British singer Olly Murs believed he was born to be a music star. So, when The X Factor told him “No,” he wasn’t about to listen.
Sometimes it just isn’t the right time. No matter how hard we try to force the stars to align, everything just falls apart. That happens, on occasion, when booking a photo shoot for a magazine. You can simultaneously be on the phone, writing emails and texting all the necessary people to set things up, but it ends up feeling like you’re forcing the star-shape into the square hole on one of those baby toys, and you’re finally forced to admit defeat. It’s not going to happen.
However, when we heard that British pop-star Olly Murs was going to be in town, we desperately wanted it to work so we could have him on the cover. Talented, charming and cute—what’s not to love? So, I made my calls, pounded the keyboard and stayed locked to my BlackBerry. And, much to our delight, we confirmed a date, time, location and team with record speed. The stars had indeed aligned, and we soon found ourselves face to face with one of the U.K.’s biggest rising stars, whose single “Troublemaker” (featuring Flo Rida) has quickly become a hot tune for summer.
While North America is still in the discovery stage of this gifted artist (although you may remember his previous single “Heart Skips a Beat” from 2012), British fans have been plastering their bedroom walls—as well as the Twitter-verse—with all things Olly, for three albums worth of time. But his latest album, Right Place Right Time, has now launched in Canada and the U.S., and Olly is in the spotlight, on a broader stage, hoping it’s the “right time” to conquer this next step.
Now, if you rewind Olly’s story, his album has a whole lot of meaning beyond his current circumstances. In the beginning for Olly, music was merely a dream job that existed somewhere outside his realm of possibility. “I think my mom and dad summed it up best,” he says. “They were like, ‘Well, you say you want to be a pop-star, but there isn’t really a job interview you can go to in order to be one.’ And it made sense; there wasn’t.”
He had no contacts in the industry and wasn’t making music at the time. “Me and my mates used to go to the pubs and sing a little bit on guitar and have a bit of a laugh, and that was all I had,” he says. “The only thing I could see was The X Factor.”
So, he auditioned. Twice. And it seemed like it was all for nothing. “I was too nervous, too shy,” Olly says. “I didn’t really give any personality. It was kind of just like, ‘Hi, my name is Olly. I’m going to sing a song. No? Okay.’ And then I just walked out.”
What Olly lacked wasn’t talent; it was the confidence that comes with experience. “Having a year of doing pubs and being in front of people made me more comfortable,” he says. “The more you do it, the more confident you become. If you think you can sing, you’ve got to sing. You come out of your little shell.”
Still, it wasn’t the right time for Olly just yet. Instead, he quit his day job and went abroad, travelling around Australia for three and a half months. “I got on a flight and didn’t have anyone else with me. I just went. And I learned a lot about myself, really,” he says. “We all live in this little bubble, and I then took myself out of the bubble, into something that was completely different.”
It was that adventure along the Australian coast that forced him to come to terms with the fact that music was still very much a part of him, and he just couldn’t give up trying to make it. A friend he met while travelling tried to persuade him to stay in Australia longer, rather than heading back to the U.K., as planned. But Olly told him he wanted to go home. He had to try out for The X Factor again. “He literally laughed in my face,” he says.
Despite the lack of support, Olly knew it felt right to give it another shot. And it’s a good thing he was so determined, because his 2009 audition got him in front of the judges, where Simon Cowell pronounced Olly the “easiest ‘yes’ I’ve ever given.”
Olly recognized his chances of success were slim, but even having two rejections in his pocket wasn’t enough to discourage him. “I just believed that this was what I was supposed to do. I’ve always felt like if I don’t do something 110%, I’ve let myself down. I haven’t given the best I could do,” he says. “So when I came out of the other auditions that didn’t feel like the best I could do, it would have grated on me for years if I never did it again. When I did it that time in 2009 and got through, everything felt right.”
He went on to qualify as one of the top two in the sixth season, ultimately accepting runner-up to winner Joe McElderry. By then, Olly had a list of industry contacts a mile long, with rumours already circulating that he would record an album, following the finale of the show. Sure enough, Olly signed a record deal and returned to The X Factor franchise to co-host its companion show, The Xtra Factor. His first and second albums, Olly Murs and In Case You Didn’t Know, both went platinum in the U.K., and he snagged a coveted spot touring with fellow Brits One Direction on their American tour.
Now, that “right” feeling has led him to dive into the North American music scene, touring and promoting his third album—but first one here—Right Place Right Time. And it certainly does feel right. From his old-school style and captivating vocals, to that killer smile, Olly Murs should have no trouble crossing over to increase his fandom.
Sometimes it just isn’t the right time. And sometimes it is. That relationship, that job, that golden school-acceptance letter—you can just feel that it’s going to work out. And in those instances, it’s important to trust your gut. “I was in the right place at the right time when I auditioned for The X Factor. It felt right. And everything that’s happened since then,” Olly says.
“The odds were against me, so why do it? I did it because I believed. And I thought, well, why not?”
OLLY GIVES BACK
FZ: Tell us about a charity that you support, one that’s really close to you?
OM: There’s a charity called Brainwave. They’re based in the U.K. I really wanted to support a young charity, a smaller charity, and Brainwave was around the corner for me. They support kids [who have] cerebral palsy and are born with brain problems, basically.
[The parents of] these kids are pretty much told that they’re not going to work, they’re not going to have an education, you’re going to have to take care of them for the rest of their lives. What this charity does is it gives people the belief and the con dence that their child can have a normal life.
I met this girl who is absolutely stunning; she’s a beautiful girl, and she’s now 19. She was told that she wouldn’t be able to walk, she wouldn’t be able to do anything, have a life. She’s now at university, doing a degree in lm and animation. This charity is small, but it’s amazing to be a part of it. I’ve raised quite a bit for them in the last few years. We’re going to do more of it in the future—some big events.
FM: Why is it important for you, as an artist, to give back?
OM: I think it’s important because not many people can be in my position, where I can make people aware—people from across the world.
But, also, a lot of these kids listen to music and know who I am, and that can always be a great boost. Even going to other charities, I’ve been to hospitals where there are treatment wards and there are kids in there. It’s such a sad feeling, walking in and seeing that these kids have been through so much. But when you go in there and see their smiling little faces, and that they’re enjoying their day and the fact that they’ve met you, it puts things in perspective.
Photography by David Hou
Art direction by Alana Yip-Hoi Styling by Carolee Custus
Faze assistance by Jessica Harwood, Naomi Leanage and Courtney Morin
In the first outfit, and on the cover of Faze Magazine, Olly is wearing a Nordem Hirst shirt, a Christopher Bates vest and Olly’s own jeans, belt, shoes and chain.
In the second outfit, Olly is wearing Christopher Bates pants with suspenders, a Vince top from The Bay and John Fluevog shoes.