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 Murs, 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.”
Now, nearly a decade after coming second behind the now lesser-seen McElderry in 2009’s The X Factor, Murs is among the most enduring of all those who ever went through that process, along with the likes of One Direction and Little Mix. Murs has so far scored four number one albums, plenty of chart-topping and top 10 singles, including debut hit Please Don’t Let Me Go - and six Brit Award nominations, 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.
“When you come from a reality TV show, you don’t realise at first the stigma behind that, especially within the music industry,” Murs, 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.”
Murs did it by releasing feelgood hit after feelgood hit. He also did it by working remarkably hard, harder than most people perhaps realise.
“What people don’t really see is what I put in behind the scenes as an artist,” Murs explains. “I think I’m probably looked upon as a bit of a party animal, someone always having a good time, always out with his mates. But I pick my time and my place to be that guy. People don’t see the hardworking, professional person that I am. I’m always in bed early, up the next day, always doing something to try to give my fans the best possible music.”
He still gets asked if he writes his 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.
For all his high moments, including working with Nile Rodgers on his new record, Murs is also honest about one of his lowest. He was savaged for his stint hosting The X Factor back in 2015 alongside Caroline Flack and things only got worse when he mistakenly told a contestant she was eliminated before the result was officially announced.
“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. It nearly affected him accepting The Voice, because “the doubt came in and I started questioning myself”.
But what does he think of the show that made him famous? “I would hate The X Factor not to be on TV,” he says, adding: “I’ve seen what it’s done to my life, and if it can help change someone else’s, then that’s amazing.”
Murs’ UK tour kicks off on May 1; he will be at Leeds First Direct Arena on May 23 and Sheffield FlyDSA Arena on May 24.