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The Biography of Conor Maynard
By Martin Howden
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2013 Martin Howden
All rights reserved.
Described by music star Pharrell Williams as the 'kid who will change the face of pop music', Conor Paul Maynard has carried the weight of others' expectations on his slight shoulders ever since he first sung in front of a makeshift microphone in his bedroom and uploaded the subsequent result onto YouTube. Luckily, the young singer has shown that he is more than able to meet the lofty expectations placed upon him.
It all began after a chance encounter on the streets of his beloved hometown of Brighton. The popular young teen was messing about and having fun with his friends. Always the performer, Conor couldn't resist showing off and decided to sing in front of them.
He explained to the Telegraph in a 2011 interview: 'There was this one day, four years ago, when I was walking down the road after school, and I was singing to myself and messing about with my friends. An older girl from school turned around and said, "Boy, you can sing!"'
His impromptu rendition of Usher and R. Kelly's 'Same Girl' caused such a ruckus that the girl, impressed by his delicate and soulful voice, turned around open-mouthed and exclaimed: 'Wow, do that again!' Laughing it off, Conor thanked her for the compliments and ego-boosting moment before continuing on his merry way. But she had no desire to end it there. The next day she cornered him at school and forced him to sing in front of her pals. As word got round, Conor was soon wheeled out in front of more school friends, mostly female, and forced to sing on the spot.
It became such a playground ritual that he soon began to grow in confidence. However, Conor soon tired of his spare time being taken up with singing in front of girls and decided to come up with an alternative way to perform. Bolstered by the popularity of his musical ability, it made sense to transform his small bedroom into a makeshift studio and sing some covers for friends. Conor immersed himself in music technology and the videos of his favourite stars like Chris Brown and Ne-Yo, ensuring that his YouTube uploads, thanks to his singing and editing ability, were far ahead of the usual amateur efforts that regularly clog up the website. Before he knew it, those videos were attracting a far bigger audience than his school pals in Brighton. He was fast becoming a social networking and YouTube phenomenon with more than 90 million combined YouTube views and over a million followers on Twitter.
His success is staggering when you realise he was just a normal boy from a working-class family, living in Brighton. In the current climate, when more and more 'pop stars' are created from reality TV and manufactured to within an inch of their lives, this gifted young singer was a breath of fresh air, with success coming thanks to hard work combined with talent.
His amazing rise to stardom is an incredible journey, and it all began on 21 November 1992 when he was welcomed into the world by his parents, Helen and Gary. Conor also has a younger brother called Jack, and a little sister called Anna.
He was born and grew up in Brighton until he was eventually forced to move at the age of 18, following his success. It's a place that will always be home to him, despite the inevitable trappings that come with being a pop superstar. Memories of growing up in Brighton live with him and he has regularly stated in interviews that he misses his hometown.
Brighton is a major city on the south coast of Great Britain. During the 18th century it emerged as a popular health resort destination, later attracting thousands of day-trippers from nearby London following the introduction of The London & Brighton Railway in 1841, prompting the oft-attributed phrase: 'London-by-the-sea'. The subsequent growth saw major attractions being built during the Victorian era, including the Grand Hotel and the Palace Pier.
Brighton is now famous for its thriving seafront, filled with bars, restaurants and nightclubs between the piers. Every weekend, the area is buzzing with large party groups, many of them on stag and hen celebrations. Those who grow up in Brighton soon get used to mingling with the weekend trade. The mild atmosphere of the weekday seafront, filled with locals and easy-going tourists strolling along the pebbled beach and eating out at the many seafood restaurants, is hijacked at weekends by drunken brides-to-be wearing L plates and young men, their eyes glazed, hanging limply onto each other as they stumble their way into another neon-lit bar with the promise of cheap alcohol scrawled on chalkboards.
Once the weekend is over, normality returns to the popular seafront and the locals go back to their regular routine. Despite its reputation for being a party city, Brighton also has an enormous amount of culture. Away from the heady drunken atmosphere lies the North Laine. Comprising 300 shops, over 20 pubs and several theatres and museums, the area is famous for its independent shops and lively, cultured atmosphere. It is adjacent to the Royal Pavilion, and was once seen as a slum area. Now it's best known for being the bohemian hub and cultural heartbeat of Brighton.
Growing up, Conor was a regular on North Laine and it's here that he bought his first microphone in one of the trendy music stores, following the success of his early YouTube videos. He told ilikemusic.com: '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.'
Conor's mother was an office worker, his dad was a builder, and his childhood was one filled with love and affection. The family would spend many of their summer holidays staying in caravan parks across the country. However, he was misquoted in a 2012 interview when it was claimed that they spent all their holidays at caravan parks simply because they were poor.
Conor explained: 'I remember one newspaper said, apparently I said that my family are really deprived and really poor, and we used to go on caravan holidays all the time and that's all we could afford. No! That's isn't what I said! I told them that it was amazing that I got to record around the world because when I was younger, my mum used to love to go on caravan holidays. She likes to stay in the UK, so she loved different caravan park holidays. We weren't poor and deprived – that's just what she loved doing because that's what she used to do when she was younger, and they took that and turned it into the fact that I was really poor and all this kind of shit and I was like, "No, that's not true."'
In fact, he did enjoy foreign travels growing up. When asked what his best childhood memory was, he told The Yorker: 'The first time I went to America, we went to Florida – to Disneyland and Bush Gardens. I also got the first tan of my life, which is always good.'
Conor is extremely close to his brother, whom he affectionately dubs 'Jacky-pops' in interviews. Of their childhood, Jack said in an interview: 'We never really argued at all; we got on really well. He would always sing. Always. We both listened to the same music – RnB and hip-hop. We had a little rock phase when we were younger.'
In the kitchen of the family home there is a notice board covered with leaflets and old family photos. Several of these photos feature the two boys together, including a picture of them dressed up as chefs, and one where they are enjoying themselves on the Isle of Wight. Beside it, another photo has the brothers re-enacting the same image a few years later.
Jack has taken over the room where Conor completed his famous recordings but his elder sibling doesn't seem to care that the room that formed his childhood, with the piano in the corner and the balcony overlooking the garden below – used in early videos to give it more of a superstar look – now belongs to his brother.
Jack looks up to Conor. Little wonder, really, as he is currently soaking up the perks of having a famous brother. Not only does he now have the big room after Conor moved to London (fans found out where he lived and began to leave Post-it notes on the door of his home after he became famous), but he has also appeared in one of his brother's music videos. He has also become a magnet for short-sighted paparazzo: on leaving nightclubs in Brighton, Jack has been photographed by celebrity snappers in the mistaken belief that he is his big brother. Luckily, he sees the funny side of it and just laughs off the attention.
Conor revealed in an interview: 'My brother actually got papped outside a club because they thought it was me. He was standing there just absolutely laughing his head off and the paparazzi guy just looked so confused. We'll see if fame corrupts him!'
On moving to London, Conor said: '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.'
With Conor leaving home, for Jack there was another treat in store.
Conor explained to the Telegraph: 'When I was younger, playing video games was my life; when I moved away from Brighton, I promised I'd leave my younger brother my Xbox, so now in my flat, I just have a PS3. I love games – I will get them the day they come out. I'm a real geek.' In fact, when asked if 2012 was the best year of his life, he remarked: 'I would say so. Apart from 2007, when I got a PlayStation 2 for Christmas. There's a battle there, but yeah, it's definitely been a big year!'
Growing up, the youngsters were made to feel very special by their parents and encouraged to believe in themselves and their abilities. In Conor's case, early on it became apparent that he loved music. His mother revealed in a BBC Radio 1 interview: 'He liked music from a really young age. He picked up songs straight away. I can remember when Conor was a really small baby, in his bouncy chair hanging off the doorframe, and we used to put on Gabrielle's "Dreams" and he would bounce up and down to that for hours on end. He liked to entertain people from a very, very young age. Even now, if he pops home, he'll be bursting into song. He was always singing, but he didn't think he was anything special.'
When it became clear that his ambitions were focused on performing, his mother did all she could to nurture his talent, encouraging him to learn musical instruments as a young child and take up acting when he grew a bit older. Conor told the Telegraph: 'When I was young my mum noticed I loved performing – I used to burst into song in the middle of the doctor's waiting-room – and she enrolled me in a drama school on Saturdays.'
She didn't always listen to what her son wanted, though.
Conor added: 'When I was eight, I wanted to change my name to Leo because I loved lions so much. Luckily, my mum just laughed at me.'
He also learnt piano, telling the newspaper: 'I had piano lessons when I was younger, but I quit because I didn't want to sit and learn the scales. I just went on the internet and used tutorials to teach myself how to play songs on my keyboard. I can't read music, but I'm glad I know how to play because it means I can have more input in my songs.'
His parents are understandably proud of their son. In the family home, close to the childhood portraits that hang on the living room wall, is a giant poster of Conor's debut single, 'Can't Say No'.
Conor said on 'Postcodes', a YouTube video he created about his life: 'My mother is very proud of my achievements so far. It's kind of crazy to look at, seeing as I started this whole thing in my house. It's really special to me [coming home] as I now live in London. It's a little escape from the craziness that I do with my music.'
He added: 'I'm from Brighton, which is probably best known for its beach. The beach holds a lot of memories for me, with my friends coming here on sunny days. It was this town [where] I did my first cover; I had my first million views. It all happened in Brighton – I never lived anywhere else. A lot of amazing things have happened that have contributed to my story and where I am now.'
Conor is incredibly close to his parents, dubbing them his 'heroes' in an interview.
It's clear that his father is responsible for his son's performing bug. While he has worked in the building trade for many years, Gary Maynard was once an actor and appeared in several West End productions. Also, his granddad used to sing in jazz clubs, emulating Rat-Pack icons such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
Conor said: 'My dad, Gary – he's a builder now, but he used to be an actor on the West End stage. My granddad is another hero. He used to sing Rat-Pack-style music in jazz clubs. They both inspired me to get up and perform.'
Both his parents were heavily into music, and, growing up, Conor was immersed in the sound of rhythm and blues. He told Idolator: 'When I was really young, my parents listened to people like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder – a lot of R&B-pop acts. And then as I got into the early teens – 13 and 14 – I listened to Green Day and Good Charlotte. As I got older, in terms of mid-teens, that's when the real R&B started to come in. So I was listening to a lot of Usher, Mario, Justin Timberlake, Ne-Yo, Brandy. For me, R&B was definitely the more influential music I used to listen to. I was so inspired by the way they would sing, kind of the technical thing they would do with their voice. It made me figure out I wanted to be able to sing like that.'
He told Glamour magazine: 'From a really young age, I couldn't really talk properly yet, and I just used to say the numbers of what track I knew was on the CD, and they had to put that one on. And also, I couldn't say music so I used to say "sic" and they knew that when I said "sic on", I wanted [them] to put the music on. But my aunty who used to babysit me had no idea what it meant. She thought I was going to throw up, like, "I'm going to be sick!" So my mum used to have to come and pick me up.'
Talking more about his biggest icon, Michael Jackson, Conor remarked: 'I've never seen a performer that's greater than him. I definitely still consider him one of the all-time greatest performers. He had it all: he had the voice that was incredible, his musical style was amazing; he was very professional about everything that he did. I heard that before he recorded a demo, he would warm up his voice for an hour. Everything he did was very on point and clever. He's definitely an artist that I look up to.'
Like any young boy, even with the impressive musical influences inherited from his parents, there was still some embarrassing music in Conor's collection. He admitted: 'Me and my friends were the Blue of Brighton and Hove. I think I was Lee Ryan, actually – that was the person I would be. We loved Blue and we would sing all of their songs. We made a whole S Club Juniors [now known as S Club 8] as well.'
He added to the Guardian: 'I was about nine. At break time, me and three of my friends would pretend we were Blue. I was Lee Ryan. We tried to do the dancing, but some of us weren't into it. I was a massive fan but after the album Guilty, I moved on.'
He also admitted: 'This is embarrassing. When I was eight, me and my brother and our next-door neighbour would take the CD player into our back garden. We'd put the Pokémon theme tune on repeat, and get on our bikes and ride round and round and round. The garden wasn't even that big. We were like, "Oh my goodness, we're going to catch a Pokémon!" "Play it more than 30 times."'
In between hours devoted to video games, Conor was obsessed with Pokémon, particularly collecting cards of the characters from the hit animated series. He revealed: 'The shiny Charizard card was my ultimate goal when I was younger. My next door neighbour's brother told us he had one and that he'd only give it to us if we beat him at a game of tennis so me, my brother and my neighbour trained for tennis every day and played his brother every day. We finally beat him and then he told us he didn't have it. It was literally one of the worst days ever.'
Another guilty pleasure is the High School Musical soundtrack on his iPod.
When asked what he remembered about being 12, Conor said: 'If I think back to then, all I remember is being in my garden with my brother and my friends. We had a trampoline, so I was always on the trampoline, and playing different games. When I was 12, I was probably the shortest one among my friends, but I did have a growth spurt and then I became one of the tall kids. But then I stayed there and everyone else started growing, so then I became one of the short kids again. I kind of wore very baggy clothes – I was going through the skater phase. I had all my baggy jeans on and big clunky shoes.'
'I was pretty loud,' he added. 'I was pretty much the class joker – I tried to pay attention.'
He was educated at Cardinal Newman Catholic School in Hove – a mixed comprehensive. The official website for the school states: 'When students gain a place at Cardinal Newman Catholic School they will be welcomed into a community that prides itself on its care for each individual. Our school mission statement celebrates the uniqueness of each person. We recognise the personal and academic differences within our student body and it is our goal to offer the appropriate level of support and challenge that ensures individual growth and success.
Excerpted from Mayniac by Martin Howden. Copyright © 2013 Martin Howden. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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