Olly Murs – Scarborough
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With a cheeky young chap 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.”