By Katherine St. Asaph

As it grows long in the tooth, American Idol may be descending into an annual clip show with declining ratings, Steven Tyler’s flowy Chico’s outfits, and undeniably talented artists with nowhere to go. Competitors The Voice and the US’s version of The X Factor have arguably done more for the megastars who judge than the starlets who are judged, but there’s still some genuine talent scouting and hit-making that goes on through these shows—it just happens across the pond.

The UK’s X Factor, in recent years, has produced such formidable names as sassy Destiny’s Child-indebted girl group Little Mix, proto-pop spitfire Cher Lloyd (it’s hard to imagine Charli XCX’s career without her), and the biggest of them all: needs-no-introduction boy banders One Direction.

Yet among the show’s best-selling alumni, one artist has been relatively unknown in the States until relatively recently: Olly Murs. Think of him as the British answer to Ryan Tedder or Adam Levine: a showman equally at home on disco revival tracks or more sensitive fare. The former soccer player came in second on the UK show’s sixth season in 2009, and after opening for 1D on their Up All Night tour, he’s made moves in his own right. His last album’s Flo Rida collaboration “Troublemaker” went Top 25 in the States, and follow-up “Wrapped Up,” flecked with disco licks and featuring Travie McCoy, is gaining traction after going to US radio last month. spoke to Murs recently about his upcoming album, Never Been Better, X-Factor record contracts, and a slew of future collaborations in his mind.

~ How’s the year treated you so far?
Olly Murs: Things have been great. Coming back home to the UK, it’s like I just got back to reality.

You’ve had a whirlwind couple of months, particularly in the US, as “Wrapped Up” has been doing quite well
It’s been great. The reaction in America when I came over was brilliant. Radio seems to be loving it. For me with the new album, I wanted it to be bigger and bolder and stronger than the last one. You want people to listen to the album and think, “Oh my God, this is so much better than what you’ve done before!” But as an artist, you’re always trying to do that. It’s not always going to happen, but I think I achieved that.

What about the follow-up, “Up,” with Demi Lovato? Was that in the works for a while?
We were both on [X Factor], but I’d never met her before. We sat in the room and we were thinking about artists, and when we said Demi Lovato, we all agreed that she was perfect. Demi was brilliant. It was just a perfect match. We had lots in common, great laughs, and the way that she sings, to have that on the song was brilliant.

How about working with Ryan Tedder?
It was crazy.

How so?
He was in America at the time, and I was obviously in the studio here in London. There was a massive time difference, eight hours. I hadn’t even recorded his song yet. Basically he wanted to come on a Skype call with me, we had all the chats and stuff about it, and he was like, ‘Right – let’s go in the studio and sing it.’ Then I had to sing his song on the studio with him on Skype. That’s the art of technology, isn’t it? It was like doing an audition….



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