Olly Murs is living the dream -- not just his own, but that of anyone who longs to realize their true inner talents, of music fans who search for entertainers of real substance in a time when pop is more cynically packaged and depersonalized than ever.
After tremendous success in the U.K., Murs comes to the United States to tell his story on In Case You Didn't Know, the title of which is a typically self-deprecating acknowledgement of Murs' duality -- the quirky boy who became a television sensation on The X Factor but still calls tiny Withan, Essex home, the superstar in Britain that's looking to make his name overseas with the eagerness of the new kid in school. With a sound and style that firmly places him within the "modern classic" pop star galaxy of Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake and Cee-Lo Green, there's little reason to believe he won't make good on that ambition.
But in order for Olly's dreams as a pop star to live, another had to die. Like many boys in the small town of Witham, Murs grew up supporting Manchester United and dreaming of being a professional footballer himself. Unfortunately, while playing for the semipro Witham Town team, Murs withstood a neck injury that prematurely ended his career. At that point, it seemed like Murs would follow the path of his mates back home -- watching football at the pub, downing pints of lager, working a regular office job. And Murs did all of that before his luck started to turn in a manner that simply appears like divine intervention in retrospect. He'd soon catch his big break, but this was in Witham, not London. So it wouldn't be from an industry scout or record exec. No, his local pub just happened to have a karaoke machine with "Mack The Knife" and other classics that Murs would sing after being egged on by his mates.
Flush with confidence from his well-received pub renditions of Robbie Williams and Stevie Wonder songs, he auditioned for Britain's top singing competition show The X Factor on a whim. He performed "Superstition" in his first audition, which no less of an authority than Simon Cowell said inspired "the easiest yes I've ever given." The odds were stacked against Murs -- beyond the fact that he was 23 years old at the time with no formal training, he was literally learning on the job. Even Adele, lauded so for being a "normal" star, came from the same prestigious and starmaking BRIT School as Jessie J and Amy Winehouse.
This was all a life-changing experience, but winners of reality shows -- especially males -- tend to flame out in the public eye. Murs took great strides to avoid that similar fate on his UK debut, which went double platinum on the strength of the conversational smash "Please Don't Let Me Go." It would've been easy for Murs to rest on his laurels, but he grew up worshiping pop stars whose success emboldened them to take risks. Taking inspiration from the stupendously popular and constantly evolving likes of Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson, In Case You Didn't Know feels like a more personal, hands-on work by hearkening back to the music Murs performed in those Witham karaoke bars -- timeless Sinatra cool, rough and ready rockabilly, showstopping ballads, doo-wop and even some hip-hop. Unafraid to branch out in order to meet his fans halfway, the avid beatboxer and Eminem fan tapped up-and-coming American duo Chiddy Bang as a guest on lead single "Heart Skips A Beat." Beyond proving the staying power of Murs as a singer-songwriter as well as a performer, it's proof that his voice and joie de vivre is transferable to any genre it places itself in.
While Murs' success story is thoroughly modern, the appeal of In Case You Didn't Know is steeped in the classic ideal of a singer being a full-on entertainer. When describing how he fits into that lineage, Murs explains "they had a style, it's not all about having the biggest voice" and from his indestructible smile to his deep personal connection to his fans, there's no doubt that Murs is 100% committed to entertaining a crowd. And In Case You Didn't Know bustles with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of someone who's just thrilled for the chance to perform on the same stages of his idols - Murs admits he loves spending time in Las Vegas with buddies like some kind of 2012 Rat Pack, but he hasn't been to New York yet. When he arrives with fellow sensations One Direction, there's no doubt he'll be welcomed as if he were home all along.
Humble to the extreme, Murs admits there are better pure vocalists, but few who understand the impact created by truly connecting to a crowd and giving them what they want. What makes Murs stand out? "You have to ask my fans," he chuckles. "I just think they like to see a down-to-earth guy who really enjoys being out there." Indeed, In Case You Didn't Know is the sound of someone in love with life and wanting to share the feeling with everyone he can.