November 30, 2012 9:10 PM | By Kim Hughes

YouTube star Austin Mahone ready to breakthrough

YouTube star Austin Mahone ready to breakthrough

Austin Mahone (© MediaPunch, Rex Features)

Austin Mahone

Meet Austin Mahone. The 16-year-old Miami-based cutie is the latest performer - see also Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen - to bypass the traditional avenues to pop fame and hijack the collective consciousness via YouTube videos and relentless social media activity.

True, Mahone can sing, dance and play guitar, as his YouTube presence demonstrates, and he’s been legitimately blowing teenage minds and breaking hearts with a pair of smooch-y, upbeat singles: “11:11” and “Say Somethin.” A third featuring rapper Flo Rida is just about to drop. But it’s Mahone’s path to stardom that’s central to the story so far.

Though he has yet to release a full album or mount a major tour (both are pending in 2013), Mahone has amassed over 1.3 million Twitter followers and nearly 1.5 million Facebook friends. 

“He built this legion of fans (known as “Mahomies”) initially through his YouTube Channel which now has over 92 million views and nearly 500,000 subscribers,” his label, Universal, enthuses.

What’s more – and this might be worrying if you’re Universal - in February of 2012, Mahone’s first single on iTunes (“11:11”) sold over 125,000 without any promotion outside of social media. In May, a show at the 2,100-capacity Best Buy Theater in New York apparently sold out in minutes.

And then there was a recent visit to London, England (video on YouTube, natch) where hundreds upon hundreds of screaming fans worked themselves into a lather at the very sight of our man, a Sun Sign Aries for those keeping score, who shares a birthday (April 4) with Jamie Lynn Spears, Robert Downey Jr., and the late Heath Ledger.

(Other Mahone fun facts: he drives a red Range Rover; is Texas-born; is most often compared to Justin Bieber; and his cover of Justin Bieber's “Mistletoe” now has more hits that the original on YouTube).

Rolling into Toronto for the first time this weekend to join MuchMusic’s Big Jingle event ahead of a major jaunt alongside Ed Sheeran supporting Taylor Swift, a sleepy, early morning Mahone chatted with MSN about what makes a great collaborator, and why Chris Brown is his ultimate inspiration.

So you’re playing the Big Jingle on Sunday; what can people expect from the show?

A lot of excitement, a lot of dancing. They can expect my new single [“Say You’re Just a Friend,” featuring Flo Rida] ‘cause that’s going to be in there and a lot of fun… a lot of fun. And I will be playing guitar, probably on my first single I ever had, 11:11.’

What’s up with your debut record?

It’s about 75 percent done. I still hope to get a few more songs in but I am trying to make it perfect. I’m working with a bunch of people – Mike Posner (who co-wrote Mahone’s “Say Somethin” as well as Bieber’s “Boyfriend” which he also produced) plus I am working with RedOne who’s done work with Lady Gaga and with Nicki Minaj.

What do you look for in collaborator?

I look for someone that I’m a fan of or someone I just think would be cool to work with, or someone who is pretty hot right now. That’s important for a collaboration.

What was the deal with this London trip you did recently where a gazillion fans turned up?

It was insane. It was actually my very first time in London so I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I got there but when I got there, it was pandemonium. It was crazy. I didn’t expect that many people to be there but they were just there.

Does this concern you at all? You want to be judged for your body of work but this crazy adoration seems a bit cart-before-the-horse?

Yeah but no, I’m excited about all these people coming out. I’m happy.

You have lots of touring ahead…

Yeah. You talking about the Taylor Swift tour? Oh I am so excited, I can’t wait. I actually met her about a year ago. She was in this little café and I went up to her and I was like, ‘Hey my name is Austin Mahone and I do music and I’m on YouTube,’ and she was like, ‘Oh that’s so cool, be sure to work hard and never give up,’ and I’m like ‘OK, thanks.’ And a year later I am going on tour with her. It’s crazy.

Do you do any charity work?

I have done stuff for the Ryan Seacreast Foundation (Mission: “Enhancing the quality of life for seriously ill and injured children through entertainment and education focused initiatives.”) I have come out to sing but also gone to visit kids in hospital. I enjoyed that. It was fun.

Looking ahead, whose career would you most like yours to resemble?

I would say I’d like to resemble Chris Brown’s career because he’s such an amazing performer and singer and dancer. He does it all. I aspire to be as successful as him.

Where else in the world has your music made inroads?

Australia, Germany, I seem to have a lot of fans in Singapore, in Africa, Greenland, Iceland, Japan. They’re all over the place. And the thing that unites them is Twitter. I’m always tweeting and so everybody just kind of comes together on Twitter as this huge community.

Weirdest thing you’ve read about yourself online or via Twitter?

I spend a lot of time on Twitter and there has been some crazy stuff. I would have to say this one girl tweeted, ‘Austin I want to touch your earlobes’ and I was like, ‘What? Why? That doesn’t make sense… why would you want to touch my earlobes,’ and she was like, ‘I want to be the first Mahomie that you remember touching your earlobes.’ Sometimes girls say the weirdest things… I don’t know why.

But I guess she would kind of have that category locked up.

Yup, she made her point.

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