What It's Like to Have a Record Deal and Justin Bieber For a Fan at Age 14

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What It's Like to Have a Record Deal and Justin Bieber For a Fan at Age 14
© GQ

Prentiss Furr can barely sit still. He sips on an oversized Whataburger cup in his parents’ living room in Jackson, Mississippi, swiveling the phone back and forth and resting his curly-haired head on his hand. You can’t really blame him for getting distracted, though: He’s only 14 years old.

Yet Prentiss has a record contract and 75,000 followers on Instagram. His buoyant bedroom-pop song “October” has racked up 57,000 YouTube views and more than 400,000 listens on Spotify over the last year. Stars from Justin Bieber to Skrillex to Meghan Trainor to Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 have sung his praises on social media, and he’s managed by Xavier Candelaria, who previously worked with Mars Volta. It’s heady territory for someone whose voice hasn’t even dropped.

A self-taught musician, Prentiss first tried making music with GarageBand when he was 11, but up until 12 months ago he was more interested in video editing. His YouTube page is still full of homemade sports cuts and cooking videos. “I used to use music a lot in all of my editing videos,” Prentiss says over Zoom. “That’s really honestly what got me into music.” This past August, he performed his first live show at an Emo Nite event in Los Angeles — also only the second concert he ever attended — and earlier this month opened for Glave and EricDoa at a handful of gigs in Nashville and Atlanta.

On the release of his latest single, “I Will Wait,” GQ spoke to Prentiss about what it’s like to make hits at such a young age and the relationships he’s formed with some of his musical heroes.

GQ: When did you write your first song?

Prentiss: I started off making, like, joke songs. My first serious song [“Rock With It”] was about a year ago, like last September [2020] was the first song I started working on seriously — putting it into production and all that type of stuff.

What caused you to get more serious about making music?

I guess it was just a lack of [knowing] where I wanted to go in life. I hadn’t played sports that year, I was doing terrible academically and I just didn’t really feel like I had a purpose. I’ve always had a love for music, but I think that’s where I just stepped my foot on the pedal and was like okay, here’s where I’m going to start.

What kind of instruments or programs were you using?

I was just doing guitar. I was on Logic at that point. And I was dabbling a little bit into production, more on the mixing side. I had a lot of online friends that were good at mixing and production and they taught me a lot of stuff. I had a group of like four friends and we were all good at something completely different, and we grew together.

“October” was the song that really changed things for you.

I mixed that by myself and it was a YouTube beat. I made that in one night but I remember making it and I was like, “Oh, I love this song so much. This is gonna be super good.”

What did you think was special about it?

It was something different. It had a lot of punk influence. Before that, I was just doing basic pop-rap beats, or Juice Wrld-type beats. I also just thought it was super catchy.

Were you getting much feedback from other people about your music at that point?

Not really. But I got into the SoundCloud scene a little bit, more towards the hyper-pop scene, and they helped me a lot. I got into that scene through my friends.

What was most helpful for you to hear?

A lot of it was about my voice. I was just kind of singing and, obviously, I was super young, and my voice was super high. I always loved to sing. So I kinda knew what I was doing. But they helped me put into perspective how to actually use your voice, and a lot of stuff with mixing too.

When did you first notice that you were getting traction from “October?”

It started off really small. A meme page [called extendo] tweeted out that it was looking for new music. I wasn’t expecting good feedback at all. So I just [posted the song] there. At the time, I was super young. I still am super young. So there was a lot of bias towards that. But I think a lot of people actually did really enjoy the song and one of my favorite artists of all time picked up on it, his name is redveil. He tweeted about it. He has a really cool fan base, and I got a lot of his fans’ support. And then this other Twitter page saw his tweet, shrekknowsrap, and he retweeted it. I got a lot of cool people from that. That’s where my manager found me. It was so sudden, even though it wasn’t as much as I get now or as I was getting like six months ago. It felt like so, so much to me, seeing my song get 400 new plays in a day.

Was it overwhelming? Or was it mostly exciting?

I went to a basketball game and I just kept refreshing my Spotify and my Twitter, and there was always something new. So that was super cool. And then after that, probably a couple weeks later, I got posted about by Barstool [Sports]. And that was just so big. That’s where everything gets to where you can’t read all the messages and you can’t read all the comments. That’s where it really hit me. And it was overwhelming. It honestly took me a little bit to settle down.

You’re already at an age where things are generally pretty awkward to begin with.

The negative attention was very unfamiliar to me. I knew there was negative attention in the mainstream, but I thought everyone in the underground, from what I saw before, would be supportive — maybe a little bit of constructive criticism. I was so used to all the nice comments and one hate comment would ruin my day. I had to figure out how to balance that. Like, “Prentiss, you have 20 love comments and one hate comment; you shouldn’t be worried about that.” That’s really like the boot camp of every artist. If you can’t make it past that stage, you really shouldn’t be putting yourself out into the mainstream. I’ve honestly just recently gotten over it, like probably a couple months ago

What did you think when you first heard from your future manager, Xavier?

I didn’t have a business email or anything. He just hit me in the DMs of, I think it was Instagram, and we just started talking and I really liked him. I used to watch a lot of industry videos and I liked to learn a lot about that because I wanted to be a manager in the future. I was contacted from managers before and they all, in a weird way, type the same, they talk the same, and they’ll give you the same promises. Xavier was just different and that’s what attracted me to him.

How did your parents feel about all this?

I think that’s when my parents realized it was something a little bit more serious than what they thought about before. Because I’d shown them my music and they heard me making it but they thought, “Oh, it’s just another hobby.” Which it was at the time. And then Xavier hit me before Barstool. So my parents were super weirded out by that. They’re like why is this grown man trying to manage my child? Like bro, this dude is absolutely crazy. And honestly Xavier and my mom talked a lot and then my mom was finally like, “Okay.” I think the Barstool thing really put it in perspective for her.

Then Cinematic came into the picture. How did they feel when things got to that stage?

I think they’d had enough time, and I’d prepared them that I was talking to record labels, so they were doing a ton of research. I think by the time Cinematic came around they knew what was going on. So honestly, they weren’t even as scared about that as they were about management and stuff.

You were still in middle school while all these things were happening. Was it hard to focus on your schoolwork?

Oh, yeah. The last two weeks of school I turned in half a year’s worth of assignments and hoped that I passed and studied for the exam, and I got 100 on it. I barely passed every class but I did not care about school. I still don’t really care about school.

I’m sure that makes your parents pretty happy…

I think I’ve always been a bad student. I’ve always been smart, I just would never turn in work or anything. So I don’t think the music really changed any of that. It just gave me a reason for not turning in my work, which I liked.

How did your classmates react? Were you suddenly more popular?

It was weird, for sure. The people that didn’t know me would always say something about it, but the people that were my close friends never really acknowledged it.

Did that change over time? Or is it still like that?

Oh yeah, it definitely changed. I think at that point they just didn’t really know what was going on. But when [Justin] Bieber followed me it was insane. That was the moment where I had school the next day and it was hard to walk around the halls.

Say a little bit more about Bieber.

So what happened was Bieber followed me and then I just got a bunch of random followers that didn’t look like people that would follow me. It was probably like 400. I thought I got botted. And I just kept scrolling down and I was about to give up on scrolling down when out of nowhere I see the little following thing and I look to the left and it’s Justin Bieber. And I fainted a little bit for like three minutes.

Is Bieber the most exciting artist that you’ve heard from?

Bieber and Leroy were probably the biggest because I used to listen to them — I still listen to them tons — and they were like 50% of my influence, so that was crazy. Obviously Skrillex was super cool. I used to listen to a lot of his music when I was like 5. I was so young and I just really enjoyed it. So the irony of him hitting me up and being like, “We should make a song” was crazy to me.

Have you interacted more meaningfully with some of those people outside of social media?

Yes, I had a session with Leroy. He calls me a lot. He texts me a lot. Bieber texted me a couple times, super cool guy. Skrillex always responds to my messages if I have questions about anything. Super cool people.

You posted about recording with the rapper Lil Aaron over the summer. What have you learned from working with older artists like him?

Lil Aaron and Y2K were probably the most helpful. I came back from that L.A. trip like a whole new person, a whole new artist. Lil Aaron’s ways of writing were so different than I was ever used to. I learned a lot of writing tips from him, a lot of production tips from Y2K. I just learned to get out of my comfort zone.

Was there anything in particular that was an eye opener to you?

The big thing with Lil Aaron is getting your whole idea across first before you start writing — like you want to write your hook and all that type of stuff. A problem I have is I use [certain] words a lot, and he helped me find substitute words and it honestly sounds so much better.

Do you write a lot of your music from experience? Or is it more imagination?

Half and half. Now it’s more experience. [When] I started off, I really never had a story to tell. I had to kind of make up stories and fit it into the song vibe. But I also think that’s what helped me get good at music and other aspects like writing, too. I think it’s good to do a little bit of storytelling. I’ve been writing stories since I was super little.

When you were in L.A., you did your first live performance at Emo Nite. What was that like?

Leading up to it, I was super scared. We did a lot of rehearsing and stuff. And I was just super scared of the people, but I think the second I stepped on stage everything just numbed out. I don’t know why. I think I was so nervous that I was just not nervous anymore. I just went out there and acted like I was performing in my living room in front of my mom, like I did when I was 3. And apparently I killed it. I don’t even remember. I went back and watched some of the videos, but I’m still kind of scared of what I did.

That seems pretty intimidating.

I didn’t really know how [concerts] worked. I mean, I’d watch them on YouTube and stuff but I didn’t know if people really had to go crazy like that.

You have a new single out now, “I Will Wait.” How do you feel it compares with what you released previously?

It has a little euphoric type vibe to it. It’s definitely different than a lot of stuff I’ve been making recently. Honestly all the music I have out was made like last winter so I’m glad to put out some music since I’ve grown.

On one of your most recent songs, “Too Fast,” you collaborated with another teenaged artist, Matt Ox. Did you guys get to know each other very well?

He hit me up last March. I already had a song done and he was like, “Send me an open. I really like your music.” We’ve just been talking a lot since then. He’s probably one of my better friends in the industry. My mom and his mom are really good friends. Super cool.

There’s a whole crop of other artists, like Olivia Rodrigo for instance, who’ve gotten famous as teenagers. Have you learned any lessons from their examples?

I think I’ve learned a lot from their mistakes — more [from artists] on the underground, not like Olivia Rodrigo. Olivia’s killed it. I love Olivia. Shout out Olivia. But I’m learning from their mistakes. Another thing that helped me is they’re also getting hate. I’m not the only person in the world who’s getting hate, so that helps me out a lot.

So you just started high school. Is that correct?

Oh, I’m homeschooled [now]. I just became homeschooled. It was really just a problem of trying to find a school to go to and I was running out of time. So I was just like, I might as well home school.

Is that a hard transition to have to make?

I’ve been more bored. I definitely kind of miss it. It would be super cool to be making music and like, oh, guys, I’m missing Friday because I have a show, and just come back to school the next Monday. That’d be super cool. I know a bunch of my friends, like Baby Santana, are in real-life school. It seems like it’s pretty cool for them.

Being as young as you are, are you cognizant of, say, doing too much too soon and not letting things get too carried away?

Yeah, I’m definitely taking breaks and just having fun. That’s a thing I’ve always been scared of, getting burned out. I haven’t gotten burned out yet. But I know that happens to a lot of younger artists and I really don’t want that to happen to me. I want to make music for as long as I can live.

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