On the outside, 21-year-old James McVey may seem to live an extraordinary life. His day-to-day includes headlining world tours to sold-out arenas, promoting Top 10 albums, and being a guest on talk shows from every inch of the globe with his band, The Vamps. But underneath all that, McVey is just your average guy who is trying to figure out who he is and what he wants—while the whole world watches.
Being in a successful band obviously comes with its own set of perks: traveling the world, meeting your idols, and making a living doing what you’re passionate about. Still, there are challenges that come with being in the public eye. For example, rumors. “If there is one thing that is always guaranteed, it’s that there is going to be a rumor about me on Twitter somewhere. I must have been ‘matched’ to over a hundred girls since I started The Vamps,” he explains. “Honestly, I do find some of the rumors pretty funny. I’m good friends with a girl called Ebony Day and people always try to say that we are together! It’s funny for us because we are great friends, but it can be a bit awkward when you don’t really know the person you’re being matched with. I remember I was rumored to be dating a ‘mysterious girl’ after I put up some Instagram pictures. People later discovered that the girl was in fact my sister… who was 14 at the time!”
With the rumor mill always churning out some new ridiculous story seemingly on the daily, it can be difficult to feel like your fans really know who you are. To combat that, and for an assortment of other reasons, McVey decided to start his own YouTube channel in hopes that it would give the people who support him the unique experience of getting to know him away from the glitz and glamour. If that was a goal though, why YouTube?
Well, for starters, McVey is an avid YouTube fan himself. “I am the kind of person who spends hours on YouTube… I may start watching a music video, and then two hours later, I link-jumped my way to a documentary on Italian cheese. However, there are a few people I regularly like to keep up to date with. I enjoy Zoella and Alfie’s videos, but who doesn’t? They’re like YouTube royalty,” he says. “I think YouTube is great in the sense that no matter where you are, you are always able to keep up with people who you admire. I also like the fact that there is a lot of ‘free advice’ on the Internet; there are a great many people on YouTube who are willing to simply share their stories with the world, in turn helping people from all around the world who may have struggled with similar issues.”
That idea of free advice was another one of the reasons McVey started his channel. “I wanted to have the opportunity to talk about certain things to a camera,” he says. “Things that aren’t always as straightforward to type or talk about in person.”
Opening up a bit, he took me back, reflecting on his own experiences with some of the difficult subjects he broaches on his channel, which include everything from anxiety in school and bullying to acne and weight. “I hope that anybody dealing with acne can get to a point where they accept that 80% of people experience some kind of acne in their lives, and that they are simply not alone. However, it took a long time for me to realize that,” he admits. “I struggled from being overweight between age 8 up until 13. I was teased throughout school for it, and always found it difficult playing football on the weekends. I was lucky because when I started growing upwards, I evened out and my weight wasn’t as much of an issue. However, it was only when I decided to really pull my thumb out and get into healthy eating and the gym that I eventually started to feel better about my body. I’m not saying that there is anything bad about not caring whether you have a six-pack or not, but for me, fitness became somewhat of an addiction—an addiction I still have today.”
Acne, on the other hand, wasn’t as easy to deal with as his weight, and he admits to still battling with it after 12 years. “I think it’s really important for me to talk about my experience with acne and the treatments I’ve used because so many people struggle with it just like I do,” he explains. “There are thousands of companies claiming that they can beat acne and give you ‘amazingly clear skin,’ and it must be daunting for an acne sufferer who doesn’t have a clue where to begin. I’m not saying I’m an expert whatsoever when it comes to skin care or beauty products; I just shared my story and told people which treatments and products I have found to be most effective.” Now, McVey says he’s finally at a place in his life where he is more confident about his skin and wants to get other people to that same place.
While McVey’s own experiences with bullying are now behind him, he admits that talking about it openly has resulted in him receiving a great deal of messages through social media about people’s current experiences with it—and it makes him feel sick. “I’m going to be making a vlog about bullying,” he explains. “Being bullied is horrible; it puts the victim on edge and prevents them from ever truly relaxing whilst being in the school environment. For me, bullying is simply not acceptable. I am working with Anti-Bullying Pro in the fight to stop bullying at school. I really want to do everything I can in order to prevent it from happening.”
As is the case with most people our age, McVey is a big fan of social media. Whether it’s being used as a tool to raise awareness for a social cause, professional promotion, or just entertainment, he’s all about the Internet. “I think that it is awesome. It’s helped our band tremendously,” he says. “I love how I am able to send a message on Twitter to someone 8,000 miles away, on the other side of the world. Also, I love the fact that I am able to see someone doing yoga on a Maldivian beach on Instagram whilst I’m tucked in bed in December. Social media has completely changed the world forever, and I think it has allowed public figures to be a lot more ‘reachable’ by the public.”
Still, with a following on Twitter of over 1 million loyal fans, McVey does see the darker sides of social media. “I don’t really like going on my Twitter timeline and seeing people from different ‘fan groups’ being aggressive, abusive, and even racist to people who like different bands other than their favorites. I think that people tend to presume that they simply ‘must’ like one band, and one band only,” he admits, touching on a subject he discussed in his vlog titled ‘You Can Like More Than One Band.’
It is no secret that fandoms are inherently fueled by passion, which sometimes comes out in a less than productive way. Being a member of a Top 40 band, McVey has a unique perspective on the fan-war phenomenon, as he’s in the center of it. He continues, “I wanted to share in that video that we have a very open and friendly relationship with as many artists and bands as we can. There is room for everyone in this industry and it runs a hell of a lot smoother when everyone is happy and getting on. The premise of the video is simply that there aren’t these inside grudges between our band and others; we enjoy other bands and want to be friends with everyone!”
In terms of his band, McVey and his bandmates are super busy promoting their sophomore album and preparing for their 2016 tour, but that doesn’t mean there are plans to slow down the YouTube train anytime soon. “I suppose at some point I should really sit down and figure out exactly what I should be putting up on YouTube, but at the moment, it’s really just all a bit of a laugh, honestly! I didn’t know where or even how to start vlogging, so it’s genuinely just a new area for me that I’m exploring. One thing I learnt whilst making my first video was that I thoroughly enjoyed it and wanted to make another one as soon as I finished editing. I haven’t stopped since.”
Read more Entertainment Interviews on ClicheMag.com
James McVey Talks The Vamps and Social Media: Photographed by Dean Sherwood