Troye Sivan is on the cusp of mainstream superstardom: the 19-year-old South African-Australian pop star is making a name for himself with the release of his latest EP, TRXYE, which quickly topped the iTunes Charts in 58 countries upon its release. Sivan built an ardent fanbase on YouTube, where his channel has more than 3 million followers; he signed with EMI Australia shortly after releasing a song and video inspired by the book The Fault in Our Stars. Not only did he garner the attention of fellow lovers of Fault, but author (and fellow YouTube star) John Green became a fan, too.
“I know it sounds cheesy,” Sivan says. “But the book genuinely changed my life. I didn’t know what to do besides go to my piano and try to write something about it.” All proceeds from the song have been donated to Princess Margaret Hospital for children in Perth, which is still benefiting from its sales.
Sivan’s first major-label EP features dark pop that marries intimate lyrics with electronic sounds. TIME caught up with him to hear more about what’s next for the up-and-comer.
TIME: Has your career felt like a whirlwind recently?
Troye Sivan: I didn’t expect this at all — it’s been crazy!
Your song meant a lot to “The Fault in Our Stars” fans. As a fan yourself, were you pleased with the movie?
I think they nailed it, and I’m super proud of John Green. He’s always been such a big supporter and I know that he even tried to get the song in the movie. He’s such a nice guy and it feels really cool that we both came from YouTube, and his creative work changed my life.
Where else do you find your inspiration?
When I got signed and started to write for the EP, I didn’t know what it was going to be. I feel like part of getting better at writing is knowing where to find that inspiration. Right after something happens to me, the first thing I’ll do is go write when those feelings are really, really fresh. I’ll hum a tune into my phone sometimes.
Speaking of your phone, you’re very active on social media — what does it take to get your attention on Twitter?
The ones that I tend to notice will be people who are funny. I love, love, love how I have a witty and funny audience so when they’re funny, I can’t help but respond and get involved.
Do you like being called the next Justin Bieber?
I don’t mind it — it’s flattering. I get it because we both came from YouTube and I’m super proud of what he’s done professionally. I think that the music is a little different, but I’ll let people be the judge of that.
What is some of your favorite music right now?
I’m listening to a lot of Broods, a band from New Zealand. And Wet is a band from New York that I’m really loving. I think pop music is in such an exciting place right now and I do kind of credit that to Lorde with “Royals.” I think that song changed everything in the pop scene. All of the sudden, alternative pop music became pop music.