PUBLISHED: 14:16 23 November 2011 | UPDATED: 20:20 20 February 2013
In two short years, Olly Murs has risen from obscurity to become one of the UK's top pop stars. Pat Parker learns how, thanks to X Factor, this Witham-based boy is now living <br/><br/>the dream
ITS two years now since Olly Murs burst onto our screens in the X Factor auditions singing Stevie Wonders Superstition. With his sunny smile, cheeky Essex-lad personality, great voice and neat dance moves he wowed judges and audiences, quickly becoming favourite to win the competition.
He didnt. To the surprise of many, he came second to Joe McElderry, whose pop career subsequently failed to take off. But Olly became the real success of the 2009 X Factor and has gone on to become one of the hottest male pop stars in the UK, with a string of hit singles, a double-platinum debut album and a follow-up, In Case You Didnt Know, launched just in time for Christmas.
Hes proved himself to be an engaging and unflappable presenter of ITV2s Xtra Factor, frequently flirting with co-host Caroline Flack. And the New Year sees him embark on a massive UK arena tour, including gigs at the O2 and Wembley arenas.
Theres a lot coming up, Olly tells me, sparing a few minutes from his hectic schedule to talk to me. Ive a new single, Its Not Me, a new album coming out on November 27, Im doing the live Xtra Factor shows and Ive finally been given the opportunity to do an arena tour, which Im really excited about. So its a massive three or four months for me.
Christmas will provide a much-needed break. Up until now, Ollys been living with his mum and dad in Witham, but he tells me hes just bought a house nearer Chelmsford and is looking forward to inviting his family over for Christmas.
Im sure Ill get the family round to celebrate with me in my new house. Christmas day will be spent at mum and dads, with my sisters family, grandparents, aunty and uncle and my cousins!
So what is a typical Murs family Christmas like? Its all the family in the lounge opening presents, a big Christmas dinner in the afternoon with everyone, a few drinks and then settling down in front of the TV pretty traditional really. I genuinely love giving presents to my family. I didnt used to have much money for Christmas presents, but this year I will definitely be spoiling them rotten!
Its fair to say things are going pretty well for the 27 year old former telesales worker. He really is living that elusive X Factor dream one of the few single male artists to do so. That he has had such success is due not only to his obvious talent and engaging personality, but also to sheer hard work and determination.
Im a workaholic, adds Olly. I love working. I hear people say Im the hardest-working man in the pop industry at the moment. Ive always been like that. Ive got a great work ethic.
Hes equally determined to not be packaged and controlled by others, but to put his personal stamp on everything he does. He co-wrote nearly all of his first album, Olly Murs, collaborating with the likes of Trevor Horn. Hes co-written most of his new album too. I get involved in everything I do musically. Its an important part of what I do, and its something Im very proud of. I want the music to feel like its my music, typical of my personality.
In Case You Didnt Know is, says Olly, quite different from his first album. Its a step forward and I feel Ive progressed. I think the musics got better and Ive changed it a little style-wise. Its closer to my Motown soul roots, but theres still some reggae in it and a few rocky tracks as well.
There have been rumours in the tabloid press that Olly and Caroline Flack are having some kind of relationship, but he tells me only that theyre, having a really good time together on the Xtra Factor. Its going really, really well. I didnt expect to get the job at all and to finally go back after two years away and see it all from behind the scenes has
Does he think the show has suffered from the absence of his former mentor, Simon Cowell? Well, Simon was always going to be missed in some shape or form as hes done the show for so many years, but I think youve got four really great judges this year. Gary has filled Simons shoes brilliantly, and he, Kelly and Tulisa have made it their own. So I dont think the show has suffered, and the ratings have
Im proud of being from Essex, and proud of the support Ive got. I hope I can continue to make them proud with my music
Olly was born in Witham in 1984. His dad, Pete, works as a toolmaker for E2V in Chelmsford and his mum, Vicky, gave up working a few years ago. He has a twin brother, Ben, and a sister, Fay. He attended Howbridge Junior School in Witham before going on to Notley High School in Braintree. I was just an average student. I did everything pretty much average. Thats why Im quite shocked that I get to do what I do now as a job. I dont think it normally happens to people like me.
He did excel in one area, however football. He was a striker in his school team and went on to play semi-professionally for Witham Town until injury forced him out of the game. Footballs always been my sport. My dream was to be a professional footballer, but I was never good enough I just played for my local team. I love playing football and its the one thing I miss, really. But I still get to play with my mates, so its quite cool.
Olly did telesales, worked as an energy advisor and most recently as a recruitment consultant before the X Factor changed his life dramatically.
Nothing up until then had indicated a future career as a pop star, so I wondered at what point he realised he had some musical talent? I always liked performing and entertaining from a very young age, he says. I always wanted to get up and sing and have a laugh and dance, but you never think youve quite got it, and nor did my family.
It wasnt like I was auditioning or doing loads of shows for years and years I wasnt. Id get up and do a bit of karaoke and a bit of singing here and there, but no one was ever thinking there was an opportunity for me to be a pop star. I just decided one day, completely out of the blue, Ill do the
X Factor and see what happens.
He auditioned twice unsuccessfully, but didnt give up. I always felt I could do better. So he formed a band with his mate, the Small Town Blaggers, and performed in local pubs. He gained confidence and decided to audition once more for the X Factor. It was third time lucky. I went to the X Factor to change my life and I have, he says simply. Its been an amazing two years.
Olly, Stacey Solomon and Joe McElderry made it to the final. Joe won, but Ollys not going to pretend he wasnt disappointed. Of course I was. I dont like to lose. Im like every male whos played sport. Everyones got a competitive side and its never nice to lose to anyone, especially on a TV programme watched by 20 million people. But then Id never expected to get as far as I had and I thought, Well, Ive had an amazing couple of months, its really changed my life, and hopefully I can progress and something will happen to me. I kind of knew my life had changed and I had the potential to do reasonably well for myself.
He was right. Just a few weeks after the final, Olly signed a joint record deal with Epic, who had signed previous X Factor runners-up JLS, and Cowells own company, Syco.
After the X Factor tour, I was straight into the studio and we started writing the first album. It was all a bit crazy from there on, really.
Despite his huge success, hes keen to stay close to his family, which is why his new house is still only a few miles from his parents home in Witham. Sadly hes still not on speaking terms with his twin brother since his X Factor commitments meant he was unable to be best man at his wedding. Ben subsequently complained to the press about Ollys behaviour and the two have not spoken since, although Olly says the rift actually predates the X Factor.
He is still angry that his brother spoke out publicly, but says he would be happy to patch things up. I think when theres a family problem or argument, you keep it in-house. You dont tell your neighbours about it, you dont tell your friends, but that was the way he wanted to go, and its fine. I accept that hes done it and you just have to move on. Hes living his life and Im living mine. So its not a problem.
Im a workaholic. I hear people say Im the hardest-working man in the pop industry at the moment
Olly is frequently seen in and around Witham and, of course, is constantly approached for photos and autographs from fans. He takes it all in his stride.
I dont mind. Its part and parcel of the job description that when you become a pop star, youre going to be noticed where you live and wherever you go in the country. I just get on with it. But here in Witham I just walk up the street and Ive got family and friends around me, and everyone has a laugh with me and we all get on really well. No one really bothers me that much really.
He feels enormous gratitude towards his huge number of Essex fans and enjoyed playing the V Festival at Chelmsfords Hylands Park back in August. Me and JLS were there and it was just brilliant. He also played a series of sell-out nights at Southends Cliffs Pavilion in June as part of his national tour. That was one of the highlights, to perform for my Essex fans. Im proud of being from Essex, and proud of the support Ive got. I just hope I can continue to make them proud
with my music.