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How did Shawn Mendes meet Alessia Cara? Backstage at a Taylor Swift concert in Tampa

Alessia Cara, left, will open for Shawn Mendes at Tampa's Amalie Arena on July 27, 2019. At left, Cara performs at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on July 5, 2019; photo courtesy of Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP. At right, Shawn Mendes performs at Allstate Arena in Chicago on June 28, 2019; photo courtesy of Rob Grabowski/Invision/AP.
Alessia Cara, left, will open for Shawn Mendes at Tampa's Amalie Arena on July 27, 2019. At left, Cara performs at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on July 5, 2019; photo courtesy of Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP. At right, Shawn Mendes performs at Allstate Arena in Chicago on June 28, 2019; photo courtesy of Rob Grabowski/Invision/AP.
Published Jul. 24, 2019

Shawn Mendes and Alessia Cara are about the same age. They grew up not far apart in Ontario, Canada. They both got their big breaks singing on social media.

So how did they end up meeting for the first time in Tampa?

For the answer, you have to flash back to Halloween 2015, the date of Taylor Swift's 1989 Tour stop at Raymond James Stadium. Mendes was the tour's opening act, and Cara -- who had just had the slightest hint of success with her breakthrough single Here -- was one of Swift's surprise guests.

"I'm pretty sure I met her that night," Mendes said during a recent phone interview. "That was the first night I met her."

The two pop singers are now playing arenas on their own this summer, with the Grammy-winning Cara opening for Mendes on Saturday at Amalie Arena.

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But back then, Mendes was just 17 and Cara was just 19, and neither was quite the household name they are today. Cara told the Times in 2015 that she had never performed for a crowd anything like that.

"After I leave the stage, I run to the front and I get to watch the rest of the show, which is awesome," she said in 2015. "And the whole time, my adrenaline was still running, because I was fine, and excited and happy. And then the second the concert ended and I went backstage, I started crying. I think everything for the past eight months that had happened just hit me in that one second, and it was a little overwhelming. But it was awesome."

FROM 2015: Alessia Cara talks about singing with Taylor Swift in Tampa, the huge success of 'Here' and more

At some point, Mendes and Cara crossed paths backstage -- the beginnings of a friendship and eventual musical partnership that has lasted until today.

"It's pretty crazy that we're out here (on tour), because to be honest with you, when the idea of asking her to come on tour came up, I thought, That's never going to happen, she's a superstar," he said. "It created this amazing thing where every single night feels like a festival; it feels like two headline sets. It's kind of incredible for the fans and for me. I'm a huge fan of her."

Contact Jay Cridlin at cridlin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.