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Olly Murs Talks Touring With One Direction, Recording With Chiddy Bang + Giving Advice to ‘X Factor’ Contestants

Olly Murs
Tim Whitby, Getty Images

Three years after finishing as runner-up on the U.K. version of ‘X Factor,’ Olly Murs is a huge star on that side of the Atlantic, with two hit albums to his credit. Now, he’s crossing over to the U.S. with an upcoming record featuring the single ‘Heart Skips a Beat,’ which co-stars alternative rap duo Chiddy Bang.

Murs is getting massive exposure stateside as the current opening act on One Direction’s tour. In between dates, the affable 28-year-old spoke to PopCrush about where he’s at and where he’s headed.

In addition to telling us about his current favorite artists (he’s digging Lana Del Rey, Rita Ora, and Christina Perri, FYI), Murs talked about shooting the ‘Heart Skips a Beat’ video, warming up before performances with a funk song, and touring with the most popular boy band in the world right now.

You’ve done a few dates so far with One Direction on their U.S. tour. How is that going?
It’s going very, very well. I’m having a good time with the boys. It’s great to see them and catch up. The success they’re having here in the U.S. is amazing.

Are you finding that the audiences are familiar with you?
They know more than I expected. I didn’t think they’d know my music and what I do, but they seem to know more than me. [Laughs] They seem to be singing every word, shouting my name, and giving me such a huge reaction, so I’m really excited.

The guys in One Direction are all younger than you, so what’s the dynamic like when you hang out with them?
It’s actually really fine. Everyone asks about that. They’re mature lads, and I’m a big kid at heart anyway and I’m always up for a joke. Me and Niall and the boys get on really well.

On one of your recent YouTube videos, you were riding around Chicago in a vintage school bus painted with your name on it. Is that your real tour bus?
No, it’s not actually the tour bus. It’s a promo bus that we’ve got. We thought we’d do something different. It’s getting a really great response on tour. Hopefully the American fans will find me and like what I do.

You’ve been soliciting ideas from fans for what sights to see in each city. Have they given you good suggestions?
Yeah, it’s been brilliant. We did one in Chicago, did one in Detroit and we’re doing it today in San Diego. It just gets the fans involved, you know. I love them telling me what to do. We’re doing short videos – we put it out on YouTube and on my site so people can see what I’m doing. It’s been really good fun.

‘Heart Skips a Beat’ is one of the few songs you perform that you didn’t write. What drew you to that song?
It was actually written for me for my first album. We didn’t really think it would be a good idea for the first album. We just felt it was a perfect first single for the second album, and it was a huge hit. I just love the vibe of it, I love the song, I love the production, I love the beat. I love everything about it. It’s just perfect for me.

Watch the Olly Murs ‘Heart Skips a Beat’ Video

How did Chiddy Bang end up on the song?
In the U.K. we had Rizzle Kicks do it, and then we felt that coming to the U.S. we wanted to give the fans in the U.S. something different, something fresh. Chiddy Bang was ideal to have on it. Chiddy has got such a great vibe and such a good personality. He’s doing well here, he’s building a fan base, and we felt it was a perfect choice. And so far, everyone that’s heard the record really likes it.

How would you describe the concept of the music video?
The video was a fun idea. I wanted to do a soccer video with the fans, to show the U.S. fans that you like soccer and you’re a football kind of lad, and so we wanted to try and cover both angles. We’ve got some really hot girls as well, so the guys will like it. We did it in the Rose Bowl in L.A. It was a great vibe. Great lovely hot summer day. We had a really good time.

I think if I was trying to be sultry and be all cool, it would just make me look stupid. I wanted to show people that I’m a fun guy and I love what I’m doing, and I think that’s what people see from the video. It’s just me having a good time.

A lot of British artists are breaking into the U.S. market, but what are your goals and expectations for America?
I haven’t got any [laughs]. I actually haven’t got any goals or any expectations. I came over here with a clear head. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought people would like my music, but I didn’t think it would get the reaction that it’s gotten. So far, everything’s been brilliant. The fact that I’m getting played on Z100, which is one of the biggest radio stations in the States, for them to be backing the record, and all these other people liking it, it gives me confidence. But I’m here to enjoy myself. I love traveling the world, I’d love my music to be heard in the States. If it works, if it’s a success, then amazing, that’s incredible. But if it doesn’t work out, then at least I came over and I gave it a good go.

You tweeted that you’ve been working on some new songs with Claude Kelly. What can you tell us about those?
Yeah, Claude’s great. We’re just writing the third album. We wrote about six songs for the new album that sound amazing, and we’ve also got lots of other writing sessions to do. We’re about three quarters of the way through the album, I think. I’m really excited about it. It’s going to be an exciting couple of months.

What your favorite lyric that you’ve written?
The best song I ever wrote was ‘I Need You Now,’ which is the last song on the second album. It talks about me trying to find the right girl, the perfect girl. There’s some really great lines in there, like “Hold your hand up if you hear me / I’ve been searching but all that I’ve found / Is everywhere that I go, I’m standing alone in the crowd.”

‘Dance with Me Tonight’ has a cool retro sound. What was the inspiration for that song?
I did a lot of retro Motown songs on ‘X Factor’ back in the day, and I just felt it was time for me to do something kind of old-school. We wrote ‘Dance With Me Tonight’ in about four hours and it just felt amazing. It’s about me meeting a girl at a club and I just want to dance with her tonight and have some fun. If ‘Heart Skips a Beat’ does well, I believe ‘Dance With Me Tonight’ could be the song that everyone likes the most in America.

Watch the Olly Murs ‘Dance With Me Tonight’ Video

Which artists in pop music would you like to collaborate with?
It’s all about getting the right combination. One of my biggest idols is Michael Buble. I like his personality, he’s a fun guy. We get on really well. I’ve met Michael loads of times. If I was ever going to do a duet, he’d be someone I’d be interested in working with. And Calvin Harris is an amazing producer and a great songwriter as well. I’d love to work with Calvin on a couple of songs.

Do you have a typical routine before taking the stage for a performance?
Normally me and the band gather around and we sing a song called ‘Funkin’ It Up’ from a tv series called ‘Treme,’ about when Hurricane Katrina hit. My tour manager found this song [by Rebirth Brass Band] and we sing it every time we head out to perform. It’s a really good song. It gets me and the guys pumped up before we go on.

You started out on ‘X Factor,’ so what advice would you give to aspiring contestants on competition shows like that?
The advice I give to anybody is you need to be really hard-working. Even if you do well on a reality tv show, you’re gonna get some level of fame and people are gonna be excited about you, but you need to work hard. And that’s the key. That’s what I’ve done since I left the show. I work really hard, as do One Direction, as do a lot of other ‘X Factor’ acts that come off the show. You can have all the talent in the world, you can have the most amazing voice, but if you don’t want to work hard, then you’ll never get success.

Next: Watch Olly Murs Jam With Niall Horan of One Direction

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