Is Austin Mahone poised to be pop's next big thing?
The answer may be in the title of his latest single -- "Mmm Yeah."
During the past year and a half the 17-year-old singer has climbed from YouTube sensation to bona fide hitmaker, racking up a string that includes "Say Somethin'," "Say You're Just a Friend" with Flo Rida, "11:11," "What About Love, "Banga! Banga!" and the climbing "Mmm Yeah" with Pitbull. He was one of MTV's Artists To Watch during 2013 and the Teen Ambassador for rapper Lil Wayne`s Trukfit clothing line.
Mahone has also been seen in commercials for McDonald's, Hot Nuts and Aquafina's FlavorSplash, and on episodes of "Big Time Rush" and "Awesomeness TV," with an upcoming appearance on the CBS sitcom "The Millers."
So with the world souring on Justin Bieber and his thug-lite antics, it seems like the skids are well-greased for Mahone, who's currently working on his debut album.
"It's definitely happened really, really quickly," says Mahone, who resides in Miami these days. "I've been very blessed, and the past year's been amazing and I'm excited for it to grow some more. I just want to keep growing my fan base and keep putting out music and living the dream."
Mahone, who's father died when he was a one-year-old, grew up in a non-musical household but caught the bug when he took up his grandmother's suggestion that he learn to play guitar. "I thought it was kind of dumb," he says, "but she kept telling me, 'You should really learn how to play. It's easy to travel with and girls love it,' and I was like, 'You know what, I'll do it to make her happy.' " And after taking some lessons -- with his mother in fact -- Mahone found that "we both loved it, and now I love it a lot and (his grandmother) was right -- it's easy to travel with and a lot of fun, and girls do love it."
Mahone subsequently learned to play piano and drums, and a "hobby" became a vocation when he started posting videos on YouTube. A version of Bieber's "Mistletoe" in particular got plenty of attention, and by August of 2013 Mahone had a deal with the Young Money Entertainment/Cash Money Records/Universal Republic conglomerate.
About the only stumble in Mahone's seemingly smooth climb came last fall, when he had to cancel a tour at the last minute when a blood clot was discovered in his throat, resulting in surgery and vocal rest. "I wasn't concerned about permanent damage, but I was very sad that I had to postpone it because I knew my fans were excited, and I was excited," says Mahone, who plans to make up for it with "more lights, more smoke, more dancers, more choreography, so it's definitely a lot bigger show, and I have a band playing my songs, so it's pretty good."
Mahone wraps things up at Rodeo Austin in Texas on March 12, and after that he says the priority will be to finish the album, which has had several titles and undergone several permutations since he signed his deal.
"I'm about 75 percent done and I'm still trying to get all the details right," says Mahone, who's been working with hit-making collaborators such as Redone, Sean Garrett and Max Martin. "I'm a lot older now and I'm putting out more mature singles and more mature music. I feel like my fans are growing up, and I want them to grow with me, so that's definitely a factor.
"It's definitely taking a lot longer than I expected, but it's going to be worth it. It's gonna be really good when it comes out."
Austin Mahone, Becky G & Midnight Red and W3 the Future perform Sunday, March 2, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are sold out. Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.
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