Although we know him today as a global pop icon, Shawn Mendes repeatedly stresses in his new documentary that he would rather we remember that, at the core, he’s just “a regular guy who really loves music.” It’s all too easy to place our creative inspirations on an unreachable pedestal, and it often does more harm than good. In his new Netflix documentary, In Wonder, Mendes pulls the curtain of superstardom back, offering a look at his everyday life and humble beginnings.
Helmed by Grant Singer, one of today’s most prominent music video directors, the documentary follows Mendes around his family home and childhood haunts in Pickering, Ontario as he searches for normalcy amid the stresses of fame. Interspersed with archival footage of a very young man perfecting his craft before being catapulted into stardom at the age of 15, he walks the audience through his grueling 2019 world tour, relationship with fellow superstar Camila Cabello, and the support system around him that made him who he is today.
Here are five things we learn about Mendes from In Wonder.
We see a lot of Mendes’ intense dedication to improving his vocal technique and guitar skills in his early years, but he turned to something a little more spiritual as well. Mendes reveals that he has kept a book that he calls his Manifestation Journal for the past seven years, writing phrases over and over that always seem to come true. At the beginning, it was a reminder to follow tips on singing more clearly. Now, he shows a page where he repeatedly scrawled “I will sell out the Rogers Centre” days before his first gig at his hometown arena. Spoiler alert: It worked.
#2: Going Solo
Originally, Mendes was dead set on being the frontman of a band. Understandably for a teenager being thrust into stardom, he was nervous about musical imperfections being on full display without more distractions on stage. Mendes credits his manager, Andrew Gertler, for building up his confidence to go on stage alone with his guitar. Gertler reveals that he discovered Mendes while absentmindedly Googling A Great Big World’s song “Say Something,” when Mendes’ YouTube cover version appeared high in the search results.
#3: Couple Of The Year
Although Mendes and Camila Cabello became an item in summer 2019, they have known each other for much longer. They actually met when both were opening acts for Austin Mahone in 2014. As both get adorably giggly in the documentary about the longstanding mutual attraction that had to be put off as their young careers developed, Mendes says they bonded in a big way over the uniqueness of knowing what it’s like to deal with the pressures of the music industry at a young age. Ever the romantic, Mendes says every single one of his songs were written with Cabello in mind, even when she was just a crush from afar.
#4: The Shades Were On The Line
In one of the more hilarious stories from Mendes’ first uncertain forays into the music industry, he recalls meeting songwriter Scott Harris for the first time and being fixated on the immaculate pair of shades he was wearing. Before Mendes had even released his first official song to the public, Harris made him a bet that if he scored a #1 hit single, the sunglasses would be his. It took two years, but Harris followed through when “Treat You Better” soared to the top of Billboard’s Hot Adult Contemporary chart. The two are still working together today.
#5: Around The World
There’s a lot that can go wrong on a 10-month, 104-date world tour. Most of the closing moments of the documentary are a closer look into Mendes’ laryngitis diagnosis that caused the unfortunate cancellation of a show in Sao Paulo, Brazil and emotional devastation for the dedicated Mendes. Typing his thoughts into an automated voice-to-text system to avoid further vocal damage, he recalls a life-affirming moment when thousands of fans showed up outside of his hotel later that night chanting their support and admiration. Mendes calls it the moment he realized his music career was “something I want to do for the rest of my life.”
Mendes’ fourth studio album, Wonder, is out December 4 via Island Records.