Conrad Sewell’s won an ARIA (Australia’s Grammy-equivalent), has a breakout hit in his EDM collab with Kygo, “Firestone” – and now he’s got his sights set on U.S. chart success.
PEOPLE caught up with the 27-year-old Aussie singer, who’s hitting the road on his first North American tour to promote his first EP, All I Know. Here are five things to know about the star on the rise.
1. He’s got some famous friends.
After touring with Ed Sheeran, Sewell and the Brit hit it off and are now close friends – so close that Sheeran presented Sewell with his song of the year hardware at the ARIA Awards last year
To celebrate his win, “The label rented out a venue: It was me, James Blunt and Kylie Minogue, and we had a jolly good time,” says Sewell in the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now. “James Blunt was hittin’ on my mum … I’m just kidding! He was being super nice.”
2. If his songs make you think of Michael Jackson, that makes sense – the king of pop was a major influence.
“I listened to a lot of Motown stuff, a lot of early Michael Jackson, The Temptations, Sam Cooke, people like them,” he says. “I remember watching tapes of Queen and Freddie Mercury onstage. And it became more about not just having a voice but entertaining a crowd.”
3. Before his career took off, he was couch-surfing to make ends meet.
While Sewell has his own place now, when he moved to L.A. 2 ½ years ago, “I was just couch-hopping and living on friends’ couches and just writing songs and trying to live off burgers and try and survive,” he says. “And then I finally got a record deal!”
4. Having toured with Ed Sheeran and Maroon 5, he’s comfortable taking arena stages…
“It’s amazing playing in a big stadium: Everything sounds great. When you’re used to playing in s—ty bars, you don’t know if the speaker’s gonna work! Then you get into an arena, and you do sound check with a $30,000 sound system behind you, it’s not too much to worry about,” he says.
5. …But there are parts of his impending fame that give him pause: particularly the paparazzi culture.
“I’m pretty nervous about stumbling out of a club drunk and saying something stupid. That’ll probably happen at some point,” says Sewell with a laugh.
“Other than that, just getting the music right. It’s my main focus, and at the end of the day, that’s the only thing that people can really judge you on. But I feel like as long as I get that right, I’m gonna be happy.”