Olly Murs: “I was a bit naïve in the early days”

The nice guy of pop talks getting engaged, navigating controversy and his seventh studio album, Marry Me

It’s been a busy weekend for Olly Murs, with Marry Me having just dropped. This is his seventh studio album and the pop artist knows the drill by now: “Promote, promote, promote”. No stranger to hard work, Murs has been aware since his X Factor days that if you’re going to step into the pop machine, you have to be willing to put the grind in. Luckily, it’s work that he couldn’t be more excited to do.

“The fans have been brilliant,” he says. “I’ve been out doing some album signings and stuff and it’s nice to see all the fans come down… I haven’t seen a lot of my fans in a long, long time, so it’s nice to catch up.”

Murs speaks of his dedicated fanbase with warmth and genuine affection, always quick to separate the opinions of the general public from those of his supporters, whom he trusts to always understand what he’s trying to do.

“A lot of them have sort of grown up with me really,” he says. “And then you get all the new fans and you get all the little kids, like the new generation, and it’s really nice.” He describes an encounter he had at a signing the other day. An entire extended family turned up, spanning three generations from babies to grandparents. “You forget that sometimes, you know, how your fanbase just keeps growing. Some people come and go and that’s fine. But on the whole, it just keeps growing.”

This huge fanbase will be turning out in the spring to see Murs on his Marry Me tour, which will see him visiting arenas and festivals across the UK. Murs is even more excited than they are. “It’s just exciting to get back on the road again and tour and get back in arenas again,” he says. “I can’t wait.”

We caught up with Murs to discuss Marry Me, learning to navigate fame, and facing down online controversy.

Olly Murs - Die Of A Broken Heart (The After Party Video)

This is your first album in four years, which is your longest break in quite a while. Were you nervous at all to re-enter that world?

I suppose the biggest nerves were like, could I recreate anything that was great? Could I make really good music again? But I’m really proud of the record, really proud of the songs and how strong it is. We did something really special, myself, David Stewart and Jessica Agombar and I’m just delighted.

As we’d expect from an album called Marry Me, your fiancé Amelia Tank is very present in the record. How early on in the process did you know you wanted your relationship to be the focus of the album?

We didn’t know really until after I got engaged. I wrote a song called ‘Marry Me’ and it kind of just came from nowhere. It just felt really strong and felt like that was a bold title to have. Amelia’s kind of across the album in little bits and little nuggets in every sort of song so it kind of felt right, and in the summer it just felt like everyone was going to be asking me about my marriage anyway. Marry Me is where I am right now in my life.

So your engagement happened as you were in the middle of figuring out what the record was going be?

Yeah, we were actually just finishing the album when I got engaged. We then wrote a song called ‘Marry Me’, then ‘Let Me Just Say’, and a couple of other songs. We actually didn’t even try to write a song about marriage and engagements and stuff. But I suppose that was in the back of my mind.

How does your fiancé feel about the album?

She loves the whole album. I’ve been playing her all the songs and she’s been part of that journey really, of the last two years. I mean, with me coming back home and playing a couple of songs and here a couple of songs there. And, you know, it was a long process. It was like, over two years, but it’s good to have an album out.

Olly Murs - Dancing On Cars (Visualiser)

You’ve got about four months before the Marry Me tour kicks off. What are you doing in that time?

Rehearsing, relaxing… I don’t even want to say relaxing, just getting fit and keeping in good shape, keeping the body primed and ready. And you know, obviously getting the vocal cords ready as well. I just want to go into it the best I’ve been. Normally when I get to a tour I’m battered and bruised, because I’ve been hammering around and traveling around so it might be nice on this occasion to get to this tour and not be. We’ll see what happens. I’m super, super excited. I feel ready. I feel like I’m ready to do it now, to be honest. If I was on the road tomorrow, I’d be excited.

It sounds like you’re gearing up for a busy start to the year, and you’ve got wedding planning on top of that. Do you struggle to find downtime?

Yeah, especially the last couple of weeks, we haven’t had any time off. So just having an evening together or maybe the morning off or the afternoon off on occasion, I’ll just kind of cherish those moments. But you know, the main aim is to give the record the best possible chance. I’ve managed to have four No.1 albums and for No.1 singles. I need to work hard, if the album’s going to have any kind of success. That’s what I need to be doing.

Do you feel pressure after those four No.1 albums?

Yes and no. First and foremost, you’ve got to be really proud of the record and what you’ve produced. That is the main thing – I’m really, really proud of the songs and albums. If you get an award or an achievement or an accolade off the back of it, that’s amazing. It’s like an added bonus really, like a little cherry on top. But yeah, there’s pressure. There’s nerves, there’s excitement, there’s everything really. But it’s not up to me, it’s up to the fans. It’s up to everyone else to pick it up and buy it. So we’ll see.

Being successful in music these days often goes hand in hand with learning to promote yourself and your music on social media. Is that something that you feel comes naturally to you?

Yeah, in the last three or four years, I’ve got quite into TikTok and I’ve built a really strong fan base on there with my pranking stuff that I do on there. I’m always fully aware of where I need to be and what I need to do and you need to promote, promote, promote. It’s different to how it used to be, but I’m working with it the best I can.

You’re known for being this very positive, upbeat guy – a lot of publications have called you the “nice guy” of pop. Does that ever come with its own pressure to kind of keep up that positivity?

To be honest, I think they’re pretty spot on. I just get on with people and love life and enjoy being positive. You know, if I’m going through a difficult time myself, I try and find the positives in everything. It can’t always be the case. I have days where I’m not so positive. But I’d say most of the time, if there’s 99 problems, I’ll find the one thing that might be a positive, so that’s the main thing. I’ve always lived my life like that. I don’t know why, I don’t know where that came from. But I just do every day with at least a smile on my face and enjoy myself and have a laugh or two. You only get one life, you’ve got to live it, I suppose.

Olly Murs - I Hate You When You're Drunk (Lyric Video)

Your most recent single, ‘I Hate You When You’re Drunk’ was the subject of some debate online about how it portrayed a relationship between two people. Did you anticipate that there might be any controversy there, or did that reaction take you by surprise?

Oh, yeah, it completely took me by surprise. It was never my intention to release a song that would cause any offense to people. I think if there was anyone that might have been offended would have been Amelia, but she wasn’t. And she found it funny and relatable, I think, which is what most of my fans did. Well, all of my fans did. It’s a very tongue in cheek, fun song. I think when you when you see something written down on paper, it always looks a lot worse than when you actually listen to the song. It completely baffled me, obviously.

I think when people start criticizing your character and who you are as a person… I don’t mind people not liking a song, because that’s what happens when you release music. You don’t expect everyone to like every song you release. But when people start delving into your character and start looking at who you are as a person, that’s what obviously gets upsetting. That’s what’s bothered me more, really. Because there’re quite a few things written about me that obviously aren’t true. That’s the world we live in. Everyone’s got an opinion, I accept that. It is what it is.

The maddest thing about it is the people that were writing negative stuff about me were obviously unaware that a female co-writer called Jessica Agombar wrote the song with me. And the song wasn’t even about Amelia. The song was written eight years ago. The chorus was anyway, by David Stewart. Me, Jess and David decided to rewrite the lyrics and the feel of the song because we loved it. We felt like it was a fun song. And we felt like it was really relatable. I had a New Year’s resolution not to drink for a year. I’m coming up to the last month now, not drinking a single drop of alcohol for a year. There have been lots of occasions I’ve been out with my mates, my family, my friends, when I’ve not particularly enjoyed them being drunk. So it was just a song that felt very relatable, that my friends and my family and everyone loved when they heard it. I didn’t for one second think it would offend anyone.

You were only 24 when you first appeared on our screens on The X Factor. Looking back now, is there anything you wish you were able to tell your younger self before all kicked off?

Don’t tell everyone your private life. There was so much stuff that I told people back in the early days when I was unaware that all that stuff would get written in the papers. I wasn’t that prepared for fame and interviews. I was a bit naive in the early days, telling press stuff about partners and ex partners and stuff like that. But I think I was just unaware what to say to people – I wasn’t trained in that sense. But you know what, I wouldn’t change a thing, really. I think I’ve got on with fame quite well.

Olly Murs kicks off his 2023 UK tour in April, including headline shows at Scarborough Open Air Theatre, Trentham Live and Margate Summer Series – Find tickets here