British Bieber attracts music heavyweights

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In this photo taken Wednesday, March 28, 2012 British singer Conor Maynard, poses for pictures in London. Following in Justin Bieber’s footsteps, Maynard from England has gone from uploading videos online to having the support of America’s biggest R’n’B stars. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Like Justin Bieber, Conor Maynard is a foreigner who got his break via YouTube, was mentored by an R&B star and took inspiration from American urban music.

But musicially, Maynard says, the comparison “ends there. [I have] a very different sound. But it’s obviously flattering to be compared to one of the biggest artists in the world right now when I haven’t even released my first single yet.”

The 19-year-old from Brighton, England, has gone from uploading videos of himself singing at home to working with Pharrell Williams on his debut album in Florida. (Bieber was a Canadian who fell in with R&B star Usher.)

Maynard realized that if he put up covers of current tracks, people would stumble across them.

The results were impressive – NeYo offered to work with him after watching his version of “Beautiful Monster” and Chris Brown retweeted the video of his “Yeah 3x.”

Maynard couldn’t believe his luck.

Actually, he was so skeptical he insisted on a chat with NeYo, to make sure it was the real R&B deal, rather than his friends joking around.

“It was about midnight when I was on Skype to him, everyone in my house was asleep,” Maynard says. “So I was like, ‘Hi, Ne-Yo.’ That kind of killed any starstruckness – I had to talk really quietly.”

Record company interest followed and now Maynard is dropping his debut single, “Can’t Say No,” on April 20 through Polydor.

His talent was discovered when he was overheard singing to himself on the way home from school in Brighton, a hip coastal town in southern England. His friends kept asking him to perform, so he started putting videos online to keep them happy.

Soon after NeYo spotted him, record companies caught on and he signed with Polydor in the U.K. MTV has picked him as being one to watch for 2012 after he won their “Brand New” competition.

Thanks to his online following, “Can’t Say No” has already clocked more than 3 million views in a month. He’s also got 124,560 followers on Twitter – and the number is rising.

“Can’t Say No” is reminiscent of Justin Timberlake’s vocals, with a catchy “Houston, I think we got a problem” hook.

“There’s not too much meaning to be taken from it,” he said, referring to its “girls, girls, girls” chorus.

An album is set to follow this summer, and it has already gone down well with his new friends Pharrell, Ne-Yo, Ludacris, Tyler the Creator and Lil Wayne.

“They’re really excited about it as well,” he says.


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