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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Ahead of Abu Dhabi gig, Olly Murs on staying grounded and his thoughts on Ed Sheeran

About seven years ago, he was thrust into the spotlight almost overnight, from recruitment consultant in a small Essex town to household name, after appearing as a contestant on the UK’s The X Factor in 2009.
Olly Murs, pictured at London’s 02 Arena on March 30, performs in Abu Dhabi on Friday at the du Arena. The English singer has notched up four No 1 singles and albums. Simone Joyner / Getty Images
Olly Murs, pictured at London’s 02 Arena on March 30, performs in Abu Dhabi on Friday at the du Arena. The English singer has notched up four No 1 singles and albums. Simone Joyner / Getty Images

Olly Murs once provided the narration of a DVD titled the 7 Deadly Sins of Football, so I challenged him to come up with the corresponding deadly sins of pop stardom. Having racked up eight UK top 10 singles this is, after all, something the British singer – who performs at du Arena on April 28 – should be much more qualified to talk about.

“Privacy,” says the 32-year-old heart-throb. “That can be a deadly sin – that’s something you have to withhold, to adapt and understand – because as soon as you become famous you are a public figure and a lot of your privacy is taken out of the window. It’s all out there for everyone to see, and people want to know everything about you.”

Murs is speaking from experience. About seven years ago, he was thrust into the spotlight almost overnight, from recruitment consultant in a small Essex town to household name, after appearing as a contestant on the UK’s The X Factor in 2009.

He was an audience favourite and, two days after finishing in second place, was offered a record deal by music mogul Simon Cowell. Soon after came the release of Please Don’t Let Me Go, the first of his four No1 singles to date, which have included high-profile collaborations, such as Troublemaker with Flo Rida and Heart Skips a Beat with Rizzle Kicks. Four of his five albums have also claimed the top spot.

“People around you, yes-men,” says Murs, choosing for his second “sin”.

“The one thing I’ve been able to keep on track is I’ve still got a lot of friends from back home. This job hasn’t changed me that much. One of the deadly sins is getting involved with people who aren’t necessarily in it for your best interests – they just want to hang around you because you’re famous.”

What else? Gluttony? Extravagant spending on expensive cars? Trashing hotel rooms?

“Those are all fun – you have to live, do [these things] at least once,” says Murs. “All the other stuff, trashing hotel rooms, I’ve never really done it but there have been times where I’ve had people back for parties and the hotel room’s gone crazy and got smashed up – but that’s not because I did it.

“So, they’re all things that even if you’re famous or not famous, everyone’s been in a situation like that.”

Then there is the classic showbiz vice of jealousy. When I spoke to Murs, a little more than a month ago, Ed Sheeran occupied 16 spots in the UK’s top 20 singles chart, igniting a heated debate about whether the format was “broken” in the streaming age. Murs – who hired Sheeran as a writer for his 2010 tune Love Shine Down – is having none of it.

“Listen, if it was me in Ed’s shoes, I’d be absolutely loving it,” says Murs. “Ed’s great – he’s a mate of mine. It might look a freak, but he’s not. Ed deserves it.”

Not even a smidgen of rivalry?

“There’s always rivalry, but listen, Ed’s in a different world,” says Murs. “At the same time he’s humble with it. He’s a top guy. I’ve only got admiration. If anything it makes me want to work harder. Ed’s Ed – he’s just brilliant.”

While the phenomenally successful Sheeran is facing something of a critical backlash (reviewers who embraced the naked heart of albums + and × have sensed cynicism in this year’s third album ÷) Murs is experiencing the process in reverse.

Initially dismissed as the illegitimate offspring of reality TV, after five albums and seven years in the limelight, the critical mood has thawed as writers have embraced the flagrant everyman behind the music.

Last year’s 24 Hrs LP was met with a begrudging respect, while a warmer press embrace greeted Murs’s 2017 arena tour, which began in March and will keep him on the road until August.

Reviewers up and down the UK have praised the singer’s cocky charisma and polished showmanship. Is it, I whisper, now OK to like Olly Murs? The singer bursts out laughing.

“Of course, it was a battle for a good two, three years for me – coming off X Factor and trying to prove to people that I’m a credible artist,” says Murs.

“It’s a great feeling to get to where I am now, and not just be getting, ‘Oh, you’re just that guy from a reality show’.

“It’s been a great six, seven years, and it’s got me a gig here in Abu Dhabi – so I’m looking forward to the sun.”

• Olly Murs performs at du Arena on April 28, tickets Dh250 from www.thinkflash.ae.

rgarratt@thenational.ae

Updated: April 24, 2017 04:00 AM

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