Flying across the world for an opportunity seems almost normal for musicians. Lee Collinson took it one step further. Appearing on America’s Got Talent, his heartfelt and powerful voice took the stage by storm. Now back in the U.K. after reaching the semi-final, Lee Collinson sits down with Peter Wellman to talk about the experience and his new music.
Lee Collinson; America’s Got Talent semi-finalist, heartthrob, and also the only man I’ve seen sing whilst having a dog chew on your hand. How are you doing at the moment?
Oh, amazing, and loving it. The dogs are a bit bigger now. So the chewing has stopped because it was a bit more painful.
But I mean, not many other singers have had to deal with that. It’s not a technique to improve your singing, is it?
No, it’s not recommended. It’s more of a distraction. (But) it’s good fun though as long as they enjoy themselves.
It’s not something a maverick vocal coach would come up with. You’ve got new music coming out soon. What could you tell us?
I’ve got a remix of ‘Eenie Meenie‘ by (Sean Kingston) and Justin Bieber. So that’s coming out Sunday (19th March) just to get the ball rolling again because I’ve not released music in such a long time. After that, it’s straight onto an EP. So I’m just so ready to get the music going again as I wanna do some festivals this summer.
With the EP, what are the vibes around it? What stage are you at with it?
I’ve got a few songs down, but I love singing ballads. Every time I wanna sing, I put a ballad on. But every time ‘I’ sing, it’s always hip-hop (or) R’n’B. It’s always happy or rap; there’s nothing slow or calming, or sad about it. I’m not a sad person.
So to try and get those lyrics out (is hard); it’s not somewhere I’ve ever been in my own head space. With the EP, I think it’s going to be coming out around summer. The happy-clappy-boppy vibes are what we’re going for.
You have a powerful voice, but where did your musical journey start?
Do you know what? I can’t pinpoint a day or a time. I’ve kind of always sung in the car or (when) going places, and then people start telling me, ‘Do you know what, you are all right at singing.’
I was thinking, I actually quite enjoy singing. Whenever I sing, time flies, and I’m happy when I’m doing it. So, eventually, I just started posting on Instagram. Then I went to college for three months, but I couldn’t hack college because I’m not very good at sitting still for too long. But I met some sick people there that took me into music. I joined their band, and I was singing for about two years. Then I went on to do various shows and go off on my own route.
So on your own route, I mean, you went on an incredible journey. Hopping across the pond to America’s Got Talent. What was that journey like?
Do you know what, I’d only ever been on planes for about an hour max before that. An 11-and-a-half-hour flight and I was thinking when everyone was saying, ‘Oh it’s gonna be hard’, it’s not really, is it? It’s a day’s work and kind of just chilling out.
It’s 11 hours of sitting down what’s the issue?
Then the cramps start, and the time difference, and not being able to sleep, and being squashed up in the middle seat of that. But, I’ll do it again, 100 percent. It was amazing.
So what was going through your head before that first performance?
I didn’t really take in that first performance until I got home. It was so strange. Everything moved so quickly; getting over there, being in a hotel, and (then) rehearsing the day before doing the audition. It went the best it could have. There’s no way that could have been any better. Before I knew it, I was on a plane home, and everyone’s gassing me, messaging me. It hadn’t fully sunk in. I dunno the word for it, but going over to another country and being on a show, and watching it on the TV was just insane.
Did you fly across, do the audition, fly back and then fly back again?
So there’s a big gap. The first auditions are all pre-recorded shows because there are so many people. They’re pre-recorded. I was right at the start, but I was last on my day.
So the waiting must have been hard.
They’ve got to do everything. They have to film everyone’s intros, everyone’s backstory, everyone’s auditions. The behind-the-scenes of these shows are incredible. You have no idea. Then when I sit back and watch the episode, the way that they cut that down into that hour slot is fascinating.
Whose decision was it to pick all these little things that worked so well, because you sit down and do a three-hour interview. Then they’ll get a two-minute clip out of it.
So, you flew back to do the semi-finals performance. What made you choose ‘Flowers‘ by Lauren Spencer Smith?
It’s just an amazing song, a beautiful song. It’s so meaningful. My goal wasn’t to go on there (and win). I know obviously, it would be amazing to win, but it wasn’t to go on there to win it. I was going on to show myself as a person. That show is so hard to compete in, cause of the variety that’s there.
You can’t compete. The people that won. The Mayyas; their actual performance was so amazing. It doesn’t matter what anyone else had done, that was the one. A hundred million percent.
So whilst you’re over there, was there anything from the U.K. that you missed whilst you were over there?
My mom’s in here pointing at herself, so I missed my mom. I missed (her) so much (and) not just family and friends. But it didn’t overwhelm me. I wasn’t there thinking, I missed my family, I missed this, I missed out. I was so involved and so happy to come home and see everyone because the way of life over there is so different as well.
Everything’s so big over there. Here, I can walk where I want to and everything’s around the corner. Everything’s not around the corner over there, you have to Uber everywhere.
Do you know how much you spent on Ubers?
I don’t wanna talk about it. I don’t wanna talk about the money I spent on Chick-fil-A. Oh my God, oh lord, there was some money spent.
That was the one downfall.
Oh mate, if I went through every receipt, I’d be gutted. I’m not doing it. I had a good time, and I’ll just leave it (there). It was the sauce, man, the sauce got me.
You have taken it to another level. You’re very active on TikTok, singing song requests. Are there any songs that you very secretly wish would come up as you’re scrolling through the comments? One that you’re thinking, I’d love to do that one.
No, I do not. It’s me singing the same song at home over and over again, then getting bored of it and needing new ideas. But every now and then, a song will come up, and I’m like, oh, I want an excuse to sing it. Most of the time, it is genuinely like, I’ve run out of ideas.
So you’re back in the UK. Signed to a record label. What is the plan for 2023?
2023 is (about) singles, EPs, and music getting out. Just being in people’s faces is the plan. People going onto their phones and not being able to not hear my song or not see my face being on TikTok or not be on someone’s story on Instagram. That is the plan. That’s what I want. I want to be everywhere.
What would you say are your musical inspirations?
So big time at the minute is Ed Sheeran. I’ve put that on the way to work. My brother’s been putting playlists on and we’ve been going through all his old albums. I love his versatility and the way that Ed Sheeran can make (music). Many people have to make a song and stick within their genre of what they sound like because that’s what we know them for.
Ed Sheeran has done every genre going and everyone knows it’s him. He always has his sound. So that’s a big inspiration for me. Bar, playing the guitar. I tried that for about 30 minutes, and that went into a bin.
And more representation from Southampton, it’s a wonderful, wonderful town. What do you love the most about it?
I’m telling you, Southampton has got some talent here as well. The music from Southampton is insane. Even on a pub gig level to an open mic level to the city gigs. If you go to an open mic or a little gig that someone’s doing, the talent here is just insane.
Do you have a particular open mic you’d like to shout out?
They do one at Whiskey Blue, which is great. That’s the one that is going really well. And we’re starting to do R’n’B nights as well now.
So we’re reaching the end. It’s a Sunday afternoon. You’ve got to kick back and put an album on at the moment. What are you listening to?
‘It’ll All Make Sense In The End‘ from James Arthur.
What do you love about it?
What’s so amazing about it is I didn’t even know it came out. I went onto YouTube, and do you know, one of those playlists that it set up? I heard him singing, and normally I can sing all of his songs, and this song came on. And I’ve never heard this song before in my life. When has this happened? So then I was fuming. I pulled over, and I went onto his page, and he had a whole other 12 songs on there that I hadn’t listened to. So I had to learn them all. That was good.
When an artist that you love just seems to drop an album out of nowhere, there’s always a feeling of offense. You feel like you should have got an email.
You’re out of order mate. Are you gonna text me?
James Arthur just put him in a WhatsApp group. Thanks so much, Lee
Make sure to check out our previous interview with Lina Nikol and Boyan.