The sea, sun­set and Shawn Men­des

The Cana­dian singer-song­writer tells Loong Wai Ting how his trav­els have in­spired his mu­sic

New Straits Times - - Groove - Loong­wait­ing@nst.com.my

The hard­est part of the trav­el­ling, though, is deal­ing with jet lag. Shawn Men­des

AF­TER open­ing for pop­u­lar Amer­i­can pop star Taylor Swift at her concert in Seat­tle in 2015, Cana­dian In­ter­net singing sen­sa­tion Shawn Men­des is def­i­nitely head­ing for some­thing big. Sit­ting down with the 18-year-old artiste at a con­fer­ence room in Sof­i­tel Philip­pine Plaza Manila Ho­tel last week, ahead of his Shawn Men­des World Tour Live in Manila concert, Men­des ap­peared laid-back and talk­a­tive as he talked about the things that in­spired his mu­sic, and, well, his cra­zi­est fan ex­pe­ri­ence so far.

Fans got wind of his ar­rival in Manila, and flocked to the air­port to get a glimpse of him.

“It felt like a concert was be­ing held at the air­port. It was mad­ness. But the Pi­noy fans have been great so far,” he said.

Another time, the singer-song­writer said, he was chased af­ter on the street in Spain by a group of girls who wanted to take a photo of him.

“We were in Madrid for a show and the fans were chas­ing our cars and knock­ing on our win­dows. It was crazy!” he said.

Jet lag did not stop him from vis­it­ing lo­cal at­trac­tions such as the Taal Vol­cano, Ta­gay­tay City and Balete Falls in Amadeo.

“Balete Falls is a beau­ti­ful spot. We drove through the woods and then it opened up to this beau­ti­ful wa­ter­fall,” he said.

“Travel helps with my song­writ­ing. The hard­est part of the trav­el­ling, though, is deal­ing with jet lag,” he said.

Men­des later proudly an­nounced that he has writ­ten three songs, a feat he ac­com­plished just by sit­ting alone on his ho­tel room’s bal­cony, which over­looked the sea and the gor­geous sun­set.

At the short in­ter­view, Men­des in­vited me to sit next to him — which I hap­pily obliged — as all the seats in the room were taken.

A friend, who is a fan of Men­des, later asked me what it was like to sit next to the pop sen­sa­tion him­self.

Well, it was over­whelm­ing, I said, as my friend screamed into the phone, say­ing how lucky I was.

BE YOUR­SELF

Men­des, like many teenagers, was shy at first but was quick to warm up to the crowd.

He has this warmth and pos­i­tiv­ity that will make you for­get all the things that stressed you out.

He’s also gen­uine in his craft and in the way he ex­presses him­self.

“I owe a lot to my par­ents and my friends who keep me grounded all the time. They don’t treat me any dif­fer­ent even with the suc­cess and recog­ni­tion. I am who I am today be­cause of them.”

Dressed in a long plain black shirt, the On­tario-born said: “Peo­ple al­ways ask me how I man­age to bal­ance work and per­sonal life. My an­swer is to be your­self. Al­ways be orig­i­nal. Trust me, it will work out in the end. The big­gest mis­take is when you try to copy oth­ers.”

FROM LIFE STO­RIES INTO SONGS Men­des was first dis­cov­ered on Vines, a sixsec­ond video loop­ing app, where he posted videos of him singing hit tunes such as Justin Bieber’s As Long As You Love Me, Sam Smith’s Stay With Me, Bill Wither’s Ain’t No Sunshine and Ed Sheeran’s Don’t.

At his re­cent show at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Pasay City, fans swarmed the venue as early as 3pm. The minute Men­des took cen­trestage at 8pm, the crowd went wild, greet­ing him with deaf­en­ing screams.

With his guitar slung leisurely be­hind his back, Men­des stole furtive glances at his fans, who were on their feet through­out the 90-minute show, be­fore ut­ter­ing “hello” into the mi­cro­phone.

“I’m so happy to be here tonight per­form­ing for all of you. You guys are the most amaz­ing crowd ever,” he said, to even louder screams of de­light.

Men­des was per­form­ing as part of a pro­mo­tional tour of his sopho­more al­bum, Il­lu­mi­nate, which was re­leased last Septem­ber.

The al­bum is a fol­low-up to his de­but al­bum Hand­writ­ten (2015).

Never far from his guitar, he per­formed most of his songs while gen­tly pluck­ing and strum­ming the chords.

Given how com­fort­able he looked on­stage, one would never guess that deep down, he was a ner­vous wreck.

“I still get ner­vous per­form­ing on­stage. I should be used to it by now, but I just can’t calm those but­ter­flies in my stom­ach,” he said, chuck­ling.

So, how does he over­come the nerves? “The louder the crowd screams, the less ner­vous I get,” he shared.

The singer of Stitches and Treat You Bet­ter was good at work­ing the crowd with his charm and megawatt smile.

“This is my first time set­ting foot in the Philip­pines. It is a world away from home. But to hear you amaz­ing souls sing tonight, this is the best feel­ing ever. I’m so happy that my songs have con­nected with so many peo­ple on many dif­fer­ent ways,” he said, be­fore break­ing into the crowd favourite, Mercy.

A self-pro­fessed fan of coun­try mu­sic, Men­des looks up to singers-song­writ­ers as Ed Sheeran and John Mayer.

“Both Sheeran and Mayer are in­spired by the daily oc­curences in their lives and they turn them into beau­ti­ful songs. It’s im­por­tant for me as well to turn my life story into songs,” he said.

Sev­eral of those ideas have even­tu­ally turned into hits, in­clud­ing Ruin and Don’t Be A Fool.

Men­des’ John Mayer-sound­ing tune Ruin showed off his huskier vo­cals.

“Do I ever cross your mind, but dar­ling, don’t you know that I’m the only one?” he sang these lines over and over again, with fans hav­ing a tough time con­trol­ling their tears from flow­ing.

The crowd-pleaser Stitches, which Men­des started on pi­ano be­fore switch­ing to acous­tic guitar, had fans eat­ing out of his hands.

“How you guys feel­ing so far? I’ve not played on the pi­ano for quite some time and hope I got this right,” he said.

Oh well, even if he made any mis­takes — not that he did, any­way — his fans wouldn’t mind.

As the concert came to an end, some fans re­fused to budge from their seats, chant­ing “We love Shawn! We love Shawn!”.

For me, it was just a great ex­pe­ri­ence to be among the ec­static crowd.

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