With a "cheeky young chap" persona to match Robbie Williams and vocals reminiscent of original Pop Idol Will Young, former call-center worker Olly Murs was one of the success stories of the 2009 season of The X Factor, finishing as runner-up to Joe McElderry in the hotly contested finale.
Born in Essex in 1984, Murs showed little interest in singing while at school, focusing his attention on football, which he played for the school team and later semi-professionally for local non-league team Witham Town. In 2007, he appeared on Deal or No Deal, where he won a lowly £10, but it was his performance of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" on the sixth series of The X Factor that enabled him to show off his talents. Mentored by Simon Cowell in the live stages, he wowed judges with renditions of songs by the Beatles, Queen, and George Michael, and soon became the favorite to win the show. Despite a duet with musical hero Robbie Williams in the finale, however, Murs finished a respectable second.
In 2010, he signed a six-figure record deal with Epic/Syco Music and embarked on the sold-out X Factor arena tour. After being personally invited by Williams to play at the televised charity football event Soccer Aid, Murs released his first single, the Jason Mraz-inspired "Please Don't Let Me Go," in August. His debut album, featuring songs written by Eg White, Scouting for Girls' Roy Stride, and Wayne Hector, was released in 2010. The record produced three U.K. Top 20 singles, with "Thinking of Me" and "Heart on My Sleeve" racking up chart positions alongside the debut number one "Please Don't Let Me Go."
Murs took a short break from his musical career in late 2011 to present the eighth season of The Xtra Factor — a spinoff behind-the-scenes look at The X Factor — returning to the program that shot him to fame. His experience with the dynamics involved in the show and his upbeat character made him a firm favorite with the audience — as well as flirty co-presenter Caroline Flack. During the recording of each show, Murs was working on songs for his second album with writers Steve Robson (Lily Allen, James Morrison) and Claude Kelly (Kelly Clarkson, Backstreet Boys). The first single from his second record, "Heart Skips a Beat," featuring U.K. hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks, was released in summer 2011 and swiftly became a hit. The full-length release, In Case You Didn't Know, followed in November and secured his first U.K. number one album. The following year, Murs opened for sprightly boy band One Direction on their North American tour and re-released the "Heart Skips a Beat" single, replacing Rizzle Kicks with Philadelphia rap duo Chiddy Bang, to coincide with the shows. Also in 2012, Murs released his third studio album, Right Place Right Time, which included the single "Troublemaker," featuring rapper Flo Rida.
Summer 2013 brought a number of prestigious live shows, including a support slot on Robbie Williams' Take the Crown stadium tour, which also involved duetting with the former Take That star during the headline set. By the end of the year, Murs had also collaborated in the studio with Williams, who showed up on his Swings Both Ways album on the track "I Wanna Be Like You." In November 2014, Murs issued Never Been Better, his fourth studio album, which included the single "Wrapped Up" with the frontman of Gym Class Heroes, Travie McCoy as a guest. In support of the album, Murs embarked on a European tour in mid-2015, with sold-out dates throughout the U.K. and Ireland. In April it was announced that Murs would return with his former Xtra Factor co-presenter Caroline Flack to take over the hosting of the main X Factor show after the departure of Dermot O'Leary. Toward the end of the year, Never Been Better was given a special-edition release, adding an extra seven tracks to the original album — including the U.K. Top Ten single "Kiss Me" — and a bonus live DVD, recorded on his European tour.
Murs' fifth album, 24 Hrs, arrived in late 2016 and featured the singles "You Don't Know Love" and "Grow Up." 24 Hrs became his fourth consecutive effort to top the British album chart. The next year, Murs issued an acoustic version of "Unpredictable" with singer Louisa Johnson. His sixth effort arrived in 2018, bundled as a double album of new songs and greatest hits. You Know I Know included the Ed Sheeran-penned single "Moves" featuring Snoop Dogg and "You Know I Know" with Shaggy. ~ Jon O'Brien & Scott Kerr