The sea, sunset and Shawn Mendes
The Canadian singer-songwriter tells Loong Wai Ting how his travels have inspired his music
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.
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.