People think of me as a bit of a party animal, but I’m a grafter
Former X Factor star and pop favourite Olly Murs recently released his sixth album. He talks to LUCY MAPSTONE about why he feels he has lasted in the industry for so long, how he writes his own music and why he never wants talent show The X Factor to end
OLLY Murs has just been asked: how have you managed to last for so long when so many of your X Factor peers have vanished into thin air?
It’s clearly not an easy one for Olly, who has not a single arrogant bone in his body. Having to pick apart the reasons for his success over others is somewhat tricky.
“I think it’s just luck,” he says, having mulled it over for a short while.
“Listen, I don’t want to sit here and say it’s because of this or because of that. I genuinely think it’s just luck.
“I never thought I’d have the career that I’ve had. I never really focus on anyone but myself. I wasn’t looking at Joe McElderry or Stacey Solomon or anyone else on The X Factor. I was just like, ‘How can I make a dent in this industry? How can I have a number one record?’ Also, it was having the right songs at the right time.
“Sometimes you have that moment in the market where the door opens, and I took that opportunity with both hands.”
Take it with both hands he did, and now, nearly a decade after coming second behind the now lesser-seen McElderry in 2009’s The X Factor, Olly is among the most enduring of all those who ever went through that process, along with the likes of One Direction and Little Mix.
He has so far scored four number one albums, plenty of chart-topping and top 10 singles – and six Brit Award nominations. He has landed a number of other impressive jobs, including presenting X Factor’s spin-off show The Xtra Factor before being bumped up to present the main show, and he is now a coach on The Voice alongside Sir Tom Jones, Jennifer Hudson and Will.i.am.
It’s fair to say things have gone exceedingly well for that unassuming Essex lad who won the nation’s hearts aged 25 with his cheeky attitude, quirky fedora and poppy dance moves. Not only has he done well for somebody who rose to fame on a reality TV show, but he’s done well for any artist.
“When you come from a reality TV show, you don’t realise at first the stigma behind that, especially within the music industry,” Olly, now 34, notes.
“You definitely face more battles. But I’ve come out the other side. When I came off X Factor, the lifespan I was given wasn’t long. So I said, ‘I’ll prove them wrong’, and I did.”
Olly did it by releasing feelgood hit after feelgood hit.
He also did it by working harder than most people perhaps realise.
“I think I’m probably looked upon as a bit of a party animal, someone always having a good time, but I pick my time and my place to be that guy,” Olly explains.
“People don’t see the hardworking, professional person that I am.
“They see the cheeky chappie on stage dancing, being a bit of a free spirit, but I’m really just a hardworking lad from Essex who’s still grafting every day to earn a living.”
Does it bother him, at all, that the wider population may not even be aware of how involved he really is in his music, particularly given his starting point in the industry?
“Maybe because I don’t sit behind a piano or play a guitar, or maybe because I’ve come from The X Factor, people presume you’re a karaoke singer...” he starts.
“I mean, I still get asked now if I write my own songs. Of course I do! I write all my songs, from the first album to this one,” he adds, referring to his latest release, sixth album You Know I Know, a combination of his greatest hits and new music.
“Dance With Me Tonight and Troublemaker are my two biggest records and I co-wrote them.” For all his high moments, including working with Nile Rodgers on his new record, Olly is also honest about one of his lowest.
He was savaged for his stint hosting The X Factor back in 2015 alongside Caroline Flack.
They were picked apart pretty much daily in the tabloids and by viewers on Twitter, and things only got worse when Olly mistakenly told a contestant she was eliminated before the result was officially announced, and the negativity hit him very hard later.
“It wasn’t necessarily the experience of hosting it at the time, it didn’t affect me until after. I’d kind of moved on, but then the doubts and the anxiety all came a year later,” he admits.
Olly says it nearly affected him accepting The Voice, because “all of a sudden, the doubt came in and I started questioning myself”.
He said that, after having an “amazing couple of sessions with a lovely lady”, he was able to work through his issues and has come out the other side. He’s back on track.
Now fully at ease on The Voice, he will appear in his second series next year. But what does he think of the show that actually made him famous? Sure, he’s a fully paid-up member of The Voice club now, and The X Factor seems to be falling out of favour with viewers, the numbers dwindling by the episode.
It’s impossible not to ask one of its biggest success stories if he thinks it’s time for The X Factor to bid farewell.
“I would hate The X Factor not to be on TV,” he responds.
“It’s hard for me to be critical of any show, because X Factor has such a big place in my heart. Deep down, if it wasn’t on anymore, we’d all miss it.
“I love the show and, even though I’m on a rival show now, we’re on at a different time of year and we’ll never be in that X Factor slot.
“On The Voice, we’re so happy, it’s going really well and we just need to make sure we’re getting the talent through.”
He finishes: “I’ve seen what it’s done to my life, and if it can help change someone else’s, then that’s amazing.
“That’s what it’s all about.”
Olly Murs plays Resorts World Arena at the NEC on May 10 and 11.
Olly Murs and his new album, You Know I Know, below