“I wanted to make great pop records with a bit of substance, I wanted to go a bit deeper” - hmv.com talks to Olly Murs
2015 was a busy year for Olly Murs. He undertook a gruelling tour in support of his Never Been Better album and as well as hosting the 12th season of The X-Factor, but he hasn’t allowed himself any time off.
Back with new single ‘You Don’t Know Love’ and with a new album on the way in November, we spoke to Murs about making the new album, how his break-up with long-term girlfriend Francesca Thomas inspired the record and his time on The X-Factor...
How has making the new album been for you?
“Making this album has been a really easy process, I didn’t expect it to be this easy, I thought it was going to be the toughest album I’ll ever have to make, I was so nervous at the start, it’s my fifth album and I didn’t know where to go or what to do. At the end of it, I was so excited I knew it was going to be amazing and I can’t wait for people to hear it. I feel really confident.”
What did you want to do differently from Never Been Better?
“The last album had some really good pop records. ‘Up’, ‘Wrapped Up’ and ‘Kiss Me’ did really well, but it was an album of good songs, not songs fans would connect with. I wanted to make great pop records with a bit of substance, I wanted to go a bit deeper, keep the energy and vibe that people know me for, but have lyrics that people can connect to. As an artist you need to change and move forward, we’ve done that for this album, especially lyrically, I wanted to show people a different side of me. I have this persona of being a happy go-lucky bloke and that is me, but under the surface of the smile and the jumping around there are other layers to me. The whole album won’t be that sad, but it’s got more substance and is more sensitive.”
Have you been working with some different writers?
“Not really. I always want to write with the best. So I went back to Wayne Hector, Ed Drewett, Claude Kelly, Steve Mac, they’ve been there since day one, but I did look at some different people. Clarence Coffee, he’s someone I’d never written with before, he was great, really clever and different. There’s also Camille Purcell, who had big success with Little Mix’s ‘Black Magic’, we did some bits together, she’s written my first two singles. It was a great time.”
You were very busy in 2015 with a big arena tour and presenting The X-Factor, did you have as much time to write as you’d done for previous albums?
“I had loads of time and that was why I decided not to do X-Factor again. Whenever I’ve written an album, it’s always been February and May, that’s enough time I think. If you can’t write any good songs in three months, then you’ve a problem, my usual pace is four or five songs a week. The schedule was great this time, I actually finished early, I was ready at the end of April.”
Is it fair to say this is a sadder album? And is that the whole picture? Or is it quite varied?
“There are songs on the album that are sad and touching, but this album is a moving on process. It’s the whole journey of breaking up with someone, going out and meeting new people and partying again. For me, this album is the end to the next step. The break up to the new chapter. There’s a lot of fun on the album, it’s got a bit of everything, which I always want. It’s got the cheekiness and the fun that I bring as well as the sadness. For anyone who’s been through a break-up, guy or girl, I think they’ll listen to it and it will help them on their journey.”
Could you feel your mood changing as the album went on?
“100%. By the time I got to LA to do some sessions, I was all up for an adventure. But writing songs is a weird process and every day is different. One moment you’ll be happy as Larry and then someone will say something or eat something that reminds me of my ex and I’ll be like ‘Why the f**k did you just mention that?’ and my mood will change completely. After a break-up, some days are fine, you’re moving on and happy, and others you’re lonely and you feel down.”
Are there any new influences on the new album?
“Not new influences, the biggest new influence was ‘Kiss Me’, the track I did last year. It was a song I didn’t write, Taio Cruz wrote the song and the production really influenced me. It was something new, the kind of song I’d never had before, it opened me up to that sound and that vibe. It’s a bit more current, I’d always been in a retro bracket before.”
How do you look back on your time on The X-Factor?
“It was a great experience. It was a hard job and there were ups and downs. Everyone’s watching you and it’s a show that everyone loves to hate and hates to love. It’s a weird show, you take blows every week, people are always swiping at you and it’s a whirlwind of emotions. But I loved it, I’ve got no regrets at all, there’s nothing like the excitement of live TV. It came down to a choice between TV and my music career and I want to keep my music career at this level, so that’s why I decided not to come back.”
Does it feel like a very different show to when you were a contestant?
“It does, I think the public perception has changed. When I did the show back in 2009 we had huge viewing figures, the final was like 20 million and it was the biggest show, bigger than Strictly Come Dancing. Everybody loved it, people would have X-Factor nights and barbecues, fancy dress parties, it was such an event. It’s changed now, people have more choice and Strictly battles it every week. But over the years so much has gone on with the show that more and more people want to say negative things about it. It shouldn’t be about the judges or the presenters, it should be about finding talent, you do need a bit of something, a bit of bickering between the judges, but we’re all there to vote for our favourite singer and in the last few years people watching have forgotten that. People are more concerned with what the judges are wearing than the singing, I think in 2009 it was all about the singing, you did have a great judging panel, but it felt like it was all about the contestants.”
You’re one of the few contestants from the show still going strong. Why do you think that is?
“My year was a good year. You had me, Stacey Solomon, Lucy Jones, Joe McElderry and Jedward. Joe’s gone on to have a great career in classical music, Lucy Jones is doing great in the West End, Jedward are still busy and Stacy has had a great TV career. In the last three or four years that’s definitely changed, maybe that’s the talent or maybe it’s the show. It’ll always be popular, I’ll always watch it and come on the show and perform. I can’t wait to go down there and see everybody, but I’m glad I’m an artist and not a presenter, I’m not going to lie.”
Does the low success rate keep on your toes? Does it give you added pressure every time you release something?
“I still feel it. I want to strive and be successful. I feel there’s less pressure now, I’ve had success and I feel established, but I know I can’t rest on my laurels. I always want to change and develop and beat what I did last time. The biggest artists in the world will tell you that, you can’t rest on what you’ve done in the past, you’ve got to keep going. I love it though. It’s the best job.”