Backbeat: Ed Sheeran, Cody Simpson, Conor Maynard Backstage at MuchMusic Video Awards
Backbeat: Ed Sheeran, Cody Simpson, Conor Maynard Backstage at MuchMusic Video Awards

sheeran Ed Sheeran takes the stage with nothing but his guitar at the 2012 MuchMusic Video Awards.

Even though they are too new to Canada to have received nominations for the 2012 MuchMusic Awards, Billboard got a few minutes with the next crop of young pop stars -- Ed Sheeran, 21; Cody Simpson, 15; and Conor Maynard, 19 -- to ask how they were finding the rather unusual awards show and what their career plans were for the remainder of the year.

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"It's quite an intense awards show," Sheeran told Billboard in the one-on-one area during the MuchMusic Awards show in Toronto last week.

The English singer-songwriter had just taken the MMVA stage all by himself, without the hoopla and pizzazz of the other performers, and played his hit "The A Team" on acoustic guitar to the estimated 10,000 fans who had gathered on the shut-down streets and in front of the parking lot stage.

simpson
Cody Simpson, a Presenter at the 2012 MMVA's mugs for the cameras.

The Canadian celebration of music videos -- from cinematography to post-production and the usual spate of genre-specfic awards -- is unlike the typical, seated, in-venue type of awards shows. The MMVAs are an outdoor party.

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"There's a lot going on, isn't there? It's wonderful and very fun," said Sheeran, who won a pair of BRIT Awards earlier this year. "This is my first week my album's been out in Canada so the reception has been amazing."

His debut album, +, opened at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on the Folk Album chart, and his plan for the next year, he says, involves "touring. Big touring," he says, "Just me and a guitar."

conor
Conor Maynard hits the MMVA red carpet.

What's his ultimate dream? "Let's say MSG. If I can do MSG in two years, then I'll be happy."

Australia's Simpson, who is signed to Atlantic in the U.S. and managed by Scooter Braun, called the MMVAs "on the more fun side of things for awards shows. I love all the outrageous arrivals and the [red] carpet and all that stuff," he told Billboard. Simpson presented an award last year and gave another out this year.

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"I always know that I can come back to Canada and have so many amazing fans. When I walk down the red carpet, there's so many people there; there's so much love and support and I'm so grateful for that. I've been here a couple of times and every time I've always had my fans always there. So its good."

Simpson, who released a four-song EP, Preview To Paradise, before his debut, Paradise, drops in October is now back in Los Angeles rehearsing for the three-month North American Big Time Rush tour, which starts July 5 in Columbus, OH.

"It's all over America, couple of dates in Canada into August, September. So it's gonna be a big one. There's over 50 shows," he said.

Britain's Maynard, who was also a first-time presenter, told Billboard his first album is "pretty much finished," which it should be considering it is due out July 30 on EMI.

"It's called Contrast. I suppose I named that on the basis that I feel like it would be a contrast from what people will expect from the album. It will be a contrast to what is already out there and there is contrast within the album as well. There's the big upbeat dance tracks and stripped back ballads as well. And also it's a play on my first name, Conor-Contrast."

Maynard says he worked with "some incredible people," citing a week he had in Miami with Pharrell Williams, and sessions with Stargate and Frank Ocean. Anth, the rapper with whom he started his YouTube fame, is also on the album -- as well as an appearance by Ne-Yo, the guy integral to the launch of his career.

"When I was about 16, 17, I played a cover of Ne Yo's 'Beautiful Monster.' He saw that [online] and then reached out. I ended up sitting on Skype with him at about 1:30 a.m. in my pajamas," Maynard laughs.

fans Brit sensation Ed Sheeran takes a photo with a Canadian fan at the 2012 MMVA's.

"His manager contacted me. And I didn't actually believe it at first. I didn't want to get all the way out to America and have my friends calling me from my hometown, 'Aaaaa got you!!' 'Thanks so much,' but it really was him.

"I got to speak to him about it and he tried to sign me, started a massive buzz in UK. 'Who's this kid that Ne-Yo wants to take to America and sign?'

"But, eventually, I signed with EMI in the UK. That was mainly because I was only 17 and I didn't want to move out to America because I was so young. I thought it 's easy for me to sign with a UK label, but there was no grudge or any thing like that."

Of the whole MMVA atmosphere and experience, he remarked, "It's crazy. It was my first bit of presenting I've ever done at an awards show anywhere."

But it's not the most people's he's ever been onstage in front of.

"No, I did actually perform at the Wembley Stadium to 80,000 people," he says. "It was the Capital Summertime Ball over in the UK. It was for radio station [ Capital FM] over there and it was huge."