Backstage at the Sept. 11 concert, Brown said what he admired most about Mendes is everything he’s accomplished as a 20-year-old artist.
“When ‘Stitches’ came out on the radio, that was the first time we heard him, and we instantly loved it,” Brown told Hot 20. “We started looking up if he writes his own stuff. We all dug into that album, looked up videos and saw him playing guitar, writing and singing it all.
“He is an important part of the future of music and what it’s to come.”
He added his experience as a 20-year-old artist on the rise was entirely different from Mendes’ experience.
“He’s killing it already,” Brown said. “I was playing ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ at a bar trying to make a dollar at that point. I made a five-song CD and thought I was going to be big. I thought it would take like the next year, and it took 10 years, but it’s great.
“And he’s grounded too, he has the right attitude toward people and the right culture around him. So, it’s great to see what he’s going to be.”
Mendes shares a mutual admiration for Zac Brown Band and the country music genre as a whole (One of the first albums Mendes owned was Shania Twain’s Come On Over.). The two initially connected at a ZBB concert in Toronto through Mendes’ security guard, who had worked with Brown.
“I knew about Zac Brown Band obviously because they are massive where I grew up and the world,” Mendes said. “[My security guard] was like ‘This is the best show you’re going to see!’ He said he was going to cry.
“So I go to [Zac’s] bus, expecting him to just be chilling and he opens up the door, and there’s four-part harmony, guitars wailing with seven guitars, people drumming on cups and stuff. I’m like, ‘Wow, this is real. This is the Zac Brown Band.’ And that’s the first time we met. He’s like, ‘Grab a guitar and join.’”
Mendes added he got to where he is in music as a young artist by never giving up.
“‘Quit’ is a crazy word,” Mendes said. “There are days when you’re very tired after being awake for two weeks. But what I realize, which was a huge realization for me, was that the amount of negatives compared to the amount of positives they are so different. The positives will always outweigh them. And in those moments of feeling the word ‘quit,’ you look at the positives, and that word goes far away from you.”
Mendes and Zac Brown Band’s CMT Crossroads premieres tonight (Oct. 24) at 10 p.m. ET.