The sophomore album represents one of the most nerve racking challenges for any artist big or small. For Conor Maynard, his debut album Contrast (2012) which reached number 1 in the UK has made that challenge even harder.
Meeting Conor Maynard for a great face to face his as yet untitled album which brings more of ‘Conor’ to his fans will help him to rise to the challenge. While it features less collaborations in comparison to his debut, it still features names like; Labrinth and that huge urban producer Timbaland-it’s an album that will set to show that Conor is more than just a ‘manufactured pop star’ he’s an ‘artist’ period.
In deep promo mode he drops the single Talk About from his sophomore album released on the 20 04 15. It features a further telling collaboration with that UK legend Craig David, bringing some classy urban bump with a brilliant video shot in Miami.
Older and evidently wiser Conor Maynard details the, difficulties he has faced, breaking away from comparisons and a little situation of having to disagree (amicably) with one Pharrell.
Before we get onto your banging new single with Craig David let’s take things back-at such a young was it difficult juggling normal life so to speak?
Well things got a bit difficult when I went to college because when I came home I did not really want to do homework, I just wanted to record a new cover-obviously I would try and keep on top of it as much as I could but I found it so hard because I was getting a lot of attention from the covers I was doing.
How did your family deal with your wish to be this huge global singing sensation?
They were never against me being a singer they just did not like the idea of it getting in the way of everything else that I was doing. It would be funny actually because when I would go on college inductions, I would go with my mum and they would ask me what I wanted and I would say: ‘I want to be a singer’ and my mum would hit me. She did not want me to say that because she never thought people would take me seriously. Obviously when I got signed she was like ‘I always told you to be a singer’.
And how did you eventually juggle things then?
Well eventually it got to a point where it was becoming too much and I did not want things to come to a head. So I had a meeting with the head of my college and told him that the last thing I want to happen is I get kicked out of college. So I asked for a period of time out of college and if my pursuit as a singer did not work then I still had college to return-luckily it work out fairly well.
So when it started to ‘work’ it must have been amazing?
Of course but you have to remember I was covering tracks on YouTube from the age of fifteen or so. I got to a point where I was getting millions of hits but it did not mean anything because I was thinking so what does this mean where will it take me? It then meant something when Neyo (who was one of the first to make contact with me) got in touch and I did think what a way to start and then I started to realise that this ‘thing’ was happening.
Can you remember your first interview and how did you feel?
Definitely, it was an article was for the Sun and it was a phoner and I was really excited because it was my first interview but it was a bitter sweet moment because when it was published I saw the headline which said something along the lines of: ‘Brighton finds its answer to Justin Bieber’. I was really upset and I asked my manager why they would do that? He eventually found out that the reason it had been written like that was down to the fact that they needed someone to compare me to otherwise they would not put me in the newspaper-I think they also wanted to see if I would react-that was actually an interesting learning curve into the media and how they operate.
Don’t you think that the comparison was a compliment though?
Of course and I definitely thought that if I am going to get compared to anyone then the biggest recording artists in the world was a brilliant comparison. I remember I did not even battle the whole comparison because I kept my mouth quiet and at the end of the day. It was more about the music because I definitely did not agree-at the end of the day you want to stand out and have your own lane. I remember being on the other side of this whole comparison thing. There was a new artist called Elliot Fox who was compared to me and I remember thinking ‘God now I am on the other side now how things change.
Anyone who you have worked with who made you feel really nervous?
Pharrell for sure. I think Pharrell is an icon and normally with a session you don’t get nervous because its work but it I was like; ‘Oh my God it’s Pharrell’ so it was nerve racking and awkward at first.
And what was it like working with him?
Pharrell actually wanted to sign me but he did not realise that I had just literally signed to EMI. Once he found out he was like it does not matter I still want to work with Conor. So we flew out to Miami for a week in the studio and it was a bit awkward at first in truth. He walked into the studio and he instantly knew what he wanted to do with me in terms of musical direction and unfortunately it was quite different to what we had as an idea of who I should be. So it was like what do we do, should we argue with Pharrell-how do you say to Pharrell ‘no that is not what we want to do’?
But it was very important that you did say what you wanted.
Exactly-it was very important to let him know what we wanted and eventually we worked it out and came up with two sick tracks for the album. It was hard because I did not know if he would get totally angry with and have a diva strop but he was so cool it was just amazing. It was actually weird because he genuinely seemed really proud of what I had achieved. He had been following me for years and the fact that I was there in front of him seemed to really make him happy, he said: ’I am really proud of you’ so it was a really important time for me that I will not forget.
Sophomore albums are never easy how has it been for you?
I remember when I was making my first album and other artists were like, it’s that second album that is really hard’. I used to think but surely the first album is the hardest because you are introducing yourself to the world and once you get that right then everything else is easy-I was so wrong!
There is so much pressure on that second album particularly when you take into account that my first album got to number 1. When you get that type of success you can be forgiven for thinking, ‘where do I go from here?’ Of course if my album went to number two I would not be like ‘I failed’ I would still feel it’s an amazing achievement but it is a lot of pressure.
So the new as yet untitled album what’s the difference between your debut album?
I worked with some amazing people on my first album but I wanted this album to be more personable and so that is why with this album there is a single lined up, written and produced solely by me called Catch Me Here.
Wow that is a departure you must be nervous?
For sure and there is a lot of pressure no doubt I am very very nervous because it’s not only me but I have management and A and R who are wondering how people will take to a track written and produced by me because they have never heard it before; are they going to like but I feel that it will work?
Sure it will Conor; and what about that collaboration with Craig David who was in your position back in the day?
It was great to work with Craig. I was touring with Jason Derulo and I wanted to do a cover of Fill Me In for my set so when I performed it, a fan posted it on YouTube and Craig saw it. I always think that is really funny because he was definitely searching for himself when he found it! Anyway he reached out and said it was an amazing cover. We decided we should work together and came up with the single and shot the video out in Miami where he lives-it was a blast.
And are there any other collaboration?
The next song will be a collaboration with Labrinth and I have also recorded a track with Timbaland so I am excited about that. Ultimately though it will be an album with less collaborations and more of me. I did not want people to look at me and think I am this manufactured pop star. I want people and my fans to know that I write and create music, that I am a real artist.