Wonderland.

CONOR MAYNARD

The singer talks all things music as he releases his latest single, “Dance With Somebody”.

Conor Maynard
Conor Maynard

They say that imitation is the biggest form of flattery and clearly, Conor Maynard is in the business of flattering. Having sky-rocketed into the depths of stardom on YouTube with melodic displays of pop perfection, the 29-year-old singer crafted himself a career filled with smash hits, collaborations with the likes of Ne-Yo and Frank Ocean and, of course, a following teaming with crazed fangirls.

Now with now over 10 years having passed since his breakout success, Conor has explored different musical avenues and picked up creative skills galore, but one, it is clear, he has a particular affinity for – making reworking tunes. And, his latest release proves this. Drawing inspiration from one of Whitney Houston’s most beloved tunes, and giving it an infectiously melancholy edge, the artist releases “Dance With Somebody”.

When discussing the track, he explains, “With “Dance with Somebody”, I always thought that the concept of the song could actually be easily twisted into something really sad by drawing on that feeling of wanting to dance with somebody you miss so much. I was with my girlfriend at the time when I wrote the first half of the song, and then we split up, and I wrote the rest of it. So, half of the song is genuinely about the breakup I was going through at the time, and the first half was more about imagining what a breakup would have been like.”

Ahead of the release of his newest track and its accompanying music video, the artist sat down with Wonderland to discuss Whitney’s incomparable legacy, how he leaves his personal mark on reworked tunes and his plans for 2022. Head below to enjoy our interview with Conor Maynard…

Hi Conor, how are you?
I am very good thank you, how are you?

I am good! Where am I speaking to you from right now?
I’m in London. I got back from Dubai about two days ago!

I want to start at the beginning! Do you have a first memory of music?
I’m not entirely sure. I remember growing up and wanting to be an actor actually. I went to a drama school; my mum took me every Saturday. I think my mum probably noticed earlier than I did that performing was definitely something I wanted to do because I remember she used to say that, unlike most kids, when she would take me to the doctor’s, I would kind of almost go off into my own zone and stand in the middle of the waiting room and just – I think it was always the Barney theme song – I used to just stand in the middle of the waiting room singing it as if I was kind of putting on a play. And so, when I got a little bit older, she started taking me to this drama school. I think the moment when singing and music really took over was when I really fancied this girl in my school; I think I was in Year 10, so I would’ve been about 14 or 15. I remember she used to get the same bus as me back from school, and we were kind of friends, but I remember she was into older guys, I think she was dating a guy that was a year older than us, so I thought that I didn’t have a chance. I think one day I was singing with one of my friends, and not many people really knew I could sing as I didn’t think it was very cool back at school. I think that those two worlds collided when I sang in front of this girl for the first time, and I remember she couldn’t believe it. She was like, ‘what the hell, you can sing?’ And then she told everyone in my year.

Have you told her since that she was the reason why you started singing publically?
Yeah, 100%. We haven’t spoken in a while, but there were definitely moments where we’ve spoken. I’m pretty sure I’ve told her many times.

Bless her! So, you’ve been doing music for a while? And I know you started on YouTube?
I started posting videos of me singing when I was about 15 or 16. I was signed when I was 17, and I released my first album when I was 19. I was kind of hailed as the British Justin Bieber back in the day.

I remember!
When I got signed, I remember there was a deep understanding between me and the label surrounding the fact that we are not trying to market me as the British Justin Bieber because there already is a Justin Bieber. And the label was seemingly on the same wavelength as me. But, then I remember I got my first piece of press with some magazine, and they were just like, ‘the British Justin Bieber’ and I was like, ‘well, that’s the end of that then.’

There are worse things to be compared to, I feel like!
It wasn’t so much that. I think I just didn’t want people to think I was purposely trying to rip him off. Realistically, it definitely gave me a massive leg up and probably actually opened a lot of doors for me.

Well, now you have “Dance with Somebody” coming out. Congratulations! You must be so excited? It’s a reinterpretation of Whitney Houston’s classic, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody. What was it like working on probably one of the most well-known tracks?
It’s a weird story. The original idea for the track came years ago. I was at The Avengers: Endgame premiere in LA, at an after-party, and then this remix was playing, and it was of “Dance with Somebody”. I remember really liking this remix. It was a big EDM type of remix. With “Dance with Somebody”, I always thought that the concept of the song could actually be easily twisted into something really sad by drawing on that feeling of wanting to dance with somebody you miss so much. I was with my girlfriend at the time when I wrote the first half of the song, and then we split up, and I wrote the rest of it. So, half of the song is genuinely about the breakup I was going through at the time, and the first half was more about imagining what a breakup would have been like. So basically, I wrote the song imagining what it’d be like if I broke up with my girlfriend, and then I did break up with her.

Bringing it back to Whitney, I know you worked with the Whitney foundation on the track! That must have been crazy?
So I started writing the song six months ago, and I’ve always kind of hailed Whitney Houston as one of my favourite vocalists of all time. Like, I honestly think that her voice is just amazing! The song was meant to come out in January but there were a few issues with mixing, so the release got pushed back. And I only found out recently that the track is now actually coming out on the day that she passed away, 10 years ago to the day. That was not planned. I really like the way that the stars aligned for that.

Obviously, it’s a reworked track, and you’re well known for doing this! Do you have a favourite track you’ve made your own over the years?
My favourite track I’ve covered? I think I’ve got favourites for all different reasons! I did a cover of “Too Good” by Drake and Rhianna, which I really loved when I made that. I think I did one in 2020 of “You Broke Me First”; I remember the reason I love that one so much is because I just did not foresee how big that one would be. I think I just previously became independent, and I was really kind of nervous because it was very new territory for me. But, it just flew on TikTok. I think on Spotify alone it’s almost had like 60 million streams, which is amazing for an independent release that has no label behind it.

I feel like it must be quite hard to balance putting your own spin on a track, but also staying true to the original. Do you have any rituals or anything you do before you take on a tune?
It’s kind of weird. Lyrically, I keep it pretty much the same. I actually rewrote the lyrics for this, but I don’t normally do that with covers. This is now more of my own interpretation of a song. This is similar to Callum Scott’s “Dancing On My Own”, because that was actually a big original release, even though he was singing a cover; it was so different and he moved it into a different space. If I’m honest, I actually try and get as far away from the original as possible because I want people to feel like it’s a different listening experience. I want them to kind of feel like they’re listening to a completely new song. But they have that kind of familiarity because I think people really resonate with familiarity.

I couldn’t talk to you about your music without discussing collabs. I mean you’ve collaborated with some amazing people such as Pharrell and Ne-Yo. Is there anyone you want to do next? Who is your dream collab?
I think Billie Eilish is amazing. I’m also a huge fan of Post Malone, if I ever got the chance to work with him I think that would be absolutely amazing. I love his voice and his vibe. And ever since I started music, Drake has always been up there as a number one. Frank Ocean worked on my first album, which was amazing. And then Wiley, which is hilarious because it made me kind of get in the middle of the Wiley and Stormzy beef. It’s so funny because Wiley tweeted, “Oh, you and Ed Sheeran look weird”, or something like that. And then Stormzy replied saying, “so do you and Conor Maynard”. But Stormzy was actually really nice about it after (laughter).

Finally, what is next for you? I mean you’re dropping the track, which is super exciting, but you’ve got this whole new year ahead of you! Is there anything you want to do or achieve?
Many things really. I want to kind of keep reaching new heights with the music. It feels like I’ve kind of started again; it’s actually a really nice feeling. Because I’m now independent, and I’m releasing music independently – it’s a whole new method. I think music has shifted so much, especially since I got signed. I think for independent artists, there is an amazing space for us now, as long as you’ve kind of already built your own kind of fan base, which I feel like definitely have over the years. I also really want to work on a fashion campaign.

Is there any brand in particular that you want to jump on?
I love Acne, that’s what I’m wearing right now. Yeah, I think it would be really cool. I just think something that was outside of my comfort zone.

Any final remarks?
I don’t think so other than I think this year, I’m definitely going to be attempting to be heavy on the releases. My original plan was once a month, but I’ve already missed January, so we’ll see (laughter). I’m hoping I can put out a fair amount of content this year. I’m hoping this will be a really busy year for music.

CONOR MAYNARD

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