Before Shawn Mendes took to the stage at the AsiaWorld-Expo for his December 13 performance, he insisted that he and his bandmates “listen to some music, do a little dance together and have a moment to chill out”.
But his day began long before that, with back-to-back interviews, and a meet-and-greet for his super-fans.
We are scrambling after Mendes, a tall 19-year-old from Canada, when his tour manager shouts, “he will be here in two minutes!”
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And like clockwork, dressed in a grey, short-sleeved tee, jeans and sneakers, Mendes walks in with a huge smile on his face, and a green tea in his hand, “Hey guys! How are we all today?”
When he signed to Island Records in 2014, his fresh-faced good looks and soothing acoustic guitar performances had already earned him 200,000 followers on Vine. Today, he has more than 23 million fans on Instagram and sells out arenas worldwide.
The travelling and touring has taken something of a toll on the young singer, who admitted that he sometimes wakes up at 5am and ends up falling asleep two hours before a gig. “That’s when all the green tea comes in [handy],” he says. “I’m drinking green tea with ginseng and I’m hoping that once I take a sip, I’ll feel like superman!”
Mendes arrived in Hong Kong a day earlier and started exploring and eating some of the best food the city has to offer.
“We went to Ho Lee Fook last night and had chicken with Sichuan spices. The spices numbed my mouth completely and it was the best thing I have ever tasted!”
A hiking aficionado, he expressed his desire to discover some of the city’s more hidden treasures, such as its mountains, beaches and trails. “I’ve heard you have a lot of monkeys here in Hong Kong? That’s so awesome! I definitely want to check them out,” he says with a huge grin.
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It’s easy to see how, for someone who is worried about “becoming more of a product”, friends and family back home help him remain grounded in a life where he texts Ed Sheeran and Snapchats Taylor Swift. His genuine, heartfelt conversations with his fans and the media do not go unnoticed. Mendes makes it a point to compliment everyone he meets, telling someone, “I love your jacket! Where did you get it from?”
Mendes, who hasn’t completely come to terms with all the fame and frenzy, admits: “I’m just a normal kid with an abnormal career … I have a fangirl moment every time I see someone famous. My heart definitely races for a bit.”
Of his upcoming album, he says, “I’m so much harder on myself this time, and I already have 25 songs written. But I want to write 20 more and then pick my favourites.” He continues, “[My music] is all over the place. I am really lucky to be in a position where I can make whatever music I desire. I would love to do an R‘n’B album in the future."
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“I do get sick of listening to myself all the time though,” he laughs. “But I still turn it up when I’m on the radio, because one day I might not be,” he says, realising how fleeting fame can be.
The humble singer, who grew up in Pickering, Ontario – a Toronto suburb with a population of about 100,000 people – claims that at the end of the day, his love for his family is most important.
“I just want to be back home with them for Christmas,” he says, “I have been away for over two months now and I miss them so much.”
Mendes’ parents and little sister, Aaliyah, are the inspiration behind a lot of his music.
“I hope people remember me as an artist who was able to tap into his true feelings and true thoughts, and never got overwhelmed,” he says, without missing a beat.
He heads off to another interview, but dutifully stands up and hugs me goodbye.
“Music is bigger than me and I’m going to keep doing it for that reason,” he says and walks off do it all over again.