Olly Murs on Féile, football and keeping his feet 'firmly on the ground'
Jenny Lee chats about music, football, The Voice and social media to pop star Olly Murs, who will headline Féile an Phobail in Belfast this August
IT'S been nearly 10 years since Olly Murs was a runner-up on The X Factor. Since then, he's been a familiar figure on our television screens – as a performer, presenter and reality TV judge.
Music-wise, he's sold more than 17 million records and scored four number one albums. This summer the singer is back in the studio working on his sixth album, but is looking forward to taking time out to play the headline gig at Féile an Phobail in Belfast.
The gig on Saturday August 11 is part of the festival's 30th anniversary celebrations and will be one of the first concerts performed on the newly enhanced open event space at Falls Park.
Having previously played a sell-out gig at the SSE Arena, Olly is no stranger to Belfast audiences.
"I wasn't so supposed to be playing any festivals this summer, but I'm really excited about doing this one," he tells me.
"There's nothing better than performing and getting out on stage with the band and having fun. I've played Belfast so many times and I love it. The audiences always create a great atmosphere."
However, it seems fans are going to have to wait a bit longer for a preview of Olly's new music.
"Hopefully the new album will be out at the end of the year, but currently it's a work in progress," he explains.
"I'm in the studio chilling and writing and it's quite exciting."
This weekend, Olly will shift his attention from the studio to the football pitch as he earns his fifth England cap playing against a World XI in this year's Soccer Aid for UNICEF match at Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium.
The charity match, which will be broadcast live on ITV on Sunday evening, sees an array of sporting, musical and movie stars joining the line-ups, including Sir Mo Farah, Usain Bolt, Eric Cantona, Gordon Ramsay, Paddy McGuinness Michael Owen, Clarence Seedorf and Robert Pirès
The England team is led by Robbie Williams, whom Olly performed with on a duet of his hit Angels in the final of The X Factor in 2009, which saw him placing second behind Joe McElderry.
"I've been doing a lot of practice," admits the star, who is a passionate football supporter and played semi-professionally before injury forced him to give up his football career.
And how does he feel about facing former Manchester United legend Eric Cantona and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt?
"It's going to be quite daunting," he laughs.
"I don't want to get into a sprint with Usain Bolt, I would pull a hamstring for sure. I'm just looking forward to playing and raising lots of money for UNICEF. It should be a great night."
All donations to Soccer Aid for Unicef will go towards supporting the vital work protecting children globally and Ollie has witnessed its impact first-hand during a recent trip to Africa.
"It was really amazing to go over there, but at the same time very sad to see the poverty these kids live in," he says.
Fond of showing off his light-hearted personality on social media, in May Olly left fans amazed at his physique as he went nude for a daring Instagram snap, using the Premier Division winners trophy of Coggeshall Town FC to preserve his modesty.
The cheeky chappy was also the brunt of much ridicule – most recently by BAFTA Awards presenter Sue Perkins – for his infamous tweet sent during last year's Oxford Street terror scare, when he mistakenly said he heard 'gunshots' in Selfridges.
Whilst admitting he "enjoys buying new clothes" and "training hard at the gym", Ollie's feet are firmly on the ground and he tries not to let public opinion bother him.
"At the end of the day, people are always going to have an opinion on you. That's the world of social media and you just have to rise above it and move on."
This is some of the advice he shared with the young people he mentored during the recent series of BBC talent show The Voice UK.
"People are always saying they want to sing and be artists and I always advise them that the best thing is to get out there as much as you can and get the experience. You need to practice, practice, practice.
"I'm not the best artist I can be yet. I'm always learning new skills working on my voice and trying to get better – that's what it's all about."
And will we see him back on our screens for the eighth series of The Voice?
"I hope so, I would love to go back," he enthuses.
"The great thing about the show is you feel a passion for someone's voice and style and you just go for it and press that button. It's an amazing thing to be part of."
Having collaborated last year on Unpredictable with former X Factor winner Louisa Johnson, has he plans for any more collaborations?
"Stevie Wonder has always been someone I'd love to work with, but at the moment I have a few things up my sleeve and you'll have to wait and see what happens."
Perhaps we could we get a clue, from the last record he downloaded?
"I've just be listening to Justin Timberlake's Man of The Woods," he laughs.
:: Olly Murs, Saturday August 11, Féile an Phobail, Falls Park, Belfast. Tickets priced £35 are on sale via Ticketmaster.ie. Féile an Phobail runs from August 2 to 12, for full event details visit Feilebelfast.com.