He's been dubbed the new Justin Bieber thanks to his acoustic covers on YouTube, but is Tennessee native Jacob Whitesides headed for global domination? The talented singer-songwriter has just signed a new record deal, has over 5 million followers on social media and was recently crowned MTV's Artist to Watch – all by the age of 17. And now he's taking Europe by storm with a live tour.
Jacob Whitesides was recently crowned MTV's Artist To Watch Photo: Fear PR
Jacob, who's working on his debut album, is set to release his new EP Faces on Film next month. "I'm still finding myself as an artist, I'm still experimenting a little bit," Jacob told HELLO!. "This next EP I'm really, really happy with. It's mainly singer-songwriter because I love to tell stories, I love songs that are heavy on lyrics."
The 17-year-old dropped out of school because it was "draining my creativity" Photo: Fear PR
The teenager, who hails from Knoxville, also finds inspiration from folk and country music – and his 16-year-old girlfriend and fellow artist Bea Miller. "A lot of things inspire me," he added. "I've been in relationships in the past but I'm feeling a lot of new emotions with my girlfriend that I've never felt before – as far as love goes, the pain of being in a long-distance relationship. She's an artist so we have to balance our super hectic schedules. It's been really painful but it makes us stronger as a couple. A lot of these new feelings are displayed in my EP."
"I've been in relationships in the past but I'm feeling a lot of new emotions with my girlfriend," said Jacob, who is dating fellow singer Bea Miller
Jacob's most personal song to date is probably "Ohio," which is based on his thorny relationship with his estranged father. "Every song is personal but "Ohio," on my first EP, was on another level," said Jacob. "I really opened up about the lack of relationship I had with my father. We stopped talking about four years ago and I haven't had a father figure in my life since. I wrote "Ohio"and it was really awesome to be able to share that with my fans because a lot of them can relate to not having a parent in their life. It's really one of my favorite songs to sing live."
Jacob started learning how to play the guitar when he was 13 and built up confidence by performing in local bars and restaurants with his musician dad. The talented musician also received his parents' blessing to drop out of school. "I started homeschooling when I was 13," said Jacob. "I wasn't really doing the social media thing yet, I didn't have any fans, but I knew that public school wasn't the place for me. It was draining my creativity and so both my parents supported me in being homeschooled and they really gave me a chance to focus on getting good at guitar."
As for that voice of his? "Eventually I started singing and playing – singing came along later because I was really shy and didn't like to sing but I started playing with my dad locally in bars and restaurants," he continued.
"Playing in those bars where people really don't care about your music really gives you an appreciation for when you get to a concert and people are singing your original music – it's been a great journey, but I definitely didn't have an interest in music as a kid until I was a teenager."
Jacob with his younger sister and best friend Sierra
While he may not be on speaking terms with his father, Jacob can rely on his younger sister Sierra and his mom Becky for constant support. And Sierra seems to be quite the star herself. "My sister's developed quite the social media following – she has over 175,000 followers on Twitter and over 100,000 on Instagram, I can't keep up with it," he joked.
Jacob's new EP Faces on Film is out worldwide on October 23.