It all came together extraordinarily fast.
For the first four months of 2014 Sammy Wilk was a typical high school senior preparing to graduate and move on to the next phase. And then Magcon happened. Sammy first heard about Magcon back in 2013 through Jack Johnson and Jack Gilinsky when they attended the San Diego stop. “Jack and Jack went to the same high school as me, and we’ve been best friends since seventh grade,” he explains. “They’re like brothers to me.” Jack and Jack were also developing, at rapid pace, a cult following from the 6 second videos they had been uploading to Vine. Most of the videos were comedy themed, a few others gave viewers a taste of their musical abilities. “So I had been helping out with their Vines as their cameraman, ” he continues. “You know, occasionally appearing in them, and through that I began gaining Instagram and Twitter followers.”
In the age of social media celebrity, large numbers mean everything. . Despite not even being a name yet, Sammy began gaining Magcon fans from his frequent collaborations with the Jacks. Eventually gifs were being made from his own Vines, girls began begging for follows on Twitter and then Bart Bordelon called. “I remember it perfectly,” he says. “I was at forty thousand followers and Bart hit me up and was like, ‘Yo you wanna come to Magcon New Jersey? I was like ‘fuck yeah’, and it was absolutely insane.”
Magcon New Jersey is memorable for being the last Magcon where all nine of the original guys were together. And just what is Magcon? Magcon stands for “Meet and Greet convention.” Originally conceived by Bordelon as a way to give fans (mostly teen girls) a chance to meet their favorite Viners, Bordelon began Magcon after realizing the massive following and pandemonium family friend Aaron Carpenter created at an impromptu mall meet and greet. Thus, Magcon was created and it blew up. Fast. Cameron Dallas, Nash Grier, Matthew Espinosa Jack & Jack, Taylor Caniff, Carter Reynolds, and Shawn Mendes all signed on to appear at a few dates which then became a nationwide tour. “What the fuck is Magcon,” many of my friends would ask when I first began writing about it. I, too, was perplexed but impressed that these guys who were so fresh in pop culture could sell out venues so fast. Tickets sold out for most dates in under a day, sometimes in as quickly as an hour. Bordelon was even becoming a celebrity himself, with some fans even calling him “dad.” The event was on it’s way to becoming an underground phenomenon by the time Sammy signed on to appear.
“New Jersey was the most ridiculous thing ever,” he recalls. “I was not ready. The girls were so insane and everyone was screaming and crying…. And it was for us.” After Magcon New Jersey ended, Sammy began alternating between finishing high school and flying to Nashville, Miami and Toronto, which became the last Magcon date that had any of the original guys.
Magcon, at it’s greatest peak, was dead by July of 2014. “It definitely could’ve and it definitely should’ve gone on longer,” he says now. “The guys and I talk a lot about how it should have gone on. But there were a lot of things in the company, that were out of our control, that got fucked up.” When Magcon’s first generation ended, Cameron, Nash, and Carter exited. Sammy was quickly ushered in as a new regular. The fans accepted him almost instantaneously. “The connection with our fans is crazy,” he explains, a bit in awe. “When I see a girl coming up to me, crying her eyes out, jumping up and down, I can just see the happiness in her soul, and it is so humbling.”
Girls look to the boys from Magcon as more than just celebrities or teen idols. They are their friends. The boys are there for them, according to the fans, when no one else is. “They absolutely do feel like they know us,” he acknowledges. “And I think they appreciate the honesty. They like to see us do the day to day. They know we don’t lie to them. Our girls know that we party and they know that we are normal dudes.” It could be, I suggest, that they see you guys as someone similar to the boys they want to date in high school–just a little cooler and more famous. “I think they appreciate that we are real with them, and that we are relatable,” he responds. “They pay attention to everything too. They are watching our Snapchats, following us on Instagram, and they think we are best friends with them. When I meet them now, I can feel that they see me as their friend.”
It has to be a bit odd then, I ask, to have thousand of girls not only feel like they are friends with you, but also attribute you to saving their life. “It is,” he concedes. “I agree. I don’t know how I save their lives. I don’t know what to say when they tell me that because I just post videos I like or post pictures of me smiling. But they connect to it.”
That connection with fans is precisely what is making Sammy Wilk have a truly original career. Sammy has tapped into something many celebrities can’t: a relationship with his followers. “You have to stay active on Twitter and with your friends,” he explains when I ask how he maintains this level of success. “You gotta respond to the fans, and give them a little buzz. I enjoy doing that.”
“Sometimes,” he laughs. “Us guys will sit around and decide to follow the same girl all at once and just watch her lose her shit. For like three hours she will just send us Tweets that make absolutely no sense; just capital letters and yelling because she’s so overwhelmed.” It’s surprising, to me, that in talking about this Sammy doesn’t display one ounce of arrogance. He’s genuine when he says he’s grateful for the fans. “I couldn’t be more appreciative of them,” he admits. “I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Right now “here” is the start of a rap career. Sammy just released a single with Skate Maloley (real name Nate) called “Nothin’ To A King”, and fans are–as expected–freaking the fuck out. “The promo has to be organic,” he says. “You have to build up some hype or buzz for the video, which is what we did.” The video features Sammy and Skate hanging out on the beach, on rooftops–all while sitting on thrones. “It was fun, and the first music video I’ve ever done,” he says. The song is Skate’s but Sammy is featured heavily. The video has already broke 100k views after a week on the web.
“Nothin’ To A King” is just a teaser of what’s to come from Sammy, which for now is a secret. But he promises that it will be big. In the meantime, Sammy is planning on going on tour with the DigiTour and hopefully a tour of his own for the music. “I’m getting pumped for touring,” he mentions. “It’ll be late summer or early fall and I cannot wait.” Last year he jumped on a few dates with Boston rapper Sammy Adams, who he bears a striking resemblance to in music. “Sammy called me out of the blue one day and we were talking about music when he asked if I wanted to go on tour with him,” he remembers. “Chicago was sold out, and D.C. was crazy. I grew up listening to Sammy so it was fucking nuts [to be on tour with him.]”
There’s a lot of different directions Sammy’s career could go in. He’s been collaborating with Nash Grier some on videos that AwesomenessTV is producing. He’s recording some new music. And probably most innovative, he’s a part of a new generation of guys creating a new lane of success just from being themselves. “I’m with my best friends every day, doing exactly what I want to do,” he says gratefully. “I feel like I’m back in high school with all of them.”
But what kind of success does he want to have? “Honestly,” he says after thinking about it for a second. “I just want to spread positivity and love. I try to always be positive and nice to people. There is ABSOLUTELY no need to be hateful towards anyone. I’ve never hated anyone. I always try to smile and move on. I want my fans to feel the same–just be positive and spread love. I know that is cliched and everyone says that, but I really live by it. I want to have a positive impact on my fans’ lives and it means so much when they say I do.”