Jacob Sartorius’s path to fame has become an increasingly familiar story: teenaged internet sensation breaks out into mainstream pop stardom. But what sets the 14-year-old Virginian singer apart is his self-awareness and early career savvy.
In 2014, Sartorius began uploading clips of himself singing and dancing to Vine. After amassing around 500,000 followers, he switched to musical.ly, where he began uploading videos of himself lip-synching to his own songs. Whereas Vine allowed him to show off his musical theatre background, musical.ly allowed him to show off even more of his lighthearted side. Musical.ly became a new way for him to promote his music and connect with his fans.
Sartorius’s fan base has grown so large that he is currently touring internationally for the first time, across seven countries, in support of his debut EP, The Last Text. Georgie caught up with him by phone in London, England a day before he performed in front of 2,500 fans at the O2 Arena.
In preparing for TheLast Text World Tour, Sartorius has already started developing the work ethic necessary to endure major pop stardom. For 15 to 20 days leading up to the tour, he worked with his voice and movement coaches for up to ten hours a day. His tour manager was also on site to work out everything from song choice to the set order to how to make the shows as interactive as possible. “It was really hard work for me the first three to four days, and then I was kind of like, ‘You know what? If I’m trying to do this big, I gotta just put in the work.’”
Most musicians never get to experience his level of success, not at age 14, not so early into their careers, not ever. But that doesn’t stop Sartorius from dreaming even bigger. “My goal’s to be one of the biggest, so I’ve got a lot of things that I need to do on my end to make that possible.” Although he is vague, he reveals that he is working with some “cool people” on “crazy, crazy content,” “stuff that people are just not even going to be expecting.” As well, he is planning some “huge, huge” stops on his next tour. “This is all coming together so fast, it’s really, really insane.”
If such sudden success seems overwhelming, especially at such a young age, it’s because, Sartorius admits, sometimes it is. Every now and then he requires a breather, from the professionals who surround him all day and even from the studio. After spending as few as 10 minutes Facetiming with family and friends, catching up on how things are with them at home and at school, he’s ready to get back to work. “[A]ll my friends are still supportive, and when I go home for the couple of days that I get before I head out back on tour, I just try to seize every moment I can. And I know that I’m doing all of this so I can make a difference in the world.” He elaborates candidly: “I’ve been through bullying. I know other people go through it too, so I’m trying to… show people that it’s possible to make it out of there…”
Sartorius’ family has been with him every step of the way. He recalls listening to a rough mix of The Last Text with his parents in their family room. “My dad started crying, and mom was all teary-eyed. It was really crazy for me to see, like, ‘Holy crap – that work really did pay off.’” His father was also present for one of his proudest moments in the studio, during the recording of “Love Me Back”. Sartorious remembers improvising what became the song’s final vocal hook: “It was really crazy because my dad walked in the studio and was like, ‘What just happened?’ And everybody was like, ‘He just wrote the hook! It just happened! It went down like right now!’… [The hook] came to me right away, so I think the more natural it is, the more people will like it. I think that’s why that one’s really doing well.”
As for his other favourite tracks from the EP, it’s a toss-up. “Bingo” “has a lot of energy with a poppy vibe to it. I think that one’s just got more swag to it.” However, given his athletic background, he relates most to the basketball-themed “Jordans”. “I’m feeling really, really, really AMAZING about it,” he says of The Last Text overall. “I think the EP has a lot of songs on there that people can vibe to in the car, at school… if their teacher lets them… Just anywhere, really.”
Given Sartorius’ age and path to stardom, he inevitably receives comparisons to Justin Bieber. Instead of shunning such easy comparisons though, Sartorius wholeheartedly welcomes them. “I actually went to the Believe Tour in 2009, I think it was, and that was my first- ever concert… To see that really opened up my eyes, and I knew the second that I saw him come out on that stage, I was like, one day I gotta be doing arenas.”
Sartorius also draws major inspiration from another Ontarian: Shawn Mendes. Sartorius calls Mendes one of his favourite artists and admires him for doing things a bit differently, going in a more singer-songwriter direction. “He’s not going that traditional pop star route. He’s kinda going like a John Mayer which is cool…. JB’s definitely got the swag, JB’s definitely got the vocal talent, so it’s cool to try to work towards somebody like [Mendes].”
Perhaps more than Mendes’ and Bieber’s musical talent, Sartorius admires their work ethic. “You don’t get to that spot accidentally. You really do have to prove yourself – that you’re an artist. You have to prove that your vocal talent is there. You have to prove that you can dance. You have to prove that you got the style, you got the star power.” He is self-aware enough to acknowledge that despite all of his success thus far, he has much more to improve on, whether it’s his singing or dancing or overall presentation. “I never take anything and say, ‘I’m so good.’ I always just think of, ‘What could I have done better?’”
The key to all Sartorius has accomplished in his budding career is not business savvy or perfecting his talents – it’s family. Ask what advice he has for aspiring young performers and his beyond-his-years wisdom comes flooding out, ready and lucid like a mantra he has practiced daily. “Stay grounded, remember where you came from, stay humble, always respect what your mom has to say, always respect what your dad has to say, stay close with the family, keep your friends close, keep the people that stuck around at the beginning with you.” He also advocates never giving up on dreams because one never knows when opportunities may arise and trying to connect with people through one’s music. “Make music for a purpose…. I do it because I want to relate to people. I want to make a story that other people can be like, ‘Oh, I have that same story.’” Jacob Sartorius’ success story echoes those of stars who have come before him, but with his head and heart in the right places, he is writing chapters all his own.
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