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From Vine to the Billboard charts: Canadian teen Shawn Mendes has breakthrough

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - Six seconds isn't a long time, but Vine superstar Shawn Mendes made the time count when posting cover songs on the social media platform.

The teen singer, who hails from the Toronto suburb of Pickering, Ont., says he would pick the hits he would cover — and the sections of the tracks — and post them on Vine to showcase his talents and grab positive attention.

"You'd think, 'I don't understand why the kid has so many followers because it's only six seconds. How are you supposed to know if he's any good at six seconds?' But there's an art behind getting people to be intrigued because you only have six or six and a half seconds to impress people," he said in a recent interview.

Mendes, who will be 16 next month, secured a following on Vine, where he had 300,000 fans awaiting his posts. Record labels caught wind of his strong social media presence.

"Island Records was the first record label to ... acknowledge me," said Mendes, who signed with the label. "After that, quickly Republic Records, and then Atlantic Records, Sony Records and Warner Bros. It was all the labels at once. It was absolutely insane like knowing that this many record labels were interested in me."

Mendes' strong social media stardom is translating to the pop charts: His single, the ballad "Life of the Party," debuted at No. 24 on the Billboard Hot 100 earlier this month, selling an impressive 148,000 tracks. He has 2.8 followers on Vine and 1.3 million followers on Twitter.

He will release his four-song, self-titled EP next week and will go on tour with Austin Mahone and Fifth Harmony on Friday in San Antonio.

Mendes began posting clips on Vine last year from his home , starting with a cover of Justin Bieber's "As Long as You Love Me." His manager, Andrew Gertler, discovered the singer after searching YouTube for covers of A Great Big World's "Say Something." He immediately sent the clip to Ziggy Chareton, an A&R manager at Island Records.

"I never really looked at Vine as a resource to find talent," Chareton said.

"We knew the social following was there, but he had never sold a song before," Gertler added. "Coming to New York and seeing that girls were showing up to his hotel and seeing that these numbers online were translating to physical people was when we were kind of like, 'OK, this is getting serious.'"

Chareton said Mendes' sound will echo Ed Sheeran, John Mayer and OneRepublic.

"I want this to be the complete antithesis of Austin Mahone. Even though he's going on tour with him to kind of garner that same demographic and fan base, we want quality records," he said.

Some people have likened Mendes to Bieber, a Canadian teen who had a breakthrough on the Universal Music Group label. Chareton said he's OK with the comparison, but notes that fans should also expect something different.

"I take no offence to that because (Bieber) became extremely successful, but the one thing I will say about Shawn is you're never going to see him onstage with 30 background dancers, pyrotechnics and records produced and having features from Nicki Minaj," he said.

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Follow Mesfin Fekadu at twitter.com/MusicMesfin

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Online:

http://www.shawnmendesofficial.com/

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