Austin Mahone is getting ready to release his debut album.
While the 21-year-old singer has dropped a series of hit singles since the start of his career, including ‘What About Love,’ ‘Dirty Work’ and more — plus Friday, he released a new one, ‘Say Hi,’ a club-ready hit with the electronic artist Codeko — he has never released a full album. But when we caught up with the YouTuber-turned-pop star Thursday night at Fossil’s Holiday Season bash in New York City, he said that’s going to change very, very soon.
“Right now I’m in the studio, working on my first album, so I’m excited about that,” he tells PEOPLE. “I don’t have an exact date but I’m hoping end of the year, top of next year. Fingers crossed on that. It doesn’t have a name yet. Because I’m still trying to figure out the songs so maybe I’ll get inspiration from a song title or something.”
He’s writing some of the songs on his own and collaborating with other writers and producers on others, Mahone notes. “It’s not a huge, long project. It will probably be eight songs,” he says.
As for the vibe, it may not be what fans expect: “A lot of songs I’ve put out in the past have been super upbeat and exciting, and this time I’m going to slow it down and get a little bit of my feels in and show a little more vulnerability, so little slower and a different style to switch it up,” he says.
“I think a lot of my influences are like early Justin [Timberlake] on the Justified album [from 2002]. Some Take Care vibes from Drake  — you know, like slow, get-my-feels type sounds,” Mahone explains.
“Music makes you feel a certain type of way when you listen to a certain type of song,” he elaborates. “Maybe you listen to one song on the project and it’s going to make you miss your ex a little bit. One song might make you actually cry. One song might make you want to snuggle up with someone. I don’t know. You just gotta hear it to know what I’m talking about.”
Austin Mahone at the Fossil holiday party in New York City on Nov. 9.Monica Schipper/Getty
When he’s not in the studio, Mahone’s spending time playing basketball, going to the gym and swimming along the shores of Miami, where he lives, he says. Plus, he carves out a little time to perform at events, like Thursday’s Fossil bash, as he is the face of the brand’s new Fossil Q Commuter watch campaign. “My dad, who passed away when I was 1-and-a-half had a Fossil watch. My mom saved it for me until I was 18 and gave it to me on my 18th birthday. I hold it close to me. And [Fossil] thought that was awesome,” he says of why he joined to be the face of the brand.
And this isn’t his only fashion moment — he sang at Dolce & Gabbana’s fashion show in Milan, starred in the label’s campaign and even attended his first Met Gala in May. “Once I started getting Dolce and working with Fossil, I was like, ‘I like being in this fashion world, let me dig a little deeper and dive into that.’ I’m still trying to figure that whole thing out — that fashion world.” And he says no stylist is necessary: “I’m dressing myself.”
However, when it comes to the upcoming holiday season, he won’t be anywhere near home. Rather, he’s traveling Japan for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. “Mainly, it’s because my song ‘Dirty Work’ blew up there,” he explains.
“Literally I didn’t even expect that to happen,” he says. “It was old, but it came back to life. A Japanese comedian named Blouson Chimi, she put it in one of her skits and went up straight to the moon. As soon as it blew up, I was like more tours, we’re going again. I’ve been almost 10 times this year already, it’s insane.”