Shawn Mendes

Shawn Mendes: The star talks turning social media attention into real-world success

Shawn Mendes found fame when his six-second cover versions of Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber and One Direction racked up hundreds of millions of views on the now-defunct Vine. He turned social media ubiquity into real-world success with 2015 debut 'handwritten' and last year's 'Illuminate', and is now on a world tour. He tells Barry Nicolson about his throughly modern rise to world domination.

Are you sad Vine is no more? 

“Yeah, but everything has a life. That was the most wonderful way of starting a career off, making these six-second videos that were quite easy to create. It was a good jumpstart. Now I’m in
the real world of music, where you’re working a lot of hours, a lot of thrills, playing big arenas. I don’t really look into the past too much.”

Is there still a stigma about being a social media star?

“Definitely. A lot of people who are ‘social media’ stars aren’t considered to be ‘real’ stars, and people underestimate the amount of work it takes to edit and upload a video every single day, and document your life like that. I give big ups to people who are very big on social media, whether they’re doing vlogs or whatever. It takes a lot of effort.”

Your fans are famously obsessive. Were you prepared for that level of intensity?

“It’s something a lot of people who see it from the outside don’t understand very well. Sometimes you see people screaming and running and crying hysterically, and that looks crazy, but you don’t see the times I’m sitting in the lobby having a conversation with them about music, life and what they think. People underestimate how creative and intelligent they can be.”

What’s the strangest thing a fan has ever given you?

“I once got a package delivered to my house that had a book in it. The book was describing how they’d used videos from Vine and Instagram to route from the house in front of my house that they saw in the video and pinpoint where my house was. They were from Norway or somewhere – these girls had figured out my address to send me this book. It was very harmless,but a little scary.”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“Taylor Swift said to me, ‘Don’t worry so much about messing up, because the people in the arena aren’t critics – you’re not on a singing show and they’re not here to judge you. They came tonight strictly to have fun and because they love to listen to the music, so if your voice cracks or if you mess up something on the guitar, it’s not going to bug them, it’s only going to bug you.’ That’s something I think about
every night.”