To the outside world he appeared to have it all – No 1 hits, a jet-set lifestyle and riches beyond his wildest dreams.
Yet beneath the surface Olly Murs was fighting a battle with drink and depression as the pressures of fame became too much for him.
Today the singer reveals how everything came to a head during a disastrous TV appearance on comedy panel game 8 Out of 10 Cats – and how he WEPT backstage afterwards.
“For the first time in my career I didn’t feel happy,” Olly, 28, says. “I was so drained and down. I wasn’t enjoying anything I was doing. I was just working, working, working.”
Since coming runner-up on The X Factor in 2009, Olly has had a string of hits, a double-platinum album and launched his career as a TV presenter alongside Caroline Flack on The Xtra Factor.
But last October – when he should have been celebrating his third No1 single and the imminent release of his second album – he hit the wall.
“Strangely enough, although I was proper ecstatic about the No1, after the initial excitement I started to feel a bit odd,” Olly says.
“I couldn’t put my finger on why but I started to sense that something wasn’t right. I did 8 Out of 10 Cats with comedian Jimmy Carr, but I wasn’t really myself.
“After Heart Skips A Beat hit No1, I barely had a chance to celebrate ‘cos it was straight over to the judges’ houses for the Xtra Factor, filming in Greece, LA and Spain.
“The new album was coming out so there was all of that to complete. It all just merged into one, without a break. I was exhausted.
“It wasn’t just the workload. I was anxious about how I’d be received on The Xtra Factor. Would people like it? Was my music going to be affected? How would I handle the live shows? How would my next single do? My head was spinning...”
Olly says that usually before he appeared on TV shows his manager Sarah Thomas would give him some background to help him prepare.
But when he went on 8 Out of 10 Cats, he ignored her advice.
“I couldn’t face it,” he says. “I was like, ‘Yeah, whatever, I’ll just blag it...’ The whole thing was a disaster. Not Jimmy or any of the other guests or the show itself, just me.
“I was rubbish. I hardly said anything, I pretty much just sat there, feeling strange. My head was all over the place.
“I came off the set and Sarah had a right go at me – she was really cross I hadn’t bothered to do my research and said it wasn’t like me.”
Sarah and Olly’s tour manager Mark Murphy sat him down and told him some home truths. They said they were worried about him because one minute he was really happy, the next really moody.
“I sat there and listened to them shouting and then I just started crying,” he says.
“Mark was like, ‘I think you could be depressed.’ I was getting even more defensive now. I was like, ‘Me? Depressed? I’m not f***ing depressed! Why would I be depressed?’
“We chatted in that dressing room for hours and I gradually started to become less defensive. I knew what they were saying was fair enough.”
Olly tells how, a week prior to that appearance, he went on ITV2’s Celebrity Juice, where he was allowed to drink on set.
“I remember getting really drunk, I felt like I just wanted to drink – note that word, ‘wanted’ to drink. I’ve never ‘wanted’ to drink in my life! I enjoy a few beers with the lads like everyone does, but this was different.
“After Celebrity Juice I was like, ‘Give me another vodka!’ and I was getting really p****d. I felt like I needed a boost and drinking was that boost. But of course the boost didn’t last, and when I sobered up I was back to being unhappy again.”
Olly, who makes the startling admissions in his new book Happy Days, adds: “Looking back, I don’t think I was depressed, as it happens – I was just exhausted, run down. I was sitting there crying even though my career could not have been going any better. Something clearly wasn’t right.”
It was in the 8 Out of 10 Cats dressing room that he finally admitted to his managers that the workload was getting to him.
“Sarah and I chatted and she said we could arrange time off, a chance to get my head together. It had all just got on top of me,” Olly says.
“I know I’m really lucky to do what I do but sometimes with the hours and the travelling, I don’t get to see my family and friends as much as I’d like.
“It can be lonely on the road. Sometimes I come offstage after a massive adrenaline rush and then when I go to an empty hotel room on my own it can be an anti-climax.
“But I love it and I guess that’s why I surround myself with a team I get on with – they’ve become my ‘on the road’ family and they help me get through the tough moments.
“Those two difficult weeks around 8 Out of 10 Cats were the only time in my career that I was cranky and moody. Let’s just say I had a low moment there.”
Life was turned upside down for the lad from Witham, Essex, straight after his X Factor success. He’s still amazed by all the attention he gets, even during the most bizarre episodes.
“Just before Christmas of 2010 I had a car accident. I was driving round to my mate Jeff Brazier’s for lunch in Harlow and it was really snowy and icy.
“I was in my little Inbetweeners car, an old red Fiat Cinquecento. I drove round a corner and hit this patch of black ice.
“So I’ve skidded and gone straight into the central reservation, ripped all me car open, and clipped this other guy’s car in the process.
“Bless him, the guy came over to see if I was all right. Then we went over to his car to get his details – and this is the God’s honest truth – Thinking Of Me was playing on the radio! The guy looked at me and just burst out laughing!
“I took his details and went back to sit in my car, waiting for Dad to come and pick me up.
“As I sat there in the icy car, the windows frosting over, there was a knock on the window. I wound it down and there’s this woman standing there with her kids, asking for a photo.”
But Olly says not all the attention is welcome. Soon after his first No 1 Please Don’t Let Me Go, he went on a lads’ holiday to Malia in Crete.
Olly says: “In retrospect, it was probably the worst type of place to go on holiday, but I was about to find that out the hard way.
“On the first night it was manic and I knew immediately I’d made a mistake. All these gorgeous girls were coming up to me, and my mates were like, ‘This is the best night ever!’
‘By about one in the morning it got really rowdy, guys started shouting things at me. I was getting abuse and it quickly became very uncomfortable.
“Another night I went into the toilet in this bar and I walked past these two geezers at the urinals who said, ‘All right, Olly!’
“I said ‘Hi’ back and went in the cubicle and shut the door. As soon as I turned the lock, the guys started saying all these horrible things about me.
“They were spitting their words out so viciously. But when I came out of the cubicle, they shut up and were like, ‘All right, Olly?’
“That holiday was mental – wrong place, wrong time, wrong everything – but it was the best thing that could’ve happened.
“When I got back and thought about it I was like, what does this mean, no more lads’ holidays?
“I don’t want to only go out if I get VIP treatment, that’s not me.
“But what I learned is that you just need to pick your destinations with more care. Don’t go to Malia on the p*** for starters!”
from The Mirror