Justin Bieber Comparisons Are ‘Flattering,’ Austin Mahone Says

Many call Texan teen, who built up fanbase on social media, the next Bieber.

What do you call a group of kids who are so fiercely loyal to their young pop idol that they buy up all available tickets to a show in minutes, journey from far-off locales and park themselves on a sidewalk for hours just so they can get a glimpse of their beloved teenage Texan? Are they Beliebers? Of course not — Justin Bieber is Canadian, not Texan. They’re Mahomies.

Mahomies are fans of 16-year-old Austin Mahone, the boy many believe will be crowned the Next Justin. The similarities are there: Both are fresh-faced, drum-playing crooners who built their massive fandom using social media and YouTube. And both are followed everywhere by throngs of screaming girls.

But Austin Mahone does something that most fledgling pop stars don’t: When his fans reach out to him, he reaches back. He follows them on Twitter. He keeps them updated on his comings and goings through video posts and Instagrams. He even Skypes with fans, one-on-one (for a fee). “Individually, they all give something to support me, which got me to where I am right now,” Mahone told MTV News. “I just want to give back to them as much as I can and say thank you.”

Mahone has no debut album yet and, as of press time, no label on which to release one. He does have two singles, “11:11″ and “Say Somethin,” which can be purchased on iTunes. He also has more than 777,000 Twitter followers and nearly half a million Facebook fans. Nicolette Valenti, 14, flew to New York from Boca Raton, Florida, to see Austin’s sold-out show at Best Buy Theater on Friday; she said she would do anything to be around him. “Some girls just like him because he’s cute,” Valenti explained. “But I think he’s really talented.”

Mahone’s journey to stardom began two years ago, when he started making videos with his friend Alex Constancio and posting them on YouTube. Then he started doing covers of artists like Bruno Mars, Adele and yes, Justin Bieber. His online fame steadily grew; he began making personal appearances and doing live shows. He’s since relocated from Texas to Miami to work on new music.

“Coming from my bedroom in San Antonio to this big world and going from singing covers off my laptop to making music in this nice studio, making professional-sounding music — it’s just weird,” Mahone said. “It’s crazy. I can’t believe that happened.”

The inevitable comparisons to Mr. Bieber don’t seem to bother him too much. “I mean, it’s flattering. It’s not that bad of a thing,” he said. “It’s cool because he’s such an inspiration to me and he’s so successful, and I just hope that I’ll be as successful as him someday.” The comparisons do, however, bother many Mahomies.

“People say that Austin is the new Justin Bieber — I don’t think that at all,” said 14-year-old Maggie Benzenhafer as she waited on the sidewalk outside the Best Buy Theater. “I think Austin’s going to be the new Austin Mahone.”