Olly Murs suffered terrifying panic attack as he forgot lyrics to his own song

Olly Murs seems to exude a ­natural swagger but there is a ­moment that still haunts him to this day.

He was standing on stage on the Graham Norton show, about to sing, when suddenly the room started spinning and he became paralysed with fear.

“My heart was pounding and I couldn’t breathe. I’m standing behind the mic and I’m talking trying to calm myself down, thinking: ‘What’s going on? I’ve never ever been like this’. It was genuine panic,” he says.

For someone who has sold more than 18 million albums and radiates an Essex boy ­assurance, his admission will surprise many.

The Voice coach says: “I was looking at my mum and dad in the audience and trying to focus, despite the fact I’d just forgotten my lyrics. It was just a routine performance but I didn’t know what was going on.”

Today, in one of his most candid interviews ever, Olly, 34, reveals how this debilitating panic attack two years ago led to him having therapy to try to confront his demons.

Yet the frightening moment on Graham Norton was not his first experience of being gripped by chronic anxiety.

He says: “I’ll never forget, I was driving back from Braintree to Witham, in Essex, just waiting for a call from my management to say if I’d got The Voice.

“As soon as they told me I’d got it, my friend with me was so excited for me. He was like: ‘You’re doing The Voice. This is huge.’

“I was like, ‘Yeah, it is.’ Then I just had this sudden, overwhelming panic. Whether it was anxiety or depression, I was like: ‘I don’t think I can do this.’”

Pole-axed by such feelings of self-doubt, Olly plucked up the courage to seek help. He says: “I tried to piece it together myself but I couldn’t.

“It made me feel down and I said, ‘I need to go and see someone about this’.”

The therapist helped Olly understand how his previous, ill-fated gig co-hosting The
X Factor in 2015 with Caroline Flack had hit him far harder than he first thought.

The pair were criticised for their presenting skills – not least when Olly jumped the gun and announced a contestant was leaving the show before the public vote had been revealed.

Suddenly it clicked where this chronic anxiety was coming from.

He says: “It was the idea of going on TV again, maybe making a mistake and being put in the spotlight again with people saying negative things about me.

“I’ve only ever had a career that’s been so positive. And when you get that little bit of negativity, it hurts.”

Olly says his sessions were hugely effective and he urges other men silently suffering with anxiety to also seek help.

“Men are too scared to talk about their mental health but I’m not,” he says.

“I’m happy to talk about it, because for me it’s not an issue… I feel great now and if I ever get in that position again or feel like that, I can walk away.” Since then Olly has not looked back and his career has gone from strength to strength.

It is a decade since he made his TV debut, in a pork-pie hat and with a Robbie Williams’ swagger on The X Factor, where he finished second.

Now he’s recorded his sixth studio album, You Know I Know, and starts a 21-date tour around Britain on May 1.

And, despite his self-doubt, he has been a revelation on ITV hit The Voice.

He is reaching the end of his second series and looking forward to coaching his acts in this week’s semi-final.

Simon Cowell has been so impressed by Olly, he has even tried to re-hire him for The X Factor – this time as a judge.

His parents Pete and Vickylynn must be proud of him. Money was tight growing up in Witham, with twin brother Ben and sister Fay.

Vickylynn worked for Essex County Council as well as at Little Chef, while Pete was a tool maker. Olly had a series of jobs, including in a call centre, but racked up debts on credit cards and took loans to get by.

Vickylynn had to quit work, which put stress on the family with three young teenagers all living at home. Yet Olly says: “We managed to make it work. Mum and Dad never moaned and we never felt without.”

Sadly, the family unit suffered and Olly’s twin, who now goes by the married name Ben Hart, is no longer in contact with the singer or his parents. He blames Olly’s TV career for driving them apart.

Tensions boiled over at Ben’s wedding in 2009, which Olly missed as it clashed with The X Factor live shows.

Olly still hopes they will one day reconcile but is focusing on his mum, who has previously claimed the rift left her on the “verge of a breakdown”.

Olly says: “It has always been ­difficult for me to talk about it, because I don’t hate my brother. My mum did find it hard and I’m sure she finds it hard every day.

“I always remain positive that this is just a moment in our lives. I’ve no doubt in the future it’ll work itself out.”

Home life is very important for Olly. He still lives near where he was raised and many of his friends and family have never moved away.

And like many people in Essex – and the nation as a whole – he was horrified by fatal stabbing of 17-year-old Jodie Chesney in a park in Harold Hill, East London, while out with pals.

He says: “I go to Harold Hill quite a lot and I saw all the purple ribbons. It was devastating for the community.”

He knows there are no simple answers to the wave of knife crime.

But he says: “Why would you even think of pulling a knife on someone? Why? Just walk away.

“I’m sure the police are going to try and crack down on it and I hope they do because it is getting out of control at the moment.”

Olly remembers vividly when he was caught up in a knife incident at his label Sony’s Kensington offices, in London, last year.

He was in the building when armed police showed up, fearing a possible terror attack.

A kitchen worker in his 20s was arrested after stabbing a colleague with a seven-inch kitchen knife.

“It was crazy to see it all unravel. You walked past the kitchen and I saw the blood on the floor. It was horrible.”

However, right now, all of Olly’s focus is on his forthcoming tour, which includes two huge dates at London’s O2.

And he has been frantically getting into shape since January – a feat made harder given he’s now in his mid-30s.

He says: “Gone are the days of having a McDonald’s each night over the weekends… I’ve now cut out bread, dairy, sugar and chocolate – and have a health check every six months.

“As you get older you have to be aware and more careful. I know I’m only 34 but cholesterol and blood pressure are the things you think about. You do hear of crazy situations,
of things happening to people in
their 30s.

“I don’t want to be that guy. You know what I mean?”

  • Olly Murs All the Hits tour, from May 1 until June 7, goes to Aberdeen, Glasgow, Nottingham, Bournemouth, Birmingham, Dublin, Belfast, London, Newcastle, Hull, Leeds, Sheffield, Brighton, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester and Gloucester. For tickets see ticketmaster.co.uk. His new single Feel the Same is out on Friday.

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