Conor Maynard

Conor Maynard Biography

“The last couple of years have felt like the craziest dream,” says newcomer Conor Maynard. He isn’t kidding. The 19-year-old British singer and songwriter’s life has not been the same since he began posting videos of himself singing his favorite songs on YouTube, attracting a collective 90 million views for his tweaked versions of hits by Usher, Taio Cruz, Rihanna, and Ne-Yo, who was so impressed with Conor’s rendition of “Beautiful Monster” that he contacted Conor at home in the seaside town of Brighton and offered to sign and produce him, as did The Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams. “One minute I was recording myself in my bedroom, the next I’m on a video call with Ne-Yo, and the next in a studio in Miami with Pharrell,” Conor says. “It’s still hard to get my head around it all.”

Conor’s soulful voice, songwriting talent, and witty personality also enticed a host of heavy-hitters in the pop world to want to work with him including Jermaine Dupri (Usher, Mariah Carey), Midi Mafia (50 Cent, Frank Ocean), Kevin Rudolf (Jay Sean, Lil’ Wayne), Sandy Vee (Rihanna, Pitbull), Crada (Drake, Kid Cudi), songwriter Diane Warren, British production trio The Invisible Men (Jessie J, DJ Fresh), and Williams, who had, like Ne-Yo, been following the young singer for a few years. “When Pharrell first called, he was trying to sign me,” Conor says. “He’d been watching my progress on YouTube and said that he really believed in me.” Conor was already signed to EMI by the time Williams called, but he invited the teen to Miami to work with him for a week, predicting: “He is going to change the future of pop music.”

The sessions with Williams resulted in “Lift Off” and “Glass Girl” — two tracks that appear on Conor’s upcoming debut album Contrast, which is due from Capitol Records in the U.S. on October 16th. Rather than retread the euro-dance route, Contrast is a genre-defying blend of innovative R&B, dramatic hip-hop soundscapes, and stadium-scaling pop anthems that manages to be both credibly cool and commercially appealing. While there are echoes of Conor’s childhood inspirations, including Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Usher, and Justin Timberlake, Contrast’s focus is firmly fixed towards the future — appealing to a global audience while retaining a distinctly British sensibility.

Conor launched himself in the U.K. in April with “Can’t Say No,” which debuted at No. 2 on the UK Singles chart, while his first shot across the bow in the U.S. is “Vegas Girl.” Both tracks were produced by Jason Pebworth, George Astasio, and Jon Shave, who make up production trio The Invisible Men. It was in their West London studio that Conor felt most comfortable and where he would discover his signature sound. “I had time to chill with those guys; we sat around for a couple of weeks, taking our time. It’s how I work best generally, though sometimes what you can get in 15 minutes is incredible,” he says, referring to another song on Contrast, “Turn Around,” which was written by and features Ne-Yo and was produced by Stargate. Recorded in Los Angeles earlier this year, “Turn Around” is an uplifting, anthemic emo-urban-pop track that Conor feels “really ties the album together.”

While Conor had major creative input in Contrast, he’s pragmatic about co-writing with other people. “I’m still learning, so I’m not about to knock getting a song from someone I look up to.” One of those folks is Frank Ocean, who wrote the Midi Mafia-produced “Pictures” and takes Contrast in a fairly mature direction. The lyrically suggestive, falsetto-filled jam “is quite racy in places,” Conor admits with a grin. “Frank always writes some mad lyrics but it adds to the flavor. I wanted to make an album that took people by surprise, both musically and lyrically. I didn’t want everyone to catch everything the first time round.”

Contrast is sure to win Conor a legion of fans across the globe. His pure, gossamer voice has the power to immediately connect, a fact Conor first realized several years ago while walking home from school one day. “I was singing and messing around with some friends and a girl from school heard me,” he recalls. “She asked me to sing something else, and the look on her face made me realize that singing was something I should take further. I taped two SingStar microphones together and then taped them to my bedpost, and that’s how I first began recording covers. Initially they were watched by literally three people, me, my mum, and my nan.”

As Conor stepped up the production and visuals, more people paid attention. He began to put his own spin on each song, switching up the melodies, adding his own lyrics, and stripping back instrumentals to the essentials. “I think people began to respect me as an artist,” he says. “It seemed like they wanted to hear me cover a song because they liked me, not just the song I was covering.”

Now Conor has amassed 65 million combined YouTube views (including 9.2 million for “Can’t Say No”) and has the seventh most subscribed music channel in the UK. He has also racked up 415,000 Facebook “likes” and more than 304,000 Twitter followers. In another stamp of approval, Conor won MTV UK’s “Brand New For 2012” Award (beating out such artists as Lana Del Rey) in January, thanks to overwhelming voter support from his fans, who call themselves “Mayniacs.”

“Now that I’m in the spotlight I’ve got to work as hard as I can and prove to people that I deserve to be here and make some great music of my own,” he says. “I don’t know what future holds for me, but I just want to ride this rollercoaster and enjoy every single second of this incredible journey. This is my chance to live my dream and I’m going to take it with both hands.”

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