The Canadian-born singer, 19, was discovered at the age of 12 after posting his rendition of Ne-Yo’s So Sick on the internet. Since then he has received many awards, and was nominated for Best New Artist and Best Vocal Pop Vocal Album at the 53rd Grammy Awards. He has a global fan base, termed as Beliebers, and over 33 million followers on Twitter — and many of them are in the UAE, looking forward to his concerts in Dubai on May 4 and 5. Named by Forbes magazine in 2012 as the third most powerful celebrity in the world (with earnings of $55 million - Dh202 million that year) and 15 million albums sold, it wouldn’t be surprising if the young star let some of it go to his head. But, he revealed he’s just “a regular kid”.
Do you ever wish you were just a regular kid?
I am a regular kid.
Well, not really...
You know what, as long as I keep thinking to myself and always remaining humble, I think that I am a regular kid and knowing that nothing is going to stop me from being who I am, then I’m going to be fine.
How do you think you have stayed so down to earth?
Well, I keep the people that I grew up with, you know, Ryan, my friend, he’s always outside the room.
Literally or metaphorically?
Both (laughs). He grew up with me. His dad was my football coach when I was like eight, so I think just being able to keep such close people around me. I mean, that’s what keeps me humble. He goes everywhere with me.
What do you think you would do if this career hadn’t exploded for you? Would you have gone on to study?
I don’t know. Like, I wasn’t good in school; I was okay in school, but I was not great. It wasn’t getting A’s, A’s, I was like Bs and Cs, so I like wasn’t really focused. I’m glad that this worked out (laughs)
Did you have a favourite subject?
I liked math, I liked English but like recently math got so hard that I hated math.
Favourite travel destination?
Any particular reason?
I like the culture and they are very, very nice. I like how they bow and take off their shoes when they go to someone’s house, it’s similar to Canada. In Canada we take off our shoes when we go to houses. In America, you just walk in with your dirty shoes all over the carpet.
You were obviously brought up well then.
Yeah, I guess so (laughs)
You are obviously very romantic and sensitive. How did you learn to be good at those areas of life at such a young age?
Sensitive and romantic…. I guess I grew up with my mum, so she influenced me a lot, so growing up and having your mum always around you, you become a sensitive guy. So I think there’s ups and downs to it.
Your lyrics are very romantic. What romantic things do you like doing?
I think that the most romantic things to do for someone are the things that you spend time on. Like having a picnic where you bring all the stuff they like. You make it something that she’s going to remember so she can tell all of her friends. Stuff she can say, ‘He did this for me!’ That’s great.
Do you think that romance is the guy’s responsibility?
I think it’s up to the guy to be romantic. I think it’s the guy’s responsibility to take her out. It can’t be the other way around. That would take away my masculinity; I feel if that would happen.
What do you think of the criticism about young artists doing covers of celebrities? There was some legal stuff about it a couple of years ago.
It’s silly. I always did covers and if people aren’t able to post videos of themselves doing their favourite songs, then that’s going to be really sad. That’s how I was discovered. That would really suck.
How do you feel when people have done versions of your stuff?
Oh, I love You Tubing videos of people singing my songs. I think it’s really sweet.
Do you work out much? Do you like training?
I don’t really do anything. I’m 19, so I eat a lot of junk food, [laughs] and I yell and scream and jump a lot, but once I’m older I’ll have to start to really take care of my body, and that’s when I’m going to start working out.
What advice would you give kids wanting to go into the business?
I would say just to keep going for it, I don’t know what else to say.
You’ve achieved so much professionally at such a young age, what are your personal goals? What would you like to achieve?
My personal goals are hopefully that I’ll be able to win a Grammy someday. If not whatever, but hopefully I’ll manage that goal.
What do you like to do when you’re in a relationship?
I like to just hang out, go to movies, relax.
I read in a newspaper that they say that you are more influential than Obama or the Dalai Llama, which is pretty incredible I thought. How do you feel when you read that kind of stuff?
I think it’s kind of amusing to think that but I don’t think that’s true. I think Obama and the Dalai Llama, they are very powerful people and if I am able to influence people in a positive way sometimes then I’ll be lucky.
You’ve been able to do a lot of good things with your fame, like your “It Gets Better Project”. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you came to be involved in that anti-bullying campaign?
You know, I think bullying is such a terrible thing because a lot of times bullies have been bullied, so it creates a chain so if you are bullied then maybe you will bully someone else. I think that people need to know that if someone is bullying you, tell someone, or if you are a bystander make sure to tell someone. Because you are just as bad the person bullying because you are standing by watching it happen.
Do you have any experience firsthand with that issue?
Yeah, I think that everybody has. It’s like, I’ve been bullied, I’ve seen it happen, and it happens so much. I think that people just have to be nice to one another, like when you are young you are trying to find yourself, people think it might make you feel good to bring someone else down. Young people can be mean at times, but I just encourage everyone to be nice to people because you never really know how much that other person might be hurting. They could be going home and crying. Some people, they put on a front at school and they seem strong, but inside those people are really hurting. So that seems sad to me.
You are obviously incredibly busy. What would a perfect day off be for you?
A perfect day off for me is like being able to just relax and not work, like nothing associated to my job, just being able to relax.
So is that sleeping in?
Yeah, I love sleeping in. Well, I sleep in generally, even if I’m working, I don’t do things like before eight o’clock ever, unless I have to. Even when I have to [laughs].
What would your fans be surprised to know about you?
My fans would be surprised to know that, I don’t know… I’m really kind of out there. I mean, there’s really nothing I’m hiding so they kind of know a lot about me, so there’s nothing really; the things that they don’t know, I don’t want them to know, so yeah [laughs]. That’s kind of funny.
How into fashion are you, and do you enjoy that part of your life?
I do like fashion, I’m not like a big, big huge into fashion, it’s something I like to do, and I like clothes, but I don’t take it too seriously.
So you wouldn’t be interested in having your own fashion line one day?
No, I’m not saying that. It can happen down the line but it’s not something I really focus my attention on. I’m a musician, so that’s what I do first.
You released a line of nail polish a couple of years ago. How did that idea come about?
[laughs] We did it for charity, we also did it because my fans, it’s not really my nail polish line, it was inspired by my music, so we have the purple like Never Say Never and so it was for all the girls.
You were great on Saturday Night Live recently — is acting something you’d like to pursue?
Yes, I mean I like acting a lot. It’s something that I like being able to play, a character that’s not me, so that’s always fun.
Who would you like to play you in a movie?
Nobody. I don’t want anybody to play me.
So what kinds of things do you like doing in your spare time?
I like playing sports. I’m an athlete, so I’ve been playing sports ever since I was really young. I love basketball, hockey, football…
How do you deal with all the crazy fans?
Crazy fans? My fans are very inspiring, for them to be so persistent and so driven, is something that I’m lucky to have.
When you were in Australia they had to close down a shopping mall because they were worried about security — do you remember that?
Yeah, I was supposed to do something, I was supposed to do a performance and there were so many kids, they had to like shut it down. The security wasn’t ready for it, and I tried to tell them that they needed to make sure everything was secure. They thought they had it, but they didn’t.