This new star knows what it’s like to be bullied but, more importantly, he also knows how to rise above.
As soon as his name is announced at the MuchMusic Big Jingle in Toronto, the entire crowd explodes with excitement—holding up signs, chanting his name and even proposing marriage. It’s his first performance in Canada and, although new to the scene, Austin Mahone has an energy and ease on stage that would be envied by most musicians. His singles “11:11,” “Say Somethin’” and “Say You’re Just a Friend” (featuring Flo Rida) have all climbed the charts and fans are waiting with heightened anticipation for his first album, which is poised to be released in spring 2013. It’s as if the 16-year-old was born to hold the spotlight.
But it hasn’t always been an easy road for Austin. He originally started up a YouTube channel with his best friend Alex, simply out of boredom. “There wasn’t really an original goal,” he says. “We had nothing else to do, so we were posting videos. Just boys being boys.”
For fun, Austin started singing covers on the channel and the number of subscribers began to climb rapidly. Spurred on by the positive support online, he created his own channel for his growing fan base. “I had so many subscribers so I thought I could make something huge,” Austin says.
But in his home town, the response was not so favourable. “I was in this little country town and my style was different than anybody else’s,” says Austin while remembering what it was like to grow up in Texas. And then when that unique style got him attention, people got mean. “The entire school was just hating on me and I didn’t have many friends because I was just so different,” he says. “Everyone was like, ‘Oh, you suck. You’re so stupid. Get out of here and go die.’”
Rather than be discouraged by such comments, Austin chose to use the bullying as fuel for his growing dream: to make it big in the music world. “It definitely helped me not to listen to what people say because people can be pretty mean,” he says. “But I had my friends to keep me up.”
With the support of close friends and family, Austin focussed on honing his talent, putting the negative words of others behind him and growing stronger because of it.
He had already learned to play the drums at a young age. “I used to go to this music store when I was like six-years-old and bang around on the drums,” says Austin. So, for Christmas one year, his mom surprised him with his very own set. He soon added the guitar, piano and the ukulele to his resume of instruments, filling his family home with music. “A lot of time, parents aren’t supportive of their kids’ dreams, so I think it’s awesome that she’s so supportive and she’s always there,” he says. “I’m thankful for that.”
He’s covered songs by NeYo, Bruno Mars, Justin Timerblake and Jason Mraz, to name a few. One of his favourite—and most successful—video posts was his cover of Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe.” “It got like 10 million views in two weeks. It was crazy,” he says. “It just blew up.”
Not too long after that video went viral, Austin landed a record deal with Chase/Universal Republic Records. The teen from a small town went from recording music videos in his bedroom and doing all of his own editing, to performing on stage in front of thousands. “It’s pretty crazy because I just jumped into this huge world,” he says. “But I love it all.”
Despite how busy his schedule is these days, Austin is still making time for his fans—called Mahomies—who have helped him get this far and who continue to show support for his career. “I use Twitter every day,” he says, assuring his fans that it really is him that they’re connecting with online. “It’s me and my phone.”
In addition to the album release this year, Austin is also headed out on tour with Taylor Swift. “I met her a year ago in this little café,” he says. “She walked in and I said, ‘Hey Taylor, my name’s Austin. I’m on Youtube. I sing.’ And she’s like, ‘Oh that’s so cool. Keep up the good work. Never give up on your dreams.’ And then a year later, I’m going on tour with her.”
It’s been quite a ride for Austin: from being bored in a country town in Texas to travelling the world and sharing the stage with some of the biggest names in music. He’s had his share of haters along the way, but they’ve only made him stronger and more determined to make the best of what’s in store for him in the future. “Don’t give up. Keeping working hard,” he says, when asked what advice he would pass onto others. “You never know what could happen.”
What Dreams May Come…
Dream vacation: Hawaii
Okay, so the clock hits 11:11. What are you wishing for these days?
Wishing that I could perform at Madison Square Gardens.
Photography by Richard Sibbald
Creative direction by Alana Yip-Hoi
Styling by Joelle Litt for Judy Inc.
Faze assistance by Jemicah Marasigan, Naomi Leanage, Jessica Harwood
A special thanks to the Westin Harbour Castle Toronto
On the cover, Austin is wearing a NOZO Toronto Snapback cap, his own stylist’s jacket, a Jack of All Trades t-shirt (available at Over the Rainbow), Aplina M1 sunglasses (available at Aeroplane Vintage Eyewear), J Brand Jeans and Nudie Jeans belt (both available at Over the Rainbow).
On this page, Austin is wearing a New Era cap, a Polo Ralph Lauren t-shirt (available at Jonathan & Olivia), a Dockers hoodie, a Scotch and Soda jacket, Citizens of Humanity jeans, Herschel Supply Co. backpack and Palladium boots (all available at Over the Rainbow).