Wonderland.

AUSTIN MAHONE

Teen YouTuber to music industry charmer, we caught up with success story Austin Mahone in the Summer 19 issue.

Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland topless denim

Jacket RUSHEMY BOTTER, jewellery AUSTIN’S OWN

Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland topless denim
Jacket RUSHEMY BOTTER, jewellery AUSTIN’S OWN

Taken from the Summer 2019 issue of Wonderland. Order your copy of the issue now.

Paving the way as one of the first YouTubers to turn a teenage hobby into a fully fledged career, Austin Mahone has been charming the music industry since 2010, and this year he’s due to finally release his debut album. We caught up with the cherubic singer who made his return this summer with his first solo tracks since 2016.

For me personally, YouTube is a place to listen to B-sides and covers artists have never released, or fall asleep to the comforting sound of three-hour Vine (RIP) compilations at 2AM after I’ve had one (read: three) too many. Like me, Austin Mahone is 23 years old, but instead of using the video-sharing site as a lullaby made of LOLs, he embarked upon the creation of an empire from his bedroom aged just 14.

Growing up in the early noughts, you couldn’t dream of building a career by sharing videos — YouTube didn’t exist until 2005, for starters — but that didn’t stop Mahone from joining the cresting wave of singers finding fame on the internet. After uploading covers and original tracks, a viral Gen Z following swarmed and the San Antonian rode the relatively new phenomenon of internet fame. When he released his debut global EP “The Secret” as his first official collection of tracks in 2014, he broke into the top five of the Billboard 200 at just 18 years old.

It helps that he’s grown from a tween cutie into a charismatic heartthrob, sure, but Mahone’s new music marks a maturation. Don’t worry, it’s still the high-gloss pop that won him thousands of fans, backed by music videos that look like they’ve been spiked with E numbers and plenty of cheeky doses of product placements. Mahone’s grown into his voice though, learning to command it with exactly the right amount of swagger you should have when you’re 23 and clocking in 2.9 million monthly Spotify listeners, without having released an album.

His first solo release since 2016, February’s “Why Don’t We”, throws back with layered harmonies to borrow hints of 90s boy-band flamboyance, softly spoken lyrics float over a hyperactive drum machine on steroids and full-bodied fuzzy guitars. Follow-up single, April’s “Anxious”, opens with a Justified-era Justin Timberlake bass line, and Mahone’s got the falsetto down to boot.

Fans have been longing for his debut, and while he promises it’s coming, he’s been busy outside of the studio too. Having made quite the mark on fashion as a model for the likes of Phillip Plein and becoming F-row staple, he’s now also turned his hand to photography for fun – after all, dual careers in music and fashion leave plenty of time for hobbies.

Between all of that, somehow I managed to bag some time over the phone with one of the most in-demand men of the moment to talk about his myriad milestones and his impending, all-important first album.

Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland topless denim
Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland whipping denim shirt
Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland denim shirt

Jacket RUSHEMY BOTTER, trousers THE ELDER STATESMAN, jewellery AUSTIN’S OWN

Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland topless denim
Jacket RUSHEMY BOTTER, trousers THE ELDER STATESMAN, jewellery AUSTIN’S OWN
Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland whipping denim shirt
Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland denim shirt

Hey Austin, how are you? Where are you right now?
I’m really good thanks, I’m in Los Angeles.

You’ve just got back from Japan – how was that, were you there for shows?
Yeah, I got back on Saturday, I was there for three days doing some promotion for my shows coming up in October. And what’s the audience like there? The audience in Japan are definitely… It’s a different type of crowd over there, a little quieter, a little less rowdy, but still very lovable. They have so much respect for me, and for what I bring to them, and I have respect for their country and everything they do, because it’s just a different world over there, and so beautiful. So the crowds are definitely something special, for sure.

Where do you think has the best audiences in the world – where do you enjoy most?
Hmm, that’s tough. Japan’s definitely up there for me, but I would say overall probably South America. They’re just the craziest. Every time I go there they show the most insane support I’ve ever seen, hundreds waiting outside, and they just scream so loud and are so rowdy. I love it. There’s nothing quite like screaming teenage girls, I can confirm. I don’t think that’s a sound that can be replicated in any way. No there’s nothing like that! [laughs]

Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland sunglasses
Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland trench coat

(LEFT) Hoodie MENACE LOS ANGELES, sunglasses RETROSUPERFUTURE
(RIGHT) Coat AMIRI, jumper and trousers THE ELDER STATESMAN, trainers PUMA

Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland sunglasses
Hoodie MENACE LOS ANGELES, sunglasses RETROSUPERFUTURE
Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland trench coat
Coat AMIRI, jumper and trousers THE ELDER STATESMAN, trainers PUMA

You started out really young. Was there a moment or time in your life when you first realised you were famous?
I think it really started for me when I was on YouTube performing and doing covers when I was like 14/15. Seeing the responses I would get to the videos, going to the mall in my hometown and having people come up to me while I was shopping… I was like, ‘Oh, damn, I really got fans like that coming up to me asking for pictures? This is kind of weird, this is different!’ Growing up, I never really had so many fans, it was just different. Was it a surprise at first, or was it something you enjoyed? I can imagine it was pretty weird.
Both! At first I was like, ‘Wow, this is a cool feeling for a change, people actually wanting me.’ But it was definitely difficult, being an only child and sitting in my room all day, I would read all the comments and sometimes let them get to me. I’m getting used to it now, it went from zero to 100, it was like two different worlds. It’s hard to explain. But I’ve loved every step of the way so far.

Was there ever anyone or anything you were obsessed with, like your fans are with you?
I would say George Strait.

How come?
Because he’s the first artist I ever really listened to growing up. I always had his CDs playing in my room, and my mom always played his tapes in the car… He was the first artist I fell in love with. I got to meet him on my 21st birthday, and it was definitely a dream come true.

What a great birthday! Do you remember who the first person was that told you that you could make a career out of music?
I think it was myself, honestly… It all happened so fast, but also happened kind of slow at the same time. People didn’t really get it at first; my mom and my grandparents, they were always really supportive, and they always did what they could to help me pursue my dreams but, you know, at first it was just kind of cute, like, ‘Oh yeah you have some fans online that like the YouTube post.’ But it was really myself that was like, ‘Damn, hold up, this is going really fast. We can take this further than just what it is on YouTube. We can make this a career, a lifestyle.’

I think we’re the same age, right? We’re both 23. When we were kids, having a YouTube career wasn’t a thing. It just didn’t exist. What did you imagine yourself doing when you were a kid?
Honestly? A cowboy. I’m from Texas, and my family are all ranchers and cowboys — real country — so I always thought I’d do something in the country, in the fields, herding animals or something, I don’t know! I had no idea, I was just trying to get through middle school, and figuring out where I wanted to go to high school. That part, the music, just came to me.

Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland double denim
Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland closeup
Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland tux

(LEFT) All clothing RUSHEMY BOTTER, boots BOTH, jewellery AUSTIN’S OWN
(RIGHT) All clothing DSQUARED2, watch OMEGA, jewellery AUSTIN’S OWN

Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland double denim
All clothing RUSHEMY BOTTER, boots BOTH, jewellery AUSTIN’S OWN
Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland closeup
All clothing DSQUARED2, watch OMEGA, jewellery AUSTIN’S OWN
Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland tux

Do you miss the quieter, country life?
Sometimes, and I’m travelling so much, so much back and forth, that sometimes I just want to take a second.

You were only 17 when your first EP got into the top five of the Billboard 200. How are you supposed to celebrate something so huge when you’re just a kid, and you don’t really have that much to compare it to.
I got a Krispy Kreme – you ever been to Krispy Kreme before?

Of course! I like that, that’s a good way to celebrate! You’ve collab- orated with Pitbull a few times, who seems to be one of the happiest men in music, he knows how to enjoy himself! The first was ‘Mmm Yeah’ in 2014, one of your very early songs – what’s he like to work with?
He’s definitely the hardest working guy I’ve ever met – he does it all. He’s for sure earned his name — Mr Worldwide — by just always travelling, and being one of the smartest business guys… He’s definitely one of my greatest influences.

He seems like a fun uncle, or something along those lines.
That’s exactly what he is!

As for new music, you released ‘Why Don’t We’ in February this year which was your first release since 2016. What’s the song about? Why did you decide now was a good time to back with new songs?
The song is about getting out of your comfort zone, having fun in the moment, meeting up with the people that you love and having a good time with them. I thought that was the perfect song to come out of the gate with because it’s up-tempo, it’s funky it’s fun – you can enjoy yourself listening to it. So yeah, I think I wasn’t going for anything crazy stats-wise by releasing that one first, I just wanted something light-hearted and different.

You’ve done your two mixtapes, but the all important debut album is on its way – is it finished yet?
Almost! I’ve recorded about 200 songs for it, so now it’s time to narrow it all down. I’m making decisions as I go, but there are a lot of records I have to go through to get this album finished. So it’s coming, but I’m not sure what date it’ll be out.

Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland jumping
Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland hoodie

(LEFT) Shirt HARDEMAN, jeans RUSHEMY BOTTER, boots BOTH.
(RIGHT) Shirt, hoodie and jeans MENACE LOS ANGELES, shoes CONVERSE, sunglasses RETROSUPERFUTURE, jewellery AUSTIN’S OWN

Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland jumping
Shirt HARDEMAN, jeans RUSHEMY BOTTER, boots BOTH.
Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland hoodie
Shirt, hoodie and jeans MENACE LOS ANGELES, shoes CONVERSE, sunglasses RETROSUPERFUTURE, jewellery AUSTIN’S OWN

200 songs is a lot! Does that ever feel disheartening, working that much, or do you just wanna perfect things?
It’s a little bit boring to try and get as many ideas as I can out, just because I have to make sure I have the best ideas on this album. I usually start with one or two a day, get a verse and some chords down then just keep moving. But pretty much all my ideas are underdeveloped, then I have to go back in and finish them and make them a lot better. It’s a very long process.

Do you prefer performing or being in the studio and being creative?
Right now I’d say performing, just because I’ve been in the studio for the last couple of years, going crazy. It always changes for me – when I’m on tour for a long time, I just want to get home and hide in the studio and be there all day. And when I’ve been doing that for a long time — a few months or so — I’m like, ‘Alright I’m ready to go back and start dancing on stage and playing all this new music I’ve been working on.’

Do you think the new album will surprise your fans? You’re going in a bit of a disco direction right? Which is the best direction in my opinion. What made you decide to take it that way?
I wanted to go that way because, to me, when I listen to music I just want to dance and have fun. I like to listen to anything dance music related, funky, or something house-y – something that has solid tempo and doesn’t stop. On this album, I don’t want any slow records on there; I want every song to be the right song for that project, but keep it all up-tempo and high energy. It makes it easier for me on stage to have fun: when I see everybody jumping around to that music, and they’re on the beat, it just makes me want to perform better, and harder. So I guess it’s about keeping a high energy.

With this new music you’re coming out of a bit of a transition period, where you went from being a teenage star, to being a rock star. I’ve seen the word as a prefix to your name in so many places. Do you feel like you’re growing up, or do you feel like you’ve always been grown up because you’ve been working for so long?
That’s a good question. I think I was forced to grow up a little bit quicker than everyone, because I went head first into the big leagues with everybody. I feel like I’m growing up in the business-mind sense, I guess. I’m still growing every day, I’m just taking it one day at a time, and soaking up as much information as I can and trying to become better.

Who would you want to be like? Who do you think is the greatest rock star to have lived?
So tough. All of the greats. Just watching them on stage, seeing how free they are, seeing how much they don’t care and how they’re living their best life up there, that’s how I want to live. So, you know, music the whole world can dance to and get down to, I’m here to create.

And you living your best life; you’ve modelled a lot in the last few years also, when do you think was the best era for fashion?
I would maybe say the 80s. I feel like everybody was on their ‘I don’t care’ vibe, ‘we’re gonna rock whatever we feel like rocking, even if it looks feminine – we’re going to make it look good’. Their carefree attitude, that’s what it’s all about.

You’ve started sharing some of your own photography as well, as if modelling and singing wasn’t enough. If you could take a pic of anyone or anything in world, what would it be?
I think I would say Bella Hadid. Going for the top!

Aim high, start with the supermodels! Thank you Austin.

Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland jumper
Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland dancing

(LEFT) Cardigan AMIRI
(RIGHT) Shirt, hoodie and jeans MENACE LOS ANGELES, shoes CONVERSE, sunglasses RETROSUPERFUTURE, jewellery AUSTIN’S OWN

Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland jumper
Cardigan AMIRI
Austin Mahone interview in Summer 19 issue of Wonderland dancing
Shirt, hoodie and jeans MENACE LOS ANGELES, shoes CONVERSE, sunglasses RETROSUPERFUTURE, jewellery AUSTIN’S OWN
Photography
Paul Scala
Fashion
Ian McRae
Words
Lily Walker
Grooming
Christopher Loera using Kiehls Skincare, Kevin Murphy and Robert Ramos Hair Products
Production
Federica Barletta
Photo assistants
Yolanda Leaney, Kendall Conor Pack
Fashion assistants
Raheem Rogers, Jordan Boothe
Special thanks
LAC Studios Los Angeles
AUSTIN MAHONE