Olly Murs is an English singer-songwriter, musician and television presenter. Murs rose to fame after finishing as the runner-up on the The X Factor in 2009. Right Place Right Time was just released in the U.S. in April to rave reviews. We caught up with the multi-talented ladykiller to talk about Michael Jackson, producing and writing.
CM: I went digging in the video crates and checked out your performance on X-Factor. You wowed the audiences and judges with your rendition of Stevie Wonder's Superstition. Is Stevie Wonder one of your musical influences?
OM: Yeah. He's someone I look up to. He's one of the biggest stars. So he's someone that I do look up to yeah.
CM: Who else would you count as a musical influence?
OM: Michael Jackson, James Brown, people like that. I mean they're my favorite artists….They're really really cool people and their music is inspiring.
CM: Oh! Right, right, right, right…So you just kind of grew up listening to music like we all do and it just kind of rubbed of on you. That's something you've kind of internalized I guess. Can you tell me are there any foundational first memories about music?
OM: Yeah my first memory of music is probably listening to Michael Jackson's Bad album on vinyl in my bedroom. And just listening to every song and just hearing music for the first real…proper time. And hearing the lyrics. It's probably one of the first things I ever (actively) listened to.
CM: I know you've had the opportunity to collaborate with some big names in the game of music. I'm just wondering what's it like to work with those different people?
OM : Right. It's great to see their creative way of doing things. You know, I'm obviously a very big admirer of a lot of other musicians and singers. But we all do things differently. And we all have different vibes and styles. It's a privilege to work with amazing producers and writers. And you know I'm meeting and talking to some great artists as well.
CM: How does that work when you're collaborating with those people? What's the process?
OM: Yeah well, I think when you write, I mean I write with lots of good writers. You know I do it ……….. I don't find it necessary to do any writing on my own. It's not my vibe really. I like to be in the room with people; to be creative with other people. They give me really great inspiration as well. I'm really pleased with all the writing that I've done on all the albums and how successful it's been. It's been great!
CM: So you prefer to actually write when you're sitting in the room with people as opposed to (remotely.) I mean how does that work?
OM: I prefer writing in groups. Yeah. We sit in a room. We come up with ideas. What do you think of this? What do you think of that? We change lyrics. We change this. We listen to it back. If we don't like it….we work together. So i think it's a team effort writing a song. It's not individuals saying yeah I wanna write this bit or you write that bit. You know I think when you're writing songs it's about collectively writing the best lyrics that you can. And if I put two words into that lyric and someone else puts the next four in then it doesn't matter. It's a collective effort, you know. It's not about who wrote what. It's about making sure the songs a big success. And that we all think………... it's a great record.
CM: That's awesome. I love that. So when you guys are writing like that do you typically start with music or do you just start with lyrics? Does someone come up with a melody or are their already kind of melodies and tracks laid out?
OM: Nah, it's always chords, play around with some chords. Then you get yourself a bit of a chorus going: Sort of play with it and see where the melody takes you. And normally where the melody takes you is where you probably take the chords. So it depends, every session's different. Sometimes production's there. Sometimes the melody's there. It all depends on the vibe really and what ideas we've got.
CM: That's cool. (I guess) That means you're pretty versatile then. Do you play instruments?
OM: Yeah, I play guitar and little bits of piano here and there as I go along. So yeah little bits and bobs. Yeah, I enjoy it. It's great!
CM: That's good. I think the more you learn about all of the aspects of the music business, the better you are and the more likely you are to have longevity in the industry. Is that something that you see for yourself going down the road?
OM: Yeah! Obviously, I wanna be successful and be as big as I can potentially be. But at the same time, you know I don't wanna be…. I want to be at this kind of level that I'm at now. If it starts to go down, I'll just probably end up stopping. I only want to be at a decent kind of level where I can be as big as I can potentially be. If it lasts maybe 4 or 5 years then great! But I don't think I'll continue to do this the rest of my l life. You know obviously I appreciate the opportunity to sing and that's something that I love to do. I think in writing music, I think that will be something that I do for other people. I think for myself and my own career it's like when you know it's over, you know it's over. It's just a case of what you do after that.
CM: I hear ya. So have you thought about maybe moving into production?
OM : Yeah. Potentially. Yeah for sure. I mean it depends. Like I said, I don't really know what the future holds for me. I haven't thought that far ahead really. But who knows? I might go into studio work in little bits and bobs. We'll see, but I'd like to think that once this is finished, everything is done and said, that maybe I can sit back and enjoy what I've achieved.
CM: You sound really levelheaded and that's cool. You kind of burst into the publics consciousness on X-Factor. Since then it's just been like a whirlwind of activity and success. You've sold over 5 million albums in just 3 or 4 years. How do you maintain that since of humility in the midst of all thats happening now?
OM: I thinks it's really important having good friends and good people around you. You know staying humble by having good people around you. I think when you start getting people with egos or people that aren't necessarily good to be around, that's when you start to change. But you know, I've always been very realistic to what I'm gonna achieve and what I'm gonna do. So I feel like everything's been great up to this point. And I'm really pleased with how it's going. You know, like I said, you know I've got good friends and family around me which keep me grounded. And yeah, I just treat this job like every other job I've had in the past.
CM: I know you're on tour in support of your most recent project over here the release in the States of Right Place Right Time. I'm curious, what is it that you want or expect your listeners to take away from this album and your music in general?
OM: You know it's fun. It's new. It's a spirited album for my fans and people who don't know me. It's a fun album. I'm a feel good guy. Most of my songs are happy and make people smile. And that's kind of my angle. That's who I am as a person. And that my album is a true representation of who I am as an artist and as a person. That's what I want when people listen to my album, to get the same feeling that I get when I listen to it. And that's just I'm enjoying life and that I'm a fun guy.
CM: I've got one last question for you then I'll let you be on your way. What advice do you have for young artists that are just starting out?
OM: I think the advice that I'd give to them is that this industry isn't as easy as people make it out to be. It's a lot harder than what some people think. They see all the glitz and the glamour and think that's great but obviously there's a lot of hard work to put into certain projects. They've got to work hard you know. Write their own music and try to get their personality across. And be prepared to work as hard as you possibly can. That's pretty much the advice that I'd give anyone. Keep your friends close and just stay true to yourself.
CM : Well said! Well Olly I appreciate you taking some time.
OM: Thanks William! I really appreciate it! I had a great time!
Who: Olly Murs
When: 7p Doors / 7:30 Show