Wonderland.

NEW NOISE: MIKE WATSON

The master of covers talks about solo success.

(LEFT) Hat DANIEL W FLETCHER, t-shirt LES BASICS, trousers KENZO
(RIGHT) Hat and coat DANIEL W FLETCHER, shirt PRADA, t-shirt LES BASICS, trousers KENZO, trainers DIESEL

Mike Watson has been making a name for himself for some time now with his musical career moving from boy band fame across Europe with The United, – which earned him a number one hit in Japan – to the world of YouTube where his intimate covers of the most popular songs out, reached over a million views.

From then on, the acoustic singer took to the studio to create his first solo single “Lying For Love”, a feel good pop song that was loved by his newly built fan-base. The buzz around Mike’s first personally written debut song meant that the single was streamed over 700,000 times on Spotify.

Now, Mike has been crafting his musical talents and is back with new song “On Fire” as well as creating a full EP, to be released this year – expected to bring us atmospheric and moody vibes.

We caught up with the ever changing musician to talk about his next release.

How did you get to where you are now?

I grew up in a really musical family, both my grandmas were music teachers and sang in choirs. My dad, basically, when I was old enough to play guitar, forced the guitar on me and then handed me a football and said choose one – I wasn’t good enough for football so I chose to go down the musical route. Then I was putting videos on YouTube and I got found for a project, which was five boys from five different countries for a boy-band, so I had a bit of success with that and then I left it. Now here I am, about to release my second solo single.

How does going solo compare to being in a boy-band?

Yeah, it’s kind of weird because I started off on my own and then I went into a band, and then I went from a band back to being solo, so I know how to be on stage when I’m alone, but it is nice having four other guys with you on stage – not only on stage but also in the studio and when you’re traveling. It can get a bit lonely if it’s just you and, say, one other person travelling around, but I do enjoy it because I get a lot more control about what I’m doing now. I write the songs I want to write. I play them how I want to play them. I haven’t got to consult four other people on what they think’s best, so it’s a lot freer. I must admit I prefer being solo, 100%.

Did you ever expect “Lying For Love” to do so well on Spotify?

It’s a weird one really, because you never know really what to expect for your first single. You’re just testing the water a bit. We just put it out there and we knew it was a good song, but there are so many good songs out there on Spotify, thousands and thousands that get released everyday, so we just tried to do everything that we possibly could. The numbers that we’re at now, I never thought that we ever could get that with the first single. It bodes well and it sets up quite nicely for the next one – maybe with a bit of added pressure.

So you feel a bit of pressure with the next song coming out?

Yeah, but it’s a nice pressure. Obviously, the numbers that “Lying For Love” got are pretty good, and if we don’t quite reach them – well I’m sure we will reach them – but if we don’t reach them quickly, which is what we want, I’ll have to start checking every four hours to see how it’s doing. But you know, if the first one hadn’t done as well as it had done, I think there would be even more pressure there because you’re thinking “this single really has to do something” but no, we’ve got one in the bag, it’s just exciting more than anything else.

Can you tell me about your creative process when you write or how you choose to perform?

It’s really strange actually. With the “Lying For Love’ single, it was completely different styles of how I work. For “Lying For Love” we were in the studio, when I was working with another producer, him and myself literally came up with the chord structure and I went in the booth, and I turned all the lights off and I just sang melodies. So in about 10 minutes we had the melody, then soon after we had the lyrics and it was job done! With the single coming now, it took a lot longer, I think there are 13 different versions of it, which is quite crazy. I remember I left the studio after the first day and my manager was like “how did it go?” and I said “I think there’s something there but I’m not really sure,” then that night, I rewrote the chorus and then I went back in the studio the next day and rewrote the verse so, it’s a completely different song now. I feel a lot more for this song because it was a struggle compared to the last one.

What can we expect from the new song? Was it very similar to the last?

Yeah, I think there’s almost a recurring theme and I think if you look at “Lying For Love” it can be quite atmospheric and moody and then into a big chorus and that’s what I really love about it – the big atmospheric and euphoric chorus – and I think we’ve done that again with this song. We’ve got an EP coming out about six months from now and I think they’ll be a bit more down tempo with slightly darker vibes on there, but specifically with the second single, we just thought let’s go down the same route.

Jacket VALENTINO, underwear CALVIN KLEIN, trousers TOMMY HILFIGER, necklace stylist’s own

Did you always have a clear vision of what you wanted your sound to be or has it evolved?

When I was in the band before I was kind of dictated to. What I would be, how I would look and what I would sound like, so as soon as I left that and took the leap of faith and just went about a year where I was just trying to find my own music. I’ve always played acoustic guitar, like I said when I was young, so I wanted to incorporate some acoustic vibes but to be honest what I found when I got in the studio was that they were just put on the shelf, I didn’t incorporate much acoustic. I write everything acoustic, but the stuff I do now is a little darker and produced. I don’t like making comparisons, but it was kind of similar to the last Bieber album – maybe a little more organic – but I think it’s important to take your time with these things and I did so I’m happy with where I’m at now.

Are there any people out there who inspire you or influence your music?

I’m really weird. I’ve got such a weird taste in music. It’s ridiculous the people that inspire me, from Elton John and Bruce Springsteen to, as I said, the new Bieber album. It’s crazy, I grew up in a really musical family so I’ve got all these different elements that come together and I methodically when I write, I’m taking little bits like Coldplay from here and Stereophonics from there and with harmonies I’m taking a bit from the Eagles, so I’m kind of just chucking it all in a melting pot and seeing what happens really, which is a lot of fun to do.

Do you prefer to performing or studio sessions best?

I think they’re two very different things and I enjoy parts of both of them, but when you perform live – especially if it’s a big performance – the buzz you get from that, you can’t really compare to anything else. But when you come out of the studio and you come out with a song like “Lying For Love” I knew that day that we had a cool thing here, that’s exciting and I listened to it about 50 times in the car on the way home just to critique it already, but when you do a big show, the adrenaline and the feeling you get is just amazing.

With your covers on YouTube, do you think social media is a game changer for people in an industry like this?

100%! I think if you go back 10 or 15 years, people didn’t have social media to use it as a tool and it can really help you. It’s a direct way you can message fans and it’s quite a personal thing, but I do also think that because there are so many artists now on Spotify and social media, it can be harder for people to discover you, but once they do, it’s a lot easier fro you to get there. So it’s positives and negatives, but I think using the covers were a good way to put out videos on YouTube whilst we were making the first single and then engaging with fans, and that created a nice little fan base and to get someone like Anne Marie to tweet me saying she really liked the version, it was really cool.

Will you carry on with covers as you write your own songs?

I definitely prefer writing my own, but what I do like doing is picking the songs for all the covers. I basically wake up on Friday morning and go on “new music Friday” and pick the song that I like the best from the list and then within about half an hour, I’ll record it and then put it out, so it’s all a quick turn around and takes an hour and a half or two, since hearing the song to putting it out. I enjoy the challenge of doing that because you’re singing it and you don’t really know the melodies but it’s adding your twist on the song and that’s what I really enjoy, I don’t think it would be fun just covering exactly what it is. But writing your own material is just the best, because there’s no rules and you know exactly where you want to go and from one minute to the next you could be writing completely different things and that’s really exciting and interesting.

What’s next for you? What can we expect?

So the single coming is called “On Fire”. Then we have an EP after that which is in about six months so in the summertime, so keep your eyes peeled over social media because we will hopefully be doing some shows and a few appearances here and there.

(LEFT) T-shirt DIESEL, trousers KENZO
(RIGHT) Top MARNI, jeans RIVER ISLAND, shoes CONVERSE, necklace stylist’s own

Photography
Keir Laird
Fashion
Umar Sarwar
Grooming
Georgie Murtagh
NEW NOISE: MIKE WATSON

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