Shawn Mendes gets spiritual as he embarks on his biggest tour yet. The pop star will perform at Samsung + Billboard Present THE STAGE at SXSW on March 19.
The sun is setting over a Santa Monica, Calif., apartment complex, and Mendes is leaning forward from his seat as he explains a recent major life change: his embrace of spirituality. It started with meditation to bring a little balance to his chaotic life of pop stardom. That turned into reading religious texts, which turned into a deep dive on the Bhakti movement in Hinduism. For nearly a year, Mendes has spent every Thursday meditating and discussing scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita with Jay Shetty, the author of Think Like a Monk.
“I think everybody has a moment where they just decide it’s time to kind of do something different,” says Mendes matter-of-factly. Now spirituality is “a part of my life that is much bigger than I actually even let on.”
Shawn Mendes has accomplished a mind-boggling amount at the age of 23. Now, he’s gearing up to go on his most expansive tour to date, while also getting in touch with his spirituality. Mendes wants to continue that approach on his next project, for which he’s already “writing a ton.” He’s working closely with Mike Sabath (Lizzo, Meghan Trainor) and has been drawing inspiration from acts ranging from Bon Iver to Paul Simon to Coldplay — performers that don’t “put themselves in a box,” as he puts it. Mendes and Cabello joined Coldplay frontman Chris Martin onstage at Global Citizen Live in New York last September to sing the band’s “Yellow” — and Mendes was so inspired by the experience, he hit the studio the next day to work on “It’ll Be Okay,” a dramatic piano ballad he co-created with Sabath and released in December as a one-off single.
“I think he really cares deeply about what he’s singing and how he’s singing it,” Martin says of Mendes. “I don’t think he’s just in it for the fame or just in it for the money or anything like that. I think he holds the responsibility that he has really well because he has been a teen idol and everything. The music could be the last thing on his mind, but I think it’s at the forefront of his instead. He wants to sing things that really hit people deeply, and I think he’s getting better and better at doing that. So I just champion him all the way.”
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“For me, it’s not to be like, ‘I have to change the world,’ ” says Mendes, an earnest smile breaking across his face. “I’m just saying, that’s where my ambition goes — to influence culture. I want to honor the opportunity that I’ve been given as an artist, to make something very true.”Shawn Mendes