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Olly Murs on mental health and losing Caroline Flack: 'She visits me in my dreams – it's lovely'

The singer and new dad has penned a letter to his younger self in this week’s Big Issue

Olly Murs and Caroline Flack in 2015

2015: Arriving at X Factor auditions with his co-host Caroline Flack, who died in 2020. Image:©Ferdaus Shamim/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News

Olly Murs, 39, has just become a father for the first time. The arrival of his daughter Madison last week was met with much celebration – including from, surprisingly, his MP Priti Patel.

“Sending my best wishes and congratulations to Witham’s most famous resident @ollymurs and his wife on the joyous birth of their baby daughter,” she tweeted; “I am sure she won’t be a ‘troublemaker’ like her dad!”

A nice wink and nudge to his 2009 No 1 (ever in touch, Priti), but how much of a ‘troublemaker’ was young Olly? Murs speaks to Big Issue for his Letter to My Younger Self in this week’s issue, out today (22 April) – a reader favourite column that has previously featured the likes of Shania Twain, Mo Farah and Sir Tom Jones.

Olly reflects on his life journey, from being catapulted to fame on The X Factor, to presenting it alongside close friend Caroline Flack, whose death by suicide had a huge impact on him.

“I would love to talk to Caroline again,” Olly tells the Big Issue. “She was a huge part of my life and career. Special person, special friend. We had an interesting relationship, but it was great.

“It’s mad because people say they visit you in your dreams. Caz does that quite frequently actually. It’s lovely when people that pass away do that.

“Since Caroline passed, I’ve made those moments. It’s the most surreal moment but it’s lovely when them days happen. I’d love to see Caz again and chat to her.”

Observing that life in the spotlight takes its toll on celebrities’ mental health, Olly Murs admits to having therapy to cope with his own issues. “Anyone in this profession has suffered from some mental health issues. Everyone I’ve met – everyone – has suffered with depression or anxiety or worry. Talking to other people is the most important thing.

“At some point in my life, I had to go and see a therapist. For someone who’s looked at as a bit of a geezer I’m not afraid to admit that. Sometimes you just need another voice from the outside that isn’t family, that aren’t your friends, to get to the nitty gritty of who you are and understand why you’re feeling like this.”

Olly reflects on how people’s attitude towards him changed after his success on the sixth series of The X Factor, on which he was runner-up in 2009.

“When I did The X Factor I came back to Essex to do a gig. I’d been in this club probably three months before. There were a couple of girls I had been speaking to that I tried to, you know, you’d see them and think, ‘Oh, I’d love to go on a date with her.’ I’d ask them and they’d go, ‘You’re not my cup of tea.’

“That night, I walked in, one of them was front row. She was screaming, looking at me and giving me all this. About two songs in I said, ‘Do you know what’s really amazing about doing this gig tonight? I can see how shallow some people are now that I’m famous, whereas before you didn’t care.’”

“When it comes to love I’d say to my younger self, just trust the process,” he reflects. “Trust the journey you go on Olly.

“I’d been in a few relationships before I went on The X Factor and they were learning experiences. It made me realise what I wanted in a relationship. I lost my virginity quite late on, 19-20. I didn’t rush into anything. I kept my cool.”

Read Olly Murs’ full Letter to My Younger Self in this week’s Big Issue, out now. Find your local vendor to buy a copy, or subscribe online, at bigissue.com.

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