preston leatherman

YouTube phenomenon Preston Leatherman wants to be more than his Mariah Carey lip dub

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When 21-year-old musician Preston Leatherman decided to dance with his iPod in public, he had no idea he’d start a trend.

Leatherman’s “Dancing With An iPod In Public - Christmas Edition” has been viewed more than half a million times, and inspired dozens of similar videos. In it, Leatherman bounces around a mall joyfully to Mariah Carey’s 1994 classic, “All I Want For Christmas is You.”

Mariah Carey even tweeted a link to Leatherman’s video, announcing that she “loves this guy” to her 5.3 million followers, prompting him to film a skit reacting to the news.

“I just wanted to make a good Christmas video. It just worked out that I had one of the hottest YouTube Christmas videos,” Leatherman told the Daily Dot in a phone interview. Leatherman, who has been uploading videos of his music for more than a year and a half, was shocked when his dancing video took off. He had tried to promote other videos, mostly of his songs, which “never caught on,” to his dismay.

Dozens of other have taken up Leatherman’s call to dance to Christmas music on their iPods in malls or other public spaces. (Only one group was kicked out by mall security.)

“The Internet is a weird world, and no one has gotten it down to a science on how to make something go viral,” said Leatherman. “You can try as hard as you can, but you don’t have control over it.”

Leatherman described his frustration over his cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which he thought was really good, having only 200 views at the time. “What is wrong with people?” joked Leatherman.

Even when they notice work like this, it’s the Christmas dance that seems to stick with fans.

“I am so glad you danced to christmas music in public with your ipod, and that it led me to this. haha. Your guitar playing makes me jealous!” wrote gotchristy92 in a top comment on Leatherman’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” cover, which now has more than 6,000 views.

While Leatherman admits the iPod-dancing videos are a “cool way to engage people” and have gotten the public to check out his other videos, he says he is “not trying to be the iPod guy on YouTube.”

“I am still trying to figure out if I am a good dancer. I mean, I am good at dancing in a weird way, just not good at dancing in a good way,” laughed Leatherman.

He granted that the awkward dancing might be the appeal of his Mariah Carey video. Then again, he said, the video may just be “a perfect representation of how everyone feels inside when they hear” Carey’s version of the song.

Leatherman, who plays the piano, guitar, drums, ukulele and even a little Mandolin, compared himself to Zac Efron’s character from “High School Musical,” a person who “hid his talent” until the end of high school.  

On YouTube though, Leatherman is anything but shy with his talents.

Inspired by ’60s Motown, jazz, and the classical piano Leatherman’s been playing since he was five, his voice has a throaty twang reflective of the various cities he’s lived in: Oklahoma, Houston, and Nashville.  And YouTubers have already started clamoring to buy his music on iTunes.

Clearly, there are worse fates than being known as the “iPod guy on YouTube.”

He’s soon going to be known beyond YouTube: On Tuesday, Leatherman is scheduled to appear on the morning news in St. Louis, and then at night on a Nashville TV program.

Leatherman will be performing his newest song, “Christmas Wish List.”

As it happens, he was working away in a studio earlier this month recording that song right as his “Dancing With an iPod” video was going viral.

At that moment, he was too busy singing to know how many people were watching him dance.