the studio. We’d go for walks at 2 a.m. and wake up and go for jogs at 7 a.m. It was like we left the earth for 10 days and were on some other planet.
You mentioned how you were hoping to work with John Mayer on this album. Did he play any part in the songs?
I didn’t get to work with him, but he listened to a bunch of the songs and gave great pieces of advice through the music and production and lyrics and stuff, especially on songs like “Three Empty Words” and “Ruin” and “Patience.” It was great to have him listening through it all.
I love the series of songs from “Patience” through “Bad Reputation” and “Understand,” and how they show off a lot of the evolution in your songwriting. Can you tell me about those three?
“Patience” was basically about a time with an older girl, but not like much older. She was just a bit older. I don’t like age barriers. I don’t like when people treat you differently when they find out how old you are. It was kind of just my anger towards adults not treating mature kids like they deserve to be treated. Or like choosing to treat someone their age when it’s good for you and not when it’s good for them. “Bad Reputation” was the first song we wrote for the whole album. Here in New York, we started it in a hotel room; six months later we finished it at the Club House. “Understand” was one of the last songs we wrote about life in general. That was one of the most organic, beautiful things we ever created. We were all laying on the floor in the studio with a notepad and the piano on loop.
Rolling Stone had a short live chat of Shawn at his NYC pop-up show yesterday. He answered fan questions about the process of writing and recording the album, the best advice his parents gave him and more.
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