Conor Maynard: Britain's Justin Bieber? The YouTube star outselling a rival teen idol
You may never have heard of Conor Maynard, but his 'Mayniacs' have. Adam Sherwin on the singer hitting the big time – from his bedroom
He already has the doe-eyed good looks and an army of female fans called the Mayniacs. Now Conor Maynard can really be called "Britain's Justin Bieber" after the Brighton musical prodigy displaced the Canadian teen idol from the chart summit with his debut single.
Maynard, 19, enjoys a rather different life to his college peers. He fields late-night Skype calls from the chart-topping US singer Ne-Yo in his bedroom studio and receives admiring tweets from Lily Allen.
Like Bieber, he found an audience by uploading bedroom-filmed interpretations of current R&B hits to YouTube. The response was instant. He became the UK's fifth most subscribed-to YouTube channel and his worldwide views now total 76 million. Maynard's heroes, Pharrell Williams and Ne-Yo, contacted him to suggest collaborations.
Yesterday "Can't Say No", Maynard's debut single, entered the chart at No 2, displacing Bieber's single "Boyfriend". The single was boosted by Twitter endorsements from Allen and Kylie Minogue.
Maynard told The Independent: "It's pretty amazing for the single to go in so high. I'm still figuring out how all this works."
The success means Maynard can make a little more noise in his bedroom studio. "When I started, I sang through a PlayStation 2 SingStar game microphone. My dad was banging on the walls telling me to shut up. I've got a proper mic now." When an associate of Ne-Yo told Maynard to expect a call from the star, the teenager thought it could be an imposter. He said: "I was sitting in my bedroom at 1am when I got a Skype call from Ne-Yo. It was definitely him. I was in my pyjamas but fortunately he didn't hang up. I had to be really quiet so I didn't wake my mum up."
Maynard is a year older than Bieber, who uses social media to mobilise his huge fanbase and has sold eight million records during a four-year career.
Although Maynard cannot yet match Bieber's 20 million Twitter Beliebers (he has a mere 175,000), he insists that he is the more serious musical proposition. "We're both young and came up through YouTube. But I think I'm making a different kind of sound."
EMI believes he will demonstrate a musical credibility lacking in some male stars generated by talent shows such as The X Factor.
"I didn't want to go with something too poppy for the single," the singer said. "My roots are in rap and harder, urban pop. I did exactly what I wanted to do."
A window has opened for British pop acts in the US after the success of One Direction and The Wanted and Maynard is determined to make his mark. "America is definitely part of the plan," he said.
The teenager remains wide-eyed over his brush with fame. "Lily Allen and Kylie Minogue both tweeted about my first single," he enthused. "That's really cool."
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