Marcus Collins: Aiming higher and Higher
This month finds 2011 ‘X Factor’ finalist and runner-up Marcus Collins further pioneering his UK Top 10 self-titled debut album with the release of its second single - the punchy, brassy "Mercy." Whose retro-Sixties edge typifies the Motown/northern soul-type vibe that permeates much of the set - a feel that has already evoked favourable comparisons with contemporary US pop/soul chart-toppers Cee Lo Green and Bruno Mars.
Indeed, produced in London by the world-conquering Metrophonic team (Whitney Houston/Cher/Lionel Richie), ‘Marcus Collins’ impressively finds the 23-year-old Liverpool-born-and-raised former hairdresser co-writing the majority of the songs himself. As soulful new compositions like the driving, stomping "Love & Hate" and slower, falsetto-graced "Don’t Surrender" sit confidently alongside big-voiced covers of indie-rockers The White Stripes’ "Seven Nation Army" (the album’s Top 10 first single); soul legend Jackie Wilson’s "Higher And Higher"; and urban-alternative songstress Janelle Monae’s more recent "Tightrope." Meanwhile, Marcus’ former ‘X-Factor’ mentor Gary Barlow - in addition to acting as the set’s Executive Producer - also acts as songwriter on the Eighties-soul-flavoured finger-snapper "Feel Like I Feel."
… All of which provides interesting conversation, as an instantly friendly and charming Mr. Collins meets ‘Blues & Soul’ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis for a bright’n’breezy introductory chat at Sony Music’s Kensington HQ.
His debut album "Marcus Collins" and its retro Motown and northern soul influences
“I absolutely love the fact you’ve just mentioned northern soul, because when we were in the studio that was something that we really CONNECTED to. You know, I was watching YouTube videos of all the dancing and things from way back that I’d never SEEN before. And, because I thought it was really cool, we did try and put as many references in there as we could from the Sixties and the artists from that time that had really inspired me - Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Temptations...
Growing up on a Liverpool council estate with his soul-loving mum
“I grew up in a predominantly white area. Which I think moulded me into the person that I AM! Because I kind of got used to standing out and I had to be very careful of getting into TROUBLE! You know, there’d be no hiding because I’d always be the first one to be NOTICED! And I think that in turn really influenced my behaviour and the way that I APPROACH things. I mean, the estate we grew up on wasn’t the BEST, but at the same time it wasn’t the WORST.
Being accepted as a credible artist after coming off ‘X-Factor’
“Well, I don’t wanna go round constantly saying ‘Oh, you have to work extra hard to gain credibility in music when you come off ‘X-Factor’ - because, though it is true, I don’t wanna keep going ON about it! Instead you’ve just gotta deliver, give people good music, enjoy and really believe in what you’re doing, and put a part of yourself into every SONG. You know, you’ve gotta take people on a journey EVERY TIME - whether it’s uplifting, whether it’s a slow, emotional ballad... Whatever the theme, whatever the style, you have to get people on BOARD with you! Because at the end of the day people don’t know the HALF of what you go through - or how hard you work - on that show! Like we’d have people ringing my hair salon saying ‘Can I get Marcus for half a head of foils on Wednesday?’ - and they’d be like ‘You’re JOKING - he’s on ‘X-Factor!’!... And then they’d say ‘But he’s not on till SATURDAY!’!... You know, there’s so much more that goes on behind the scenes than people REALISE! I mean, you don’t spend the week sat around DOING nothing! You’re in voice rehearsals, dance rehearsals, learning the songs, doing interviews, video shoots, filming for ITV2… But, you know, while ‘X Factor’ was a very, very stressful experience and you do have problems gaining musical credibility after being on there, it was also a very ENJOYABLE one - and one that has definitely changed my life and moulded me into this really driven person where I’ve proved to myself that I can do more things with my talent than I ever thought POSSIBLE.”.”
The single "Mercy" is released on June 3. The album ‘Marcus Collins’ is out now, both through RCA/Syco Music
You can read more from B&S' Pete Lewis and his interview with Marcus Collins in our printed edition of Blues & Soul - click below to order your copy now.
Words PETE LEWIS