BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
Only five years ago, Austin Mahone was a budding YouTube star.
Since then, he’s opened for Taylor Swift, joined Macy’s “American Icons” campaign, established his presence on the Radio Disney and Teen Choice awards and worked with artists ranging from Rich Homie Quan to 2 Chainz to his mentor, Pitbull.
In December, Mahone released his second mixtape, “For Me + You,” which spawned the single “Lady” (with Pitbull). A few months ago, Mahone’s collaboration with Dutch DJ Hardwell, “Creatures of the Night,” dented the Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart.
Mahone is currently on a tour of small venues and festivals – dubbed “A Tour for Me + You”- that pulls into The Loft at Center Stage on Friday.
Calling from his home in Miami a few days before the tour kickoff, the personable Texan talked about why he loves life on the road, what he’s learned from Pitbull and his favorite sport – basketball.
Q: You’re taking this tour to really intimate venues. Why did you want to do that?
A: Right now, I think with intimate venues I can showcase the new music. It’s not like I’m going on a huge tour, it’s kinda a small tour
Q: What can fans expect from the show and the setlist?
A: I have a full band now, a four-piece. We’re not going too crazy on the lights or stuff like that. The band is the biggest thing because it’s the first time putting (a show) together like that. I just felt like a band is a lot cooler. Before it would just be dancers and no band, but I’m getting older and more mature.
Q: Do you enjoy life on the road?
A: I love being on the road. I’d rather drive everywhere then fly. I wake up and don’t know what city I’m in. You get to know people more. Everyone is getting together (on the bus), watching the game, or eating a bunch of snacks. I have my own bedroom in the back, which is cool. I can set up my speakers and laptop back there.
Q: Any work on a new album?
A: I’ve been recording the past year in L.A., Miami, New York, experimenting with new sounds. Hopefully we’ll have something by the end of the year. I’m doing a lot of shows in between.
Q: You come to Atlanta pretty often. Is this a good city for you?
A: Atlanta is one of my best markets. Every time I do a show there, it goes so hard.
Q: You’ve known Pitbull for a while and worked with him a couple of times – is he as fun to work with as he seems?
A: Pitbull is amazing. He’s the most humble, talented, business savvy, thankful guy. Just a great person, great artist, great performer. He has so many stories and so much advice; hopefully I’ll be working with him for a long time.
Q: What kind of advice have you gotten from him?
A: I’ve learned that you definitely have to know the business, because the music business is definitely all business. You have to know how to react, the whole nine yards.
Q: You turned 21 last month, so how has life changed?
A: It hasn’t changed too much, other than I can do whatever I want.
Q: And get into casinos.
A: (Laughs). I don’t gamble, but before, a lot of times there were shows that were around casinos and a lot of times I couldn’t cut through the casino (because I was underage) and I’m on the golf cart going up eight escalators to get to the venue!
Q: How did you celebrate your birthday?
A: I started in Miami, celebrated at Sway in Fort Lauderdale and went to Vegas for three or four days. I got to meet George Strait, one of my biggest idols. I got to share a glass of whiskey with him and watch him perform (in Vegas).
Q: As a young performer, does the tragedy that took place in Manchester make you at all worried about going onstage?
A: What happened is just sick. I can’t believe someone would actually go to a concert and do that. It’s supposed to be a place of happiness. For someone to do that, it’s so dumb. It’s definitely scary in the back of my mind that anything can happen and I just think about that you can’t take life for granted. You have to enjoy it and appreciate the people in your life. You can’t dwell on negative things.
Q: Since your Spurs got knocked out of the playoffs, who are you rooting for?
A: I want to see the Cavs go back to back – that would be kind of cool. I love both (the Warriors and the Cavaliers). They’re both amazing teams. I don’t care who wins. In this generation, it’s such a good matchup, two of the best in the whole league.
With The YRS and Speakerfoxxx. 8:30 p.m. June 9. $20 (advance) and $25 (day of show). The Loft at Center Stage, 1374 W. Peachtree St., Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com.