Essex boy Olly Murs on why he won’t miss the X Factor and more
- Credit: Su Anderson
Swanky tour bus, screaming fans; I could get used to this, writes Wayne Savage. Yes, it was Olly Murs’ bus and him they were screaming for but a boy can dream.
Until now, my closest claim to fame was having shared a stage with Justin Hawkins of The Darkness, albeit in a school play something something years ago. We weren’t technically on stage together. He was performing, I was carting props on and off it. He was at my 18th birthday party, but that’s another story.
Later, waiting for Murs to finish up more interviews, I hear somebody ask: “You’re Wayne, from the paper?” Ah, finally. Turns out they just had a story for me.
Murs’ fans felt their hearts skip skip skip a beat when “our” bus pulled up outside the Dream 100 and Town 102 studios. They’d been queuing since early morning to get a photo, and in some cases a cheeky kiss from the former X Factor host and runner-up.
One, Michelle Elvin, there with her son, aspiring singer Macauley, even baked him a chocolate cake. I accidentally let slip the popstar is fuming at the possibility he’s lactose-intolerant. If fame does come calling, I’ll need PR training.
The visit was part of his nationwide tour promoting new single You Don’t Know Love, taken from his fifth studio album due out later this year.
“The fans have been superb. The fact they’ve taken time out of their morning to come and say hi means so much to me,” said the Witham-born singer as we made the drive from his hotel – sorry to his fans on Twitter who failed to learn which one from me – to Great Blakenham.
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“It’s good to be back in Ipswich, I think the last time I came here was on my first theatre tour in 2011. It’s great to be back with new music. The reaction to the single has been amazing.”
It was the result of his break-up with girlfriend of three years, Francesca Thomas, last September. Jumping out as the first single, Murs admits it was a little bit strange to go in the studio and write about such personal previous experiences.
“At the same time it was quite therapeutic. I wasn’t sure she’d like it too much but I’ve played her the track and she was cool, she liked it. It’s really good to express these feelings. I’ve never done an album like this before.
“The word I’ve used a lot is honest. I haven’t been through the most dramatic of circumstances but to be able to actually have something really valid, personal, to talk about... You’ve seen me running around on stage dancing, having a good time, being all happy for many years and this is just another layer to me... Listen, the whole album’s not going to be that sad,” he laughs.
“It’s still got that energy I like to put into my music... People can really relate to the song and it fits perfectly with what my new album’s about. I took the first five months of this year to write it. It’s nearly finished.”
Murs admits he wasn’t too sure where to start. Known for so many up tempo, fun records like Wrapped Up, Troublemaker, Dance With Me Tonight and Heart Skips a Beat, he didn’t want to go over old ground. You’ve got to keep moving, developing; something he learned when on tour with friend Robbie Williams.
“When artists think they’re perfect or untouchable, that’s when their career comes to an end. I think for any artist, longevity is always there if you’re willing to keep learning.”
Going into the writing process with a blank canvas and the desire to just write “some really good songs”, he then let the producers have fun. The result, he says, is the best album he’s done. He certainly feels like a better performer than he was seven years ago, when he came second on the 2009 series of The X Factor.
He’s honestly matter of fact when I ask about the uproar that followed him announcing contestant Monica Michael was heading home before the official result was revealed during his stint as co-host of the ITV1 show.
“It was just a mistake, it was my fault, I took responsibility. At the time, the things that were happening in the world, it was very insignificant. Unfortunately when you’re on the X Factor there’s a certain limelight on you. They love to hate you in the media, it’s like in the playground; you have the kids everyone loves and the kids people don’t. We’re kind of like that at X Factor... I actually thought at one point ‘I don’t know why some of the people watch the show because they never have a nice thing to say about it’.”
Murs isn’t sad about not returning. He only had a year’s contract, adding he was a bit naïve when he took the job thinking he could handle a music and TV career at the same time. Juggling the live shows, record releases, his book; his schedule got a “bit crazy” to the point he went three weeks without a day off.
“It was quite intense so I’m not going to miss it. I’m going to be looking forward to sitting back and enjoy watching it. It’s something I would love to do again but next time... When I’m doing something I have to be 100% focused on that one thing. Last year I was doing two things at once and as we all know for men that’s quite hard to do,” he laughs. “I did the best I could but I think it’s nice to just focus on the music and I’ll come back to that at some point.”
Murs, looking forward to getting some tour dates in the diary, felt the tabloids were focused more on him, co-host Caroline Flack and the judges.
“That’s what I felt it lacked last year, they forgot how good the talent was. Regardless of what people have said about Reggie N Bollie, they’re releasing music now, you’ve got Louisa Johnson - but hey, that’s TV, that’s X Factor so..”
And with that he’s whisked off, leaving me with no lift back to the office. That’s showbusiness...