Although Shawn Mendes came into 2016 with a No. 1 album, a top 10 single and multiple tours already under his belt, the Canadian singer-songwriter spent the year spinning teen stardom into something even sturdier. Mendes followed up last year’s debut Handwritten with Illuminate, which scored his best sales week to date upon its September release; “Stitches” was succeeded by “Treat You Better,” another top 10 smash on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as “Mercy,” both of which he performed on Saturday Night Live earlier this month; and his first headlining tour in support of Handwritten earlier this year has led to the Illuminate world tour, set to hit arenas beginning next spring.
Also in 2016: Mendes turned 18 years old. “It’s easy to forget that he’s still that young,” Andrew Gertler, the former Vine star’s longtime manager, tells Billboard. “I think we both have these moments of pinching ourselves, and he’s sometimes like, Wow, I’m only 18. … He has those teenage moments, but he’s also very conscious of protecting the fact that he is still a teenager. Where I think he’s making music that might go beyond someone of his age at the time, a lot of his fans are his age and his peers, and he relates to them. He tries to maintain that authenticity.”
Gertler says that the creation of Illuminate, which was recorded in upstate New York and released just 17 months after Handwritten debuted at No. 1 in April 2015, was the defining process for both of their professional years; fresh off the surprise top 40 success of “Stitches,” Mendes wanted to prove himself an enduring songwriter with his sophomore album. “Handwritten was a great accomplishment, but now he’s been able to bring it as a mature storyteller,” Gertler explains. “I think that payoff of going from an artist known to the world for his hit song ‘Stitches’ and a teenage fan base, and then to harness that and end up on SNL at the end of the year — to me, that was the most memorable thing of this year, how far he came.”
The Illuminate tour will begin overseas in March, wind through Europe over the spring and make its North American debut in Portland on July 6. According to Gertler, 30 to 40 more shows will be added to the 44 announced dates in 2017, and that will take up most of Mendes’ next year — although fans shouldn’t be shocked if he releases more new music sometime “sooner than later,” either.
“He’s been in the mode of new writing,” says Gertler. “He’s writing with and for a few other artists, and probably through next year, will have some interesting collaborations that come out between albums. That’s just what he does — the minute that we put out Illuminate, literally in his hotel room that day, he sent me three new voice memos of three new songs.
“We put out two albums in two years,” he continues. “You see what people in the industry, people like Drake, are doing, which is putting out multiple projects a year. Fans are consuming things at a faster rate, and Shawn wants to make sure that his fans have music constantly.” Gertler also mentions that Mendes is “working on a few things like acting projects. Putting out new music versus touring versus a great acting role — it’s definitely a tough balance to strike.”
Is Mendes already going for his EGOT? Gertler laughs and says that they have to score that first Grammy nod first. Although Mendes was considered a possibility for a Best New Artist nomination last week, he was shut out — not that he minds at this point, says his manager.
“For Shawn, it just drives him even further to make that new next thing that will get nominated,” says Gertler. “I think he’s also very much like, ‘I’m 18.’ And everyone knows that it’s an ultimate goal, to have that nomination, to get recognized, would be amazing, but it’s also not the be-all, end-all. He’s doing just fine.
“It’s funny,” he adds, “because Shawn is such a huge Chance The Rapper fan, and it was almost like Shawn was more excited and proud to see Chance up there than he cared that he wasn’t. It definitely is one of those things where we see that his fans are disappointed, but Shawn is just in the ‘It’ll happen eventually’ mindset.”