SINCE finishing runner-up to Joe McElderry on The X Factor in 2009, Olly Murs has sold over 10 million records. A regular television presence, Murs co-presented The X Factor last year but did not return for this year’s series in order to focus on his latest album 24 Hrs.

His most personal record yet, it sees him explore his break-up with model Francesca Thomas in 2015. The Essex singer speaks to EDWIN GILSON about the making of the album and his reflections on The X Factor.

You said you went into 24 Hrs with a “blank canvas”. How did the album grow from that point?

I didn’t know what to write about but obviously the break-up with my ex gave me something to focus on. After four albums you feel like you’ve done everything you possibly can, so it was important for me to think about what I could talk about now. I wanted to connect with fans on a different level. That’s what this album has done for me – the first three singles allowed me to establish what the album was about, but there is more fun and uplifting stuff to come. The album is in the top five in the charts for Christmas, so I’m proud about that.

You didn’t set out to write about the break-up until you were in the studio. Do you think that material could only have come out of you in that instinctive way?

I felt like going into the studio and writing generic pop songs wasn’t the way forward. I’ve done that before. The songs aren’t necessarily about anything. This is more personal stuff that I was experiencing at the time. When I sat back and looked at the songs I’d written for this album, I realised I didn’t have a connection with any of the older more generic pop songs I’ve done. They didn’t feel like they had enough substance. The songs I wrote about my ex and my relationship were the ones I gravitated to this time around, so it all fell into place perfectly.

The song Flaws, as the name suggests, examines your own perceived faults. Was that difficult to write?

I always like to end the album with something fans can grip onto. The album’s got a bit of everything on there, so with the last song I wanted to do something that was strippedback and acoustic. It’s just my piano and vocal. It was one of those songs I wrote in an hour and a half and put to one side. We came back to it and realised how great it was. It’s important to highlight in relationships that you need to look at yourself rather than blaming others. I wasn’t perfect in the relationship and I’m happy to admit that.

Were you at all wary of the pitfalls of exposing yourself in such a public manner?

I never really thought that like that, to be honest. I just wanted fans to get to know me more. I think I’m quite transparent, really – there’s no hidden agenda. It’s been an important 12 months in my life and I thought it was important for people to know what I’m feeling and what I’ve been doing. There was no worry about that. I suppose I’m never really sure whether fans are going to like my albums. But luckily on this occasion everyone seems to be loving it. I felt it was good to refresh the palate, too.

You said you never look more than 18 months into the future, as if it all might go wrong in that time. Surely with the success you’ve had that’s not a rational concern?

Many have come and many have gone. They’ve had their moments and then you never see them again. I still have that mindset of not taking anything for granted. Anything can happen at any point. I just want to keep developing and trying new things while keeping the core base of me in there. I don’t know when I’m going to do my next album, but it will be the same for that. Everything I do is about trying to win new fans over. You’ve got to keep fans interested.

You’re playing lots of sports grounds and racecourses on this tour. Are they an alternative to playing arenas all the time?

It’s just an excuse to have a bit of a jolly, really. No, I’m only joking. I wanted to do something a bit different. When you do festivals you’re restricting yourself a bit in terms of where you can go. Sports grounds make for a diverse audience and a bit of variety. I’m always open to doing any kind of show; it doesn’t matter whether the capacity is 11,000 or 200 people. The goal for me is the same – to entertain people and make sure they have a fantastic time.

You mentioned before that you might want to do a swing album. Is this on the cards?

It’s definitely something I’d look into, but not at the moment. I’m still young and not sure whether I’m ready to jump completely into that era yet. This year I did the Children in Need night for Terry Wogan and did a bit of Frank Sinatra which was great. I really enjoyed the big band experience.

You co-hosted The X Factor last year; did you feel like that duty obstructed your music career in terms of time pressures?

Doing The X Factor last year was an amazing thing to do – when you get asked to present the biggest show on television you can’t refuse. I’m happy that I did it. At the time I thought it would be great to do television but it refocused me on my music. That’s the most important thing.

In another interview you accused some of the show’s contestants of a lack of determination and devotion. Can you pinpoint any reasons for this attitude?

I don’t know this year’s contestants, but in previous years I thought contestants felt like they’d already made it when they were on The X Factor. That’s not the truth. It’s about what you do afterwards that counts. Getting votes, getting to the final and getting a record deal is the first aim, then you need to use that amazing platform. I felt over the years that some contestants started believing their own hype and not necessarily focusing on what they were to do at the start – be a successful artist.

Amid all the television appearances and live shows this might sound like an obvious question. Do you consider yourself a natural extrovert?

I just love performing. It’s what I was born to do, without being cheesy. My dad’s side were circus performers and my mum’s side were singers. Some people would say I’m a bit of a clown and they’re probably a bit right.

Olly Murs, 1st Central County Ground, Eaton Road, Hove, Sunday, July 16, 2017, 5pm, £39.50, for more information and tickets visit