The name Aston Merrygold may not ring a bell with everyone – unless you happen to be a teenage girl who can recite the name of every boy band member that ever existed. But for the rest of us – and by that we mean adults, whose last boy band poster was The Backstreet Boys – the name sounds a little bit like a fancy biscuit (or is that Ainsley Harriott we’re thinking of?) Either way, Aston Merrygold is in fact a singer and former member of British pop group, JLS. The band, who rose to fame in 2008 after becoming runners-up on the UK TV show The X Factor, went on to release four studio albums, a greatest hits album and sold more than ten million records worldwide.
After achieving remarkable success in the UK, the group finally called it a day in 2013, after five years together. Since then, its members – Marvin Humes, JB Gill, Oritse Williams along with Merrygold – have remained out of the charts. But now, 27-year-old Merrygold is back and going it alone with a brand-new single, ‘Get Stupid’, and an album, Show Stopper due to be released in October.
‘The album will be a bit of a shock to people because it’s stuff I listen to, it has an R&B and pop twist as well as a reggae twist,’ says Merrygold.
‘I still have yet to finish certain songs and I have ideas of people who I would love to be on the tracks, so when that’s finalised I’ll think about collaborations.’
‘Get Stupid’ shows off a different side of the singer that fans won’t have seen in his boy band days – with some comparing his sound to Bruno Mars. ‘It has a funky base. I’m sure Bruno Mars draws from the same experiences when he was younger as I did – so Michael Jackson, James Brown and Prince. I think he’s one of the best showmen in the world right now so to get anywhere near his level would be incredible,’ says Merrygold.
Despite carving out a pretty decent career in the UK with JLS, Merrygold says he sees this as a second chance. ‘It’s like starting again. It’s nice I can come off that platform to branch out from something else. It’s like being a footballer and transferring teams. You can have a successful career and move on. In music, people are always trying to reinvent themselves. This is like an introduction to myself.’
While many British pop stars go on to be even more successful post-boy or girl band – Robbie Williams after Take That and Cheryl Cole post Girls Aloud – others haven’t been as successful (Gary Barlow in the ’90s post-Take That, for example). Is that something Merrygold fears? ‘Any act in general comes under criticism, especially whenever they are new. When trying to build up a fan base and mould yourself, you’ll always be compared to stuff. I suppose it depends what you are being compared to and what people see you like. Everything for me has been quite good and positive,’ he explains.
Growing up, the Peterborough native was influenced by bands such as The Jackson Five. He even competed in the UK talent show Stars in Their Eyes in 2002 as Michael Jackson, singing ‘Rockin’ Robin’. The young singer eventually met his fellow JLS bandmates on the audition circuit before they appeared on The X Factor. ‘Before, I was only 25 percent of something. JB, myself, Marvin and Oritse tried to make it together and I learnt so much through that whole experience, which was amazing and I’d never change anything. But now, I’m my own boss in a way and in the studio I can be like, ‘Right I want to talk about this and I can do this, so it’s all I,’ Merrygold says.
Since the group split in 2013, Merrygold’s bandmates have gone on to have careers in TV presenting, while Oritse Williams has also launched a solo career. So are the boys competitive? ‘Oh yeah, there’s competition there, but we have that with everything we do. It’s all within banter. If we had the same release date, Twitter would be hilarious because that’s when stories would come out, but we wouldn’t throw each other under the bus,’ he laughs
The singer says he misses his friends and the fun they had performing together, but that he enjoys the creative control as a solo artist. ‘Anything I’ve ever felt or gone through I can put down on paper and record it and let loose. If I’m not happy with it, then I don’t have to do it.’
Having recently performed a secret gig with fellow British group Rudimental at The Act Dubai, where does Merrygold see his music going? ‘It’s all about playing live, so I’m going to be touring to places like Australia. JLS never really had the chance to branch out of the UK, but now I have a great opportunity to travel and get my music out there internationally.’
‘Stupid Love’ is out now on iTunes. www.astonmerrygold.com.