In a span of just four months, Justin Bieber has sold more than 1 million copies of his debut EP, caused a riot at a mall on Long Island, scored a Number One album and become Conan O’Brien’s favorite punch line — and he just turned 16. “I treated myself to a Range Rover,” says Bieber, playing pool in his record label’s offices in Manhattan. The teen-pop sensation will continue to cause hysteria this summer, on his first headlining tour, which begins June 23rd. “There will be a lot of magic tricks,” says Bieber of the arena show. “All of a sudden, I’ll just appear out of the blue. And I want booms and stuff. I love explosions.”
You claim to have started playing drums at age two. Where and how?
I started playing at church. We didn’t have a lot of money, so people brought over instruments from church, and those would be my toys. Eventually, my mom bought me a drum kit and I took a few lessons.
And your mom introduced you to the music you love?
Yeah, she played a lot of Boyz II Men. Like “On Bended Knee,” End of the Road.” And Michael Jackson‘s Bad — they are my two main influences. I also like what’ s-her-name: [Sings] “Don’t you know, we’re talkin’ ’bout a revolution.” Tracy Chapman! I was kind of a bedroom singer. I didn’t sing in public till I was 12. My mom knew I could sing, though. We’d watch American Idol, and I’d be like, “I could make that show.” But I was too young to try out.
How did you get your first guitar?
It was some tiny Walmart guitar. I didn’t know what I was doing. But my mom had friends that would come over to the house, and they’d show me a few chords. “Smoke on the Water” was the first song I learned, but I couldn’t even do power chords or barre chords, because my fingers weren’t strong enough. My dad taught me how to play “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” by Bob Dylan, and [Supertramp‘s] “Give a Little Bit.” He got me into classic rock.
You used to busk on the street. What was in your repertoire?
I sang “I’ll Be,” by Edwin McCain; “You and Me,” by Lifehouse; “U Got It Bad,” by Usher; and “Cry Me a River.” I’d make $200 a day. My mom and I went on vacation to Disneyland with the money I made.
How many concerts have you been to?
Not a lot. We could never really afford it. I saw Simple Plan – I don’t know if you know who they are – and another Canadian band, Tragically Hip.
Is your voice changing all the time?
Yeah. It cracks, like every teenage boy. I’m dealing with it. I have the best vocal coach in the country, Miss Jan Smith. Even some of the notes I hit on [new-single] “Baby,” I can’t hit anymore. We have to lower the key when I sing it live.
Is it annoying when girls shriek while you’re trying to sing?
I wear in-ear monitors so I can always hear myself sing. The other day, though, I was playing in front of 75,000 people at the Texas rodeo. My friends were there, and I asked them, “Did I do good?” They were like, “I have no idea – all we heard was screaming.”
This story is from the April 29th, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone.