London Based Artist CONOR MAYNARD Shoots His Shot in New Single, “P.G.N.L.” Talks Music, Go-To Pick Up Line, Being Independent & MORE.
From winning MTV‘s Brand New for 2012 award 10 years ago to his latest release of his new song, “P.G.N.L.” the U.K. artist, Conor Maynard has been through a lot. From signing to Parlophone, scoring Ne-Yo as a mentor, racking up nearly 13 million YouTube subscribers, international tours, a #1 album, five Top 10 singles, collaborations with artists like Pharrell Williams and Rita Ora to even starring in the Broadway show Kinky Boots, Maynard has proven he can do it all. He also has Spotify streams that are fast approaching 2 billion and became the 8th most followed music account in the U.K. on TikTok after only joining the platform in 2020. His journey from online to international pop stardom had set the stage for many other artists to make their dreams a reality.
With this dedication to his music and his fans as well as his countless unique and consistent covers that he’s become so well known for, Maynard has grown a wildly large and supportive fan base. The backing of his fans and the confidence in his own talent as well as his tenure in the industry led him to the decision to step away from his record label and take control of his own music career. The bet on himself has paid off as he notched 300 million streams across platforms in 2021 alone – without any major label backing.
He continues his journey with the latest release “P.G.N.L.” – which stands for “Pretty Girl Named Layla” – and comes with the announcement of a world tour that kicks off in the fall. He chats with All Access‘ Austin to discuss the new single, being vulnerable in his music and online, how singing to a girl on the bus in school started his musical career and more. Get to know the impressive multi-hyphenated talent by checking out the full interview below.
ALL ACCESS [Austin]: Do you remember when you first fell in love with music? What was the moment you decided to pursue music full time?
CONOR MAYNARD: It was actually an accumulation of moments. My parents knew from an extremely young age that I liked to listen to music. It was somewhat in my DNA, because my dad was a performer on the West End when he was a child, and my grandfather on my mother’s side was also a professional performer. So it was always there. And my mom noticed from a young age that while most kids shied away from moments in the spotlight, I took to it. As I got a little bit older, I always loved creating, whether it was music or videos. Even when my friends weren’t into it anymore, it was something I continued to be passionate about.
In school I kept it real quiet – I didn’t really sing in front of people – but I became friends with this one kid in my class who also enjoyed music, so we would laugh and sing together. Then one day, he was coming to hang out at my house after school, and there was this girl on the bus that I had a crush on. We started singing and she suddenly looked at me like “what the hell!” and then she went and told everyone in my school the next day – and it all spiraled from there. So I think seeing the look of shock and excitement on that girl’s face when she noticed I could sing really kicked things off.
AA: Speaking of music and getting girls attention, a massive congrats on the release of “P.G.N.L.” – the song is a jam. As “P.G.N.L.” describes a night out where you meet Layla and leave your friends with her friends to enjoy the night. What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to get a girl’s number and/or her attention? Did it work?
CM: My go-to line when I see a girl out is to pretend that I think that I’ve met them before. It’s kind of a way to start the conversation that doesn’t feel too awkward – so that’s my normal go-to. Sometimes it literally crashes and burns, and sometimes it at least starts the conversation, because sometimes they’ll try to guess how we know each other, and the conversation just goes on from there.
As far as the craziest thing I’ve done, I don’t know! I’m too terrified of rejection so I don’t really go all out to try to get a girl’s attention, because I think I would be too devastated if it didn’t work out.
AA: Ha! Well maybe the impromptu serenade on the bus all those years ago was the craziest thing. The song also marks one of your releases as an independent artist after being in the major label game for 10 years. What are you most excited about accomplishing without being tied to a major? What are you most nervous about?
CM: Thank you very much! I feel like any form of success with songwriting is an accomplishment when you’re an independent artist. All of the pressure falls on you, and at the end of the day, I only have myself to blame if something goes wrong. I actually prefer knowing that it’s all on me and that nobody else can mess it up for me. Obviously, it would be amazing to have another single that charts highly across the globe, or an album that charts really highly, because there aren’t that many genuinely independent artists that have pulled that off. I’m also really excited about my tour at the end of the year, which will be my first global tour as an independent artist.
AA: As someone who has been in the public eye for so long and creating music – what do you know now that you wish you would’ve known when you were starting off?
CM: There are quite a few things, actually. One thing I definitely believed when I was younger was this sort of false dynamic between myself and my label and management. I viewed them as being in charge and that I was at the mercy of them, and that I had to make sure everything I did in my career was OK with them. But then I realized, especially from a management perspective, that they kind of work for me, and that at the end of the day when everything fades away, I’m Conor Maynard and I have to deal with the consequences of being myself. So I realized that nobody really cares about my career as much as I do. When I was young, I was very nervous to say anything that I thought might go against them. But then I realized that it was me in the steering wheel.
AA: You posted on Instagram last year that you and your girlfriend had recently broken up and so you wrote her a song that you had shared online while also sharing the news of the breakup. As an artist is it tougher to share painful personal experiences through music or social media? How do you determine how vulnerable you want to be in your music as well as online?
CM: At the moment they come as one in the same – but social media is a bit more vulnerable. If you just release a sad song, people listen to it, but they don’t necessarily consider that it’s coming from a real place. They don’t really think it’s about you – they just relate it to their own life. Whereas with social media, it allows you to push the point that you’re the one going through these experiences. And for me personally, it really helps – it’s almost therapeutic. I like the fact that I can be honest with my fans and with the public if I am going through a difficult time, because it makes it easier not to pretend or fake that everything’s Ok. It’s easier to say, ‘hey everyone, I’m really heartbroken right now, so please don’t do anything that is going to make it worse.’ It was quite cool, in this case, because it allowed me to speak about it more. People would come up to me and ask about what’s going on, and that’s something that I don’t mind. I like being open and honest about how I’m feeling and what I’m going through.
AA: In addition to your own music you also do a lot of covers – what’s the thought process for how you determine which cover to do? Any song you wish you could cover but don’t feel comfortable/confident putting your own spin on?
CM: There are a few things that go into it. One, at its core, I have to love the song. I only cover songs that I think are sick and that I want to put my own twist on. Also, usually I only target songs where I feel like the singer or the genre is so far away from my own sound, because then it’s a different listening experience. If I was to go out and sing a cover of an artist that was in a similar lane as me, then I feel like it wouldn’t be as interesting. But if I go out and sing someone like Lady Gaga or an artist that sounds nothing like me, it’s a totally different experience for the fans.
AA: That makes sense. Any song you wish you could cover but don’t feel comfortable/confident putting your own spin on?
CM: As far as shying away from certain songs – not really! If I hear a song and I want to cover it, I usually just go for it.
AA: Congrats on the announcement of your World Tour! What’re your tour must haves while traveling the world/country?
CM: I’ve adopted some new ones since the last tour, but one thing I know I’m going to bring with me is my gaming laptop. I find gaming to be really soothing – if I’m feeling on edge or anxious, it allows me to focus on something and ground myself. I like to feel challenged and have a problem to solve when I’m not feeling great. So the laptop will definitely be coming with me.
And it’s great when my mates are able to come around. I’m a solo artist, so I don’t have the luxury of having bandmates or other people on tour with me that are going through the same thing, so I like to have my friends around. Hopefully they’ll be coming to as many shows as possible!
AA: If you could only listen to (5) artists for the rest of your life, who would they be?
CM: That’s tough. I would have to say Post Malone, The Weeknd, Drake (his music got me through a lot when I was younger), Michael Jackson, and Ariana Grande.
AA: Yeah that does always seem to be a tough question for everyone but a solid list for sure. Alright to wrap up, what can fans expect from you for the rest of 2022 and beyond?
CM: Well, predominantly the tour, and I believe there’s going to be a few features coming out later this year, which I’m really excited about. And potentially towards the end of the year they’ll be some new music coming too. I’ve been working on new music virtually every day the last few months – I’m trying to get as many tracks together as possible!
Excited to have had Conor Maynard hang for this latest All Access interview and big shout out to your recent journey as an independent artist. If “P.G.N.L” and the rest of his independent releases are any reflection of the upcoming music and era the world isn’t ready. Be sure to keep tabs on all things Conor by following along below and be sure to catch him on tour this fall.