Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1074

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Marcus Collins: Aiming higher and Higher

Marcus Collins
Marcus Collins Marcus Collins

This month finds 2011 âX Factorâ 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), âMarcus Collinsâ 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 "Donât Surrender" sit confidently alongside big-voiced covers of indie-rockers The White Stripesâ "Seven Nation Army" (the albumâs Top 10 first single); soul legend Jackie Wilsonâs "Higher And Higher"; and urban-alternative songstress Janelle Monaeâs more recent "Tightrope." Meanwhile, Marcusâ former âX-Factorâ mentor Gary Barlow - in addition to acting as the setâs 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 âBlues & Soulâ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis for a brightânâbreezy introductory chat at Sony Musicâs Kensington HQ.

His debut album "Marcus Collins" and its retro Motown and northern soul influences

âI absolutely love the fact youâve 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 Iâd 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

âI 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, thereâd be no hiding because Iâd 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 wasnât the BEST, but at the same time it wasnât the WORST.

Being accepted as a credible artist after coming off âX-Factorâ

âWell, I donât wanna go round constantly saying âOh, you have to work extra hard to gain credibility in music when you come off âX-Factorâ - because, though it is true, I donât wanna keep going ON about it! Instead youâve just gotta deliver, give people good music, enjoy and really believe in what youâre doing, and put a part of yourself into every SONG. You know, youâve gotta take people on a journey EVERY TIME - whether itâs uplifting, whether itâs 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 donât know the HALF of what you go through - or how hard you work - on that show! Like weâd have people ringing my hair salon saying âCan I get Marcus for half a head of foils on Wednesday?â - and theyâd be like âYouâre JOKING - heâs on âX-Factor!â!... And then theyâd say âBut heâs not on till SATURDAY!â!... You know, thereâs so much more that goes on behind the scenes than people REALISE! I mean, you donât spend the week sat around DOING nothing! Youâre in voice rehearsals, dance rehearsals, learning the songs, doing interviews, video shoots, filming for ITV2⦠But, you know, while âX Factorâ 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 Iâve proved to myself that I can do more things with my talent than I ever thought POSSIBLE.â.â

The single "Mercy" is released on June 3. The album âMarcus Collinsâ 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.

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