With a "cheeky chappy" 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 runner-up to Joe McElderry in the hotly contested final. Born in Essex in 1984, Murs showed little interest in singing while at school, focusing his attention on football, where 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. However, despite a duet with musical hero Robbie Williams in the final, 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 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. ~ Jon O'Brien & Scott Kerr