Diver Chris Mears has come a long way from a near-death experience in 2009. Now 22, the athlete competed in the 2012 Olympic Games, took home a gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and now has his eyes set on the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. In addition, the budding model and DJ/producer released his debut single, “Mexico,” in Latin America.
“I’ve always been inspired by electronic and dance music,” Mears tells Billboard, “so I knew that’s what I always wanted to create at one stage, I just didn’t know really how to get there.
Mears started dabbling in music and production while he was recuperating from a dramatic illness in 2009. That year, an undiagnosed glandular fever led to the rupture and removal of his spleen, followed by a week in intensive care with only a 5 percent chance of survival. He pulled through, but, after he was discharged, he had a seven-hour seizure, which resulted in a three-day coma and a month-long stay in the hospital.
“I had so much time on my hands,” Mears says of his recovery. “I bought a guitar and I started playing and picked things up really quickly.” He also got a Mac computer and dived into creating his own music.
“When I got a Mac, I was just opened up,” Mears says. “I got [the music production app] Logic and I was just opened up to this whole world of being able to craft any sound. I became obsessed with sound design and creating sounds from nothing. It’s just been a massive interest of mine from really early on.”
Interest in Mears and his music led to him releasing a commercial single (“Mexico,” featuring Karl Michael) in Latin America through Universal Music earlier in 2015. He’s in talks to release further music with Universal after the Olympics, but as of yet, no deal has been signed. His focus at the moment is firmly on the 2016 Games. He has been able to find the time to do occasional DJ gigs, but those are few and far between, again, owed to his rigorous training and competition schedule. (It’s a schedule that finds him training six days a week, from about 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
“Right now I can’t do these things [live gigs] obviously because my aim and my life’s dream as a kid was to be an Olympic medalist,” Mears says. “So I’m still trying to make that dream come true. Doing a gig [that finishes] at 4 or 5 a.m. and then going to training is not very professional. Finding that balance is key.”
Somehow, in addition to his busy diving schedule and his musical endeavors, he’s also found time to do a little modeling. In 2014, BuzzFeed called him the “hottest and hunkiest diver in the entire world,” while this year, Attitude magazine ranked him No. 21 on their Hot 100 list.
Mears — who says he’s “quite an arty person” and really enjoys photo shoots — recently released his 2016 calendar, photographed by Pantelis. The fleshy collectible was well-received by fans, who crashed Pantelis’ website. Billboard has an exclusive peek at one of the calendar’s more clothed photos of Mears, below.