It’s a story that’s beginning to be a familiar one: singer puts video on YouTube, people love it, the videos get popular, the music industry comes calling. That’s how Hollywood Records found pop/folk singer Marie Digby and how Justin Timberlake discovered Dutch darling Esmee Denters. But none of their stories seem to be as concocted by kismet as Justin Bieber.
The Ontario, Canada native started singing at the ripe old age of 12. He entered a school talent show on a whim, and, to his surprise, landed in second place with no real practice at all.
To share his victory with his family and friends who were unable to attend, he uploaded a video of his performance to YouTube. But what was meant to be a private video became very public. People got word of this talented kid singing R&B songs almost older than he was and began to latch on. Nudged by the public’s interest, Justin and his mom continued to upload videos, in which he covered songs by Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Rihanna, and Ne-Yo.
It wasn’t long before Justin made fans in very high places. Bieber got set up with notable artist manager Scooter Braun to start work on his demo. But it was a chance meeting with R&B star Usher that changed everything.
Now, under the watchful eye of Usher and Island Records big wig L.A. Reid, the 15-year-old is ready to make his mark with his debut album, My World, being released this fall. The album promises to showcase top-notch R&B-flavored pop with Bieber’s natural, unfiltered vocal styling.
Neon Limelight spoke to Justin to get a look into his world. He told us about his “accidental” rise to fame, working with Usher, the pressure to succeed, and girls.
Neon Limelight: Hi Justin! How are you?
Justin Bieber: I’m great. I just kinda woke up.
NL: Cool! So I’m the first one of the day?
JB: Yup yup!
NL: Awesome! I like to be first so that my questions aren’t stale.
NL: Are you used to the whole interview process yet?
JB: Yeah, I do it a lot now.
NL: Cool or creepy?
JB: No, I like it. It’s fun.
NL: So, having Usher introduce you to the world has got to be pretty cool, right?
JB: Yeah. Very, very, very, very cool. I couldn’t have a better situation.
NL: But it also has to come with a little bit of pressure. Do you ever feel like ‘Usher’s backing me. I have to deliver’?
JB: Well, I mean, I’m kind of a perfectionist, so I always like to do my best. Yeah… I guess there’s a little bit of pressure, but I don’t think he puts that on me. I think that it’s just me.
NL: Well, it has to be a good pressure because at the same time people are like, ‘Well, if Usher is backing this kid, he has to be good.’ What kind of advice has Usher given you so far? How has he guided you?
JB: He just basically told me to keep my head on straight. Make sure to stay grounded. I mean, he’s been through the whole process. He’s done it all before so he’s kind of coaching me. He’s kind of my mentor.
NL: You sing like you’ve been doing it forever. When did you start?
JB: I started singing when I was about 12. Actually, I was in a singing competition and I got second place. I was in the singing competition and my friends and family that couldn’t make it wanted to be there but they couldn’t, so my mom and I posted videos of the competition on YouTube for them to see and I guess it just blew up. I started to get like a million views — it was just crazy. Then my manager contacted me, flew me out to Atlanta where I met Usher totally randomly. Usher was going to the studio the same time as me and I ran up to him as fast as I could. I was like, “Usher, Usher! I love your songs! You want me to sing you one?” He gets so many people every day asking him [if they can] sing for him and give him their demo, so I didn’t get to sing for him. But a week later, Usher got to look at my videos and he flew me back to Atlanta, where I met him again and got to sing for him, and I guess the rest is history. I’m signed with Usher now.
NL: There had to have been a moment before you entered the talent contest that you realized you had a pretty good voice and maybe you should try it.
JB: Well, I just did it for fun. I wasn’t trying to be famous or anything.
NL: What was the first song you ever sang where you realized you had a great voice?
JB: I don’t know if I remember. I think maybe “So Sick” by Ne-Yo.
NL: You kinda fell into music but what made you want to take this seriously and make it your career?
JB: It was all by accident, like I said. I just kinda fell into it, and I love it and I couldn’t be in a better position.
NL: Definitely. Did you ever think of doing anything else as a career when you were growing up?
JB: No. Well, I wasn’t really thinking of that. I mean, I was just being a regular kid. I didn’t really think of that stuff yet.
NL: Let’s talk about your album for a second. Who are you working with on it?
JB: I’ve been working with Tricky [Stewart] and The-Dream, I’ve worked with Bryan Michael Cox, Johnta Austin. I’ve worked with a bunch of other people. I worked with The Movement, The Clutch. A lot of good producers and stuff.
NL: Yeah, and being based in Atlanta, you have to meet a lot of great people.
JB: Yeah, there’s a lot great people in the music industry here in Atlanta.
NL: Has there been someone you wanted to work with but they were kind of, “Uhh, I don’t want to work with this kid,” but you convinced them?
JB: I don’t think so.
NL: So pretty much everyone was on board from the beginning?
NL: That’s awesome! So, you have a duet with Usher on the album.
NL: What was it like recording that?
JB: It was really amazing. I never would have guessed that I would be able to do a collaboration with Usher.
NL: What is the song about?
JB: Well, I’m not gonna give away too many details so you guys are just going to have to see on the album. [laughs]
NL: [laughs] OK! So, this career, even though you just fell into it, has to give you major points with the girls.
JB: [laughs] Well, to be honest, I got girls before.
NL: [laughs] Confidence!
JB: But definitely a lot more girls are following me and stuff.
NL: I can imagine! How have your friends reacted to your success?
JB: My friends are so excited for me. They’ve been supportive since day one. I’m really thankful.
NL: And you had your best friend in the video for “One Time.”
NL: What was it like shooting your first video?
JB: It was really different going from a video camera to a professional camera. It was really crazy, but it was an amazing experience.
NL: Usher was also on the set. What was it like having him there?
JB: Well, I mean, to be honest, a lot of people have been asking like, “It must be amazing to hang out with Usher,” but he’s just a regular cat like you and me, so it’s just like hanging out with anybody else. But it’s cool. It’s cool to have one of my inspirations on set.