Belfast Telegraph

Will runner-up Olly prove to have the real XFactor?

On X-Factor, the winner doesn’t always take all, says Olly Murs, as he releases his first single. By Andy Welch

If finishing runner-up on X Factor only gave you one thing, not having to go to the hairdresser would probably be quite a decent prize. On the surface, coming second doesn't seem great.

You wouldn't have millions in the bank or fans beating a path to your door, but then you'd never have book an appointment at the salon.

There'd be no waiting around reading two-year-old copies of Marie Claire or making small talk about holidays; so yes, when you think about it, it's not a bad prize after all.

Olly Murs is currently reaping such a benefit. When we meet he's having a trim while sitting at a giant table in his record label's office. Standard procedure before a photo shoot.

“Have you heard this?” he asks, breaking off from singing at the top of his voice, as he sits under the stylists' scissors. “It's JLS's new single. Amazing.”

See, there's another bonus already, hearing your mates' new music months before anyone else.

Since coming second to 2009 X Factor winner Joe McElderry last December, Murs now counts the quartet, runners-up the previous year, as friends.

“Everything's going really well, the single's going really well and the feedback has been fantastic,” he grins, now fully groomed, with make-up touched up and feasting on a handful of grapes someone's handed him.

“Of course, I'm apprehensive and nervous too,” he says, quickly. “I feel different every day, but I'm just happy and hopeful we get what we want. Every artist wants a No 1, so we're aiming for that.”

With the support team behind Murs, and the ready-made fan base of X Factor devotees, the chances of the reggae-tinged Please Don't Let Me Go not hitting the top spot on September 5 are minimal.

Should Murs's debut not make it, though, a small part of him might be pleased.

“Yes,” he laughs. “I said if I get to No 1 I'll do a naked photoshoot for Heat magazine.

“Every gig I do [my fans] try to get me to take my clothes off, so it's a promise to them. I'm sure that's one magazine my mum and nan wouldn't be framing on the wall, though...”

Essex boy Murs talks a lot about his family and friends, and, from the sound of it, they're clearly very important to him and have stopped any notion of success going to his head.

“I don't think I've changed since X Factor. I'm probably a bit more confident than I was, and I hold myself a bit better, but I have to be like that because I can't be getting too drunk in clubs and at parties,” he says, with Simon Cowell-style media savviness.

Like Leona Lewis, Alexandra Burke and rumoured love interest Diana Vickers before him, Murs has already mastered the art of talking a lot without giving too much of himself away.

“There's a time and place for all that, but if I was to start acting like a diva, they'd soon straighten me out. Nothing's changed there.”

What has changed is that a year ago, no one knew anything about the Essex call-centre worker and now, the 26-year-old is a household name and a recognisable face.

“I'm getting used to the attention. It was a shock, but it's part of my everyday life now. My friends and family still find it hard but this is my job and you have to accept what comes with it.”

Only recently, the singer was branded a “self-absorbed sell-out” by his twin brother, whose wedding Murs missed last summer — and whether his last comment refers to that is unclear.

Murs took to Twitter to defend himself, saying neither he nor X Factor were to blame for the breakdown in their relationship.

“The press are very clever,” adds Olly. “They delve and look into your past. I remember the first interview I did I just spoke freely about everything and the next thing ex-girlfriends were getting called up.

“The main thing is I'm very happy with my life and I've never done anything I'm ashamed of. I'm no different away from the camera than I am on it. I've never hidden anything.”

Oddly, one of the things he doesn't want to talk about today is his forthcoming album, due for release in November. He worked with a number of big-name writers and producers on it, including Trevor Horn.

“I'm keeping that close to my chest,” he says — which seems bizarre considering that Horn has worked with some of the biggest stars on the planet including Paul McCartney, Tom Jones and Tina Turner, and produced Robbie Williams's last album, Reality Killed The Video Star.

Olly, however, initially had no idea who he was. “The first time I met him I didn't know who he was — he's sold 200 million records!”

So coming second clearly isn't that bad. “You know, I was so disappointed,” he says. “I went on it to win it, but it came down to a public vote and Joe won. He's a very good singer, a great, lovely guy and very popular, so he deserved to win. If I didn't like him it might be harder to feel OK about it, but there's nothing bad I can say about Joe.”

Since losing and doing well, Olly’s most ‘pinch me’ moment was singing at Old Trafford in Soccer Aid. “The roar from 70,000 fans... I always wanted to be a professional footballer, so to walk out to that crowd, playing for England, on the same pitch as Zidane and Ryan Giggs is amazing.”

He adds with a smile: “Sitting here, with a single and album ready to come out though, it doesn't feel like I lost.”

Olly Murs releases his debut single Please Don't Let Me Go on Monday, August 30

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