Olly Murs is on a high – though for once the spring in his step is unrelated to bumper sales of CDs, downloads or concert tickets.
The 30-year-old Essex-born pop singer is now officially the fastest ‘star in a reasonably priced car’ to have appeared on the BBC TV show Top Gear.
His lap time of one minute 44.6 seconds was one tenth of a second quicker than American actor Aaron Paul, the star of Breaking Bad.
“It was great,” beams the singer, who has racked up 10 million sales of his music since finishing runner-up in the 2009 series of the ITV talent contest X Factor.
“It was a great feeling to pick up that sort of acclaim. When I got in the car I did not expect to get it. I’m delighted.”
He admits he’s something of a secret petrolhead. He currently drives a Bentley Continental GT.
“I love cars,” he enthuses. “I’ve really got into it more than a few years ago. Obviously to go on the show and speak to Jeremy Clarkson was great.”
Murs is currently on the promotion trail for an arena tour that follows in the wake of the success of his fourth album, Never Been Better – a record he intended to be “bigger and stronger” than its predecessor Right Place, Right Time.
I ask if four albums in, he feels he has entered a new phase in his career.
“I would not say a new phase,” he considers. “I think I am getting more confident as a songwriter – that’s what happens when you do these kind of jumps.
“I’m more excited about everything. I think my music is improving. Nothing has changed too much but I just want people to take it more seriously. I want them to listen to the production. I feel that this is the best album I’ve done.”
The success the former call centre worker has enjoyed over the past five years seems to have instilled in him a greater confidence when it comes to making decision about all aspects of his career, he feels.
“Collectively as a team we’ve made great decisions which work for us,” he says. “Not every decision you make is the best decision, but we just try to be positive with every decision we make. We go in with 100 per cent positivity and go with it. Luckily for me the decisions we’ve made have all been great.”
One of those decision that paid off spectacularly was to team up with rapper Flo Rida on the song Troublemaker. In 2013 it became his first substantial hit in the USA, selling 1.2 million copies.
Latterly he’s released singles featuring Travie McCoy of the US hip hop group Gym Class Heroes and Demi Lovato, the Disney Channel and Glee graduate best known in this country for her rendition of Let It Go in the film Frozen.
Murs now feels like he has made it in America “in a weird way”.
“Troublemaker was a huge success. I’m able to go on big shows and radio shows. People are willing to give me a chance.
“I’m not trying to jump,” he reflects. “I take steps rather than jump. It’s been a great boost as an artist what I’ve done, having success over there. I’ll keep working hard and see what happens.”
As a performer, Murs has a strong work ethic. He admits there was a point in the early days of his showbusiness career when he pushed himself too far. “There was a time when I did The Xtra Factor, presenting, doing two things at once, there was a lot going on – that was probably the hardest.”
But, he says, “I like to work hard. When I was 13 I did three papers rounds, morning and evening. I’ve always been a workhorse – my Mum would tell you that.
“I’m always doing something. I can’t be still.”
That work ethic, combined with a natural charm, has made Murs some famous friends. To the likes of Robbie Williams, Gary Barlow and Sam Smith, he can now add Paul Weller, who co-wrote Let Me In, the closing song on Never Been Better.
The pair met at a Paolo Nutini gig at the Royal Albert Hall. “I’m a big fan of his and we got talking about music,” Murs recalls. “He said, ‘I’ve got this song I’d like to send you. Would you be interested?’”
Though delighted with the track the Modfather subsequently sent him, Murs felt he needed to change it “to make it more me”. It seems Weller was happy to oblige.
“That’s what he appreciated with me,” he says. “I did not just accept the song because it was Paul. He had more respect for me. We tweaked the song to make it slightly more me.
“It’s important for every artist to make it sound like you, to feel like you wrote it. I needed to sell the song. I felt that was important.”
It seems this album was his favourite to make. “I did the best I could,” he says. “I could work so hard at it.
“It was just a really great album to write. I went to LA a lot, loads of stuff. It was a fun album to write and be part of.”
Now his focus is on touring. The former semi-pro footballer says he has been training for his UK arena shows “two or three times a week for the last three weeks”. He has also been on a detox diet “to flush my body out”.
“I’m in good shape,” he says.
He admits he still gets nervous before big shows. “I want the crowd to enjoy it. I want to do the biggest and best show I’ve done,” he says.
“Backstage I do get nervous. I hope people will be cheering and that they’ll love it and when they get home they’ll say, ‘That was an amazing show’. That’s what I want – fingers crossed.”
Olly Murs plays at Sheffield Motorpoint Arena on March 31 and April 1; he will also be at the First Direct Arena on April 20. For ticket details visit http://www.ollymurs.com/