SMASHING into the charts with his number two hit single Can’t Say No, Conor Maynard has everyone talking about him. Lucy Needham caught up with the up and coming star ahead of his show in Sheffield.
Not many 18 year olds have their A-levels interrupted by singing superstar Neyo insisting they sign a major recording contract. That is exactly what happened to Brighton teenager Conor Maynard.
Conor was spotted by the R and B star after posting videos of himself singing cover songs on YouTube while he was studying at college.
Now everyone is taking notice of Conor Maynard. Singer and producer Pharrell Williams, who has worked with the likes of Madonna and Jay-Z, even flew him out to Miami so that the two could work on tracks together.
Connor says working with the master producer is the highlight of his career so far.
“Working with Pharrell was just insane,” laughs Conor. “Seeing him at work was a massive learning curve for me. He writes and produces new songs everyday and each of them has a crazy new concept. It was very cool to watch.”
Growing up Conor was always really into his music taking inspiration from artists his parents listened to such as Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder.
“At school I also used to really enjoy listening to rock bands like Green Day and Good Charlotte which I bet people wouldn’t expect,” says Conor.
“Right now though I would say that my biggest influence is Drake, he’s a massive star but writes songs that people can really relate to.”
Conor’s smooth R and B vocals and boy-band good looks have drawn comparisons to mega stars like Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber.
“It’s incredible being compared to these big artists,” admits Conor. “Justin Timberlake was a huge inspiration when I was growing up so for people to say we have a similar sound is just mad really.”
“The comparisons do make me want to get more songs out though so people can see what else I have to offer.”
Conor’s first single, Can’t Say No, is an electronic R&B pop fusion with an infectious sing along chorus. It was produced by Invisible Men who collaborated on the recent hit Hot Right Now by DJ Fresh and Rita Ora.
“Can’t Say No started off as this sick backing track and then I came up with the hook: ‘Houston, I think we got a problem.’ I just imagined everyone singing along to that line so I was like right we need to actually come up with a song to put this with!”
“That’s when we came up with the catchy ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ chorus and made this fun party tune about me meeting lots of girls.”
So is he a ladies man?
“No, the song is completely tongue in cheek! I don’t walk down the street and have girls throw themselves at me.”
“Although it is pretty cool when I arrive at places now and there are people already there waiting for me and screaming.
He continues: “I’m lucky though because my family and friends still treat me like the same idiot I was before all this! They are helping me keep my feet on the ground throughout all this hype.”
In fact it was Conor’s friends who encouraged him to post videos of him singing on to the internet.
“I used to sing for my friends in the playground at school. Eventually I thought I can’t keep standing here singing to people every lunch-time so I put some videos of me doing cover versions on Youtube for my mates to watch. It became a bit of a hobby for me.”
“But when I posted my cover of Usher’s O.M.G. everything changed.
“That song rapidly reached 100,000 views. Then I posted my version of Beautiful Monster by Neyo and that got one million views.
“After that I was like wow I’m a bit famous!
“Then Neyo got in touch with me and everything just happened really fast after that.”
Posting cover songs on YouTube in order to get noticed by a mass audience is becoming a tried and tested method of entering the pop arena with stars like Justin Beiber showing how it can be done.
Conor says this route to stardom is not always easy though: “There are a lot of people putting videos of them singing on YouTube now and so it’s getting harder to get noticed. You have really got to do something different to get peoples attention.”
He added: “I did well-known covers but I completely switched them up and made the song my own. I tried things like stripping back the songs and only using a piano or changing the melody and lyrics. You need to make sure you look like you’re an artist in your own right even though you are singing someone else’s song.”
Having all this hype and not actually releasing a single yet, Conor is determined not to let the hype affect his work: “I still feel like I’ve got a long way to go. Things have got really exciting already but this is something I’ve always wanted to do so I want to work hard at this.”
Conor is currently working on his debut album and preparing to go on a mini tour of the UK.
“I’m just taking everyday as it comes and trying to make the album the best it can possibly be. I want the album to recreate the variety of genres that my cover versions had.”
And what can the fans expect from the tour?
“I’ll be playing some un-heard tracks as well as a few familiar ones. I’ve been getting more experience on stage with some recent performances so I’m hoping this tour will be a crazy experience for everyone who comes along.”
Working with some of the biggest names in music and having a dedicated fan base of ‘Mayniacs’ before even releasing a single yet Conor is surely destined for a great 2012.
“Am I bothered about not finishing my A levels? Well, I would have made a good geography teacher. No I’m joking!”
Interview By Lucy Needham
Conor Maynard plays the O2 Academy in Sheffield on Thursday 26th April.
Tickets are £9 and are available by visiting www.o2academysheffield.co.uk or by calling the box office on 0844 477 2000.