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American Dream

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Olly Murs” cour­tesy of Colum­bia Records

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Olly Murs and Rob­bie Williams” photo by Ken McKay / Rex USA, 2009

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Olly and Miss Piggy” photo by Idil Sukan / Draw HQ, 2011

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Paul Lar­son and Olly Murs, photo by Erica Lyn, 2013

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Right Place, Right Time, Colum­bia Records

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Olly Murs had visions “to be… famous and sell records and be an inter­na­tional super­star,” when he first graced the stage of the British X Fac­tor in 2009. Those visions have mate­ri­al­ized into three suc­cess­ful albums and four num­ber one sin­gles in the U.K., and a stab at star­dom in North America.

I met Olly Murs on a spe­cial night of his life, two hours before his very first con­cert as the head­lin­ing act in the U.S. The British pop­star had toured North Amer­ica as the opener for One Direc­tion last year, but this time, he was the star.

It’s mas­sive for me… this is a huge con­cert. It’s New York. It’s Amer­ica,” he said, sit­ting in the lobby of Irv­ing Plaza, one floor below the con­cert hall where he would per­form to a sell-out crowd. “I’m intrigued to see how many fans know my songs.”

I, too, won­dered what kind of U.S. fans a British artist could have who had yet to release an album state­side. I admit­ted to the charis­matic Mr. Murs that my own knowl­edge of him was lim­ited to what I had learned online in the two months since British pop sen­sa­tion Rob­bie Williams had announced Olly would be the sup­port act for his Euro­pean sta­dium tour this sum­mer. I haven’t missed a Rob­bie tour in ten years.

Robbie’s always been there for me,” he said. “I mean, Robbie’s my best friend.”  Williams had ral­lied for and even sang with Murs, who became the runner-up on The X Fac­tor. “He taught me to make sure I write my own song, which I did.”

Murs returned to the X Fac­tor stage in 2011, as a radi­ant exam­ple of a TV com­pe­ti­tion suc­cess story. The hand­some lad from the East of Eng­land sang his own 1950s-inspired song “Dance with Me Tonight,” backed by some of Jim Henson’s most beloved Mup­pets. “Obvi­ously you see the puppeteers…but when Miss Piggy comes to life, she really is Miss Piggy. She even threw a diva strop [strop refers to tantrum] onstage which was really hilar­i­ous, where she said that she wanted more lines to sing… I was like, ‘Unfor­tu­nately, Miss Piggy, this is my song, not yours.’”

That song, plus “Trou­ble­maker,” both num­ber one sin­gles in Eng­land, will appear on Murs’ first U.S. album in April. The lyrics of “Trou­ble­maker,” about a toxic yet irre­sistible girl­friend, drew from the songwriter’s own expe­ri­ence. “It’s not a healthy rela­tion­ship. I think we all love chal­lenges in life and we meet a girl… that’s that chal­leng­ing, it’s like, I want a piece of that.”

Charm­ing a “tough” New York crowd was not chal­leng­ing for the 28-year-old that night. Mostly female, mostly young, and mostly fans who’d learned about Olly through social media dur­ing his tour with One Direc­tion eight months prior, they mostly knew every line of every song, and loudly sang along. Once Murs was con­vinced they knew his music, he still tested them. “What’s my mid­dle name?”

Stan­ley!” shouted the entire room, includ­ing me. Thanks, Wikipedia!

When he spot­ted one of his male fans giv­ing him the thumbs up from the bal­cony dur­ing the infec­tious “Heart Skips a Beat,” he mir­rored the ges­ture and waved at me. Thanks, Olly!

You can now find his ges­tures, sug­ges­tive wig­gles and teases about remov­ing arti­cles of his cloth­ing that night on YouTube, as well as his lead­ing the entire crowd in what became an all-night sing-along. What you will not find from boot­legged footage of his first solo con­cert in the U.S. are any major embar­rass­ing moments. The same can’t be said for his per­for­mance in Sheffield, Eng­land, a year ago, when a kneel­ing young star sud­denly spread his legs too wide, split­ting his pants, “and obvi­ously my briefs fell out,” he laughed. Half a year later, he “stacked it onstage” in Sur­rey, stum­bling down a slip­pery stair­case. The tum­ble went on YouTube, and the evening news. Rob­bie Williams came to the res­cue with a sup­port­ive e-mail.

He just said, ‘Mate, you’re not the only per­son who did it,’ and he actu­ally put a link down, and when I clicked the link it was actu­ally him falling over on stage on a big con­cert… He’s got a sense of humor like me, so it’s great.”

As our inter­view came to an end, I wished the soul­ful singer great suc­cess in Amer­ica. “Thank you,” he smiled, “and I’ll see you at the Rob­bie Williams’ tour.”

Absolutely.

The album Right Place, Right Time is set for release on April 16 in North Amer­ica. Watch for Olly’s per­for­mance on 90210 the same month.

- Paul Lar­son
See Paul Lar­son on Bor­der­less North, Thurs­days at 8:30pm on Moun­tain Lake PBS.

Olly’s inter­view is pre­sented by Dress To Kill,  in part­ner­ship with  Radio Creme Brulee, New York City,  93.3 WSLP, Lake Placid, New York, B-100.7, Platts­burgh, NY,  and Moun­tain Lake PBS-TV.

Lis­ten to an exclu­sive radio inter­view between Olly Murs and Paul Lar­son here.

Comments

  1. […] Paul’s arti­cle on Olly Murs, pub­lished in Dress to Kill […]

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