- Tue, 2012-04-17 11:44
Conor Maynard is the new kid on the pop block. Catching attention and capturing hearts with a series of covers posted on YouTube since 2008, he was snapped up by Parlophone earlier this year. Now his debut single - an urban-flavoured, club-ready pop song called Can’t Say No - is here and ready to propel the young teenager from Birghton towards the charts.
We sat down with Conor to chat about his first sell-out shows, marriage proposals from his fans; the Mayniacs, working with Pharell and Ne-Yo, and balancing impending musical stardom with a normal teenage life.
“I Like Music because... it works as a connection between the physical body and the soul... and because it gets people to take off their clothes!” Conor Maynard
ILM: How’s everything going at the moment?
Conor Maynard: It’s crazy times right now! This is my twenty-something interview of the day, so it’s been a long, LONG day. But at the same time it’s all cool, 'cos it makes you feel like people are into the project and want to be a part of it. It gives you that confidence for things that are coming up soon: the first single comes out April 16th! Everything’s coming up soon. I’m trying not to go too mad!
ILM: Tell me about your recent sold-out London show...
Conor Maynard: That was insane! It was one of my first shows in London. I had an amazing time. It was a nerve-wracking thing to look forward to, just because it was my first time performing my original material in front of fans. They’d been waiting so long to hear it, and I’d been waiting so long to show it to them: it was a big moment. Now I’m just looking forward to doing the next one and the next one...
ILM: I’ve heard about your fans, the Mayniacs! Where did the name come from?
Conor Maynard: I noticed that a lot of celebrities were calling their fans names, and I was like “I gotta have one! I gotta jump in on this!” So I tweeted “guys, what shall we call you?” and it ended up being between the Mayniacs and Condom – like the Conor Kingdom - so I went with Mayniacs! Haha! The annoying thing was...I forgot who tweeted it initially! I told everyone they were called Mayniacs and this girl tweeted me saying “I can’t believe you stole my idea, you didn’t even credit me for it, I’m no longer a Mayniac!” But I quickly gave her a shout out and she said she loved me again!
ILM: Are there some extreme Mayniacs out there then?
Conor Maynard: There are a few... I get marriage proposals. People turn up to my shows five hours early. I got to one of my shows in London at nine in the morning for a soundcheck – the show was at 2pm – and there were people already there. I was like “what are you doing here?” They had to get the coach at 3am from Cardiff. I was thinking “I wouldn’t even go that far to see my show!” It was crazy. It’s really flattering though.
ILM: It must be both strange and lovely to know that you have people who are so excited about hearing your music!
Conor Maynard: Yeah, exactly. I’ve been waiting so long to show people my music that I just want to know that they’re enjoying it. When people do those kinds of things you know that they are.
ILM: You’ve been working with some amazing people, tell me about Pharell!
Conor Maynard: It was insane! It started when I’d just finished my showcase for the record label, a few weeks before my first show in London. The head of the label was there, and he came up to me afterwards with the vice-president and told me that he loved it, then they looked at each other and were like “shall we tell him?” I was like “what? Tell me!” I got really excited, and then they told me “Pharell has been on the phone, and he would love to work with you.” I couldn’t believe it. I literally felt like I was going to wet myself! I was like [really high-pitched] “oh my god!”
ILM: And then you went out to Miami to work with him?
Conor Maynard: Yeah, I went out to Miami two weeks ago. I was trying to be really grounded about it. I didn’t want to be too crazy and embarrassing when I met him! I wanted to keep my cool. I thought I might get there and he’d be like “who are you again?” Actually, when I got there he might have been more excited to meet me than I was to meet him! It was crazy. He was really ready to go, had all these ideas, and he told me he’d actually been watching me for about three years, watching my progress...
ILM: How awesome to turn up and be told that!
Conor Maynard: I know, yeah! The funny thing is, when he actually reached out to work with me it was to sign me. He didn’t realise I was signed, he thought I was just doing YouTube covers. He was like “damn, I missed my chance! You know what, I’m going to work with him anyway.” I went out there for a week, and I must have met more famous people in that week than I have in my entire life. While I was there Ludacris rolled into the studio, and Tyler, The Creator... I went to a Tyler The Creator concert and Lil Wayne was backstage as well.
ILM: Did you meet him?
Conor Maynard: We were literally shoulder-to-shoulder the entire time, but he was in his zone. I mean, we were on the stage. It was Tyler’s show, but he has everyone on the stage when he performs. Lil Wayne was there at the back just enjoying it with Pharell, and I was there in the middle. I didn’t want to be like “so hi, I’m Conor...” Haha! Then the next week I worked in L.A. with Ne-Yo. That was amazing too!
ILM: What’s your vision for your music, how big would you like all of this to get?
Conor Maynard: When I was doing the covers it was apparent that people from all over the world were watching them. When you looked at the demographics of where the views were coming from it was in England, the US, Germany, Australia... All over the place. The label realised that it had to be an international thing, and for me, I want to be internationally successful artist. I want to be able to tour in all of those countries. World domination! You know, just casually running the world! Haha.
ILM: Tell us about your first single, Can’t Say No
Conor Maynard: Haha! Yeah... I was in the studio with The Invisible Men, who produced it - they worked on Rita Ora and DJ Fresh’s Hot Right Now - and we were also with a writer called Sophie Stern from L.A. They showed me the beat and I loved it, so we started thinking about what to write to it. The only idea I had in my head was “Houston, I think we’ve got a problem,” which I wanted in there just before the chorus, so that if it was ever played in a club people would all start singing along. We got that in there and started thinking about how we could turn it into a song, and had “send my rocket to the sky” and the catchy “girls, girls, girls” bit of the chorus.
ILM: It’s quite cheeky...
Conor Maynard: Yeah, hahah! Well...I mean, it’s not really meant to be taken seriously. It’s a tongue-in-cheek kind of thing.
ILM: Yeah, it’s for the club, I know what you mean.
Conor Maynard: Exactly. You don’t want to be in the club being “this girl left me and now I’m so lonely! Ooooooohhhh!” Hahah! It’s just a party song. It makes you want to dance and sing along. It gets stuck in your head. We just thought “it doesn’t need to be deep, just get ‘em to dance,” so that’s what we did!
ILM: We’ve been talking about London and all the other places you’ve been, but you’re originally from Brighton, right?
Conor Maynard: Yeah, that’s right. I lived there my entire life until I moved to London in September.
ILM: Do you like London?
Conor Maynard: Yeah, I do like living here. If you want to do what I want to do and be in the music industry it’s the place to be. All the labels are here, all the studios are here. It’s much easier being in London, but I do miss Brighton quite a lot sometimes, especially some of the people back there.
ILM: Are all your friends still living there?
Conor Maynard: Well, luckily I did leave at quite a good time; when I went off everyone else went off to uni anyway. So it’s not like everyone’s back in Brighton having a party without me. Brighton was definitely an inspirational place to grow up though. There were a lot of musicians coming out of there, like Rizzle Kicks. I dunno what it is about it, but it’s a cool place to be. A lot of people see it as London by the sea.
ILM: I guess this is your uni in a way. With Pharell as your lecturer!
Conor Maynard: Haha, yeah! And Ludacris as my classmate!
ILM: Haha! What do your friends think of all this?
Conor Maynard: They think it’s crazy! Sometimes I get Facebook posts saying “it’s so weird hearing you on the radio,” or “I just saw your music on the TV!” At the moment it’s number one on 4Music and Fresh on The Box, so people are like “what! You’re on it and you’re number one?” I have to point out that it isn’t the actual chart! But my closest friends keep me very grounded. They still see me as Conor the idiot, not Conor the singer.
ILM: Well, that's a good thing?
Conor Maynard: Yeah. They see me as the kid they’ve known for years, and they take every chance to rinse me and take the piss out of me, cos they’re my mates and that’s what we do to each other! I was taught by my vocal coach a long time ago that you need to be able to turn it off when you step off the stage. When you’re on the stage you’ve got to be that big showman, but when you’re off stage with your friends you’ve got to go back to being who you were before.
ILM: That’s good advice. It means that when you do go on stage you can really push it.
Conor Maynard: Exactly. It was funny actually, one of the producers who did Can’t Say No went to one of my shows and went back to my management and was like “he’s like a different person on stage!” He seemed so amazed. It was really cool to hear that.
ILM: What music have you been listening to recently?
Conor Maynard: I’m all about Drake at the moment. I went to his arena show at the O2 in London, and it was a crazy experience. I went purely as a fan: I didn’t do the whole backstage thing. I knew people that were going backstage, but I was like “no!” I wanted the pure fan experience. I was right at the back and at the top, but I did not care. It was a bit crazy though, cos I ended up having to take loads of pictures with random people who recognised me. But yeah, he’s a very inspiring artist. His songs are really relatable.
ILM: Are you writing a lot at the moment?
Conor Maynard: Yeah. I wrote on Can’t Say No and what we’re planning the second single, but it really depends on who you’re in the studio with. Some people like to work differently. Ne-Yo and Pharell leave the room and write by themselves, but the people that I worked with on my first single all write together in the same room. Normally if I love a song I want to have a lot of control over it, because I want it to be the best that it can be. People can tell if I’m into a song or not by whether I get into it or I sit back and let them get on with it.
ILM: Is it quite tiring? Do you mind all of the extras – like today – that go with it?
Conor Maynard: It is kind of exhausting. But it is early days, and it’s going to get worse the bigger it gets. But it’s cool. Some artists get every single press person in one room at the same time so they can answer all their questions and tell them to go away, but I’m not big enough or enough or a diva to do that! I do answer the same questions lots of times, but I try to throw something new in there for each person. Or I just lie!
ILM: Uh oh. Have you lied to me?! Haha...this whole interview is all completely false isn't it? I bet your name isn't even Conor...
Conor Maynard: Haha! I can't tell you that, can I? Hahaha!
Conor Maynard’s debut single, Can’t Say No, is out now and can be downloaded here
For more info on tour dates etc head to his official site: conor-maynard.com