Hailing from the undisputed biggest boy band of a generation, Louis Tomlinson has once again become a household name. He may be one-fifth of the most loved pop band in the world, but since the One Direction hiatus begun, Louis has proven that there is much more to him than we may have originally suspected. After manic worldwide fame cascaded upon One Direction in 2010, Louis has spent the last two years allowing his new found solo career to organically unfold, releasing “Just Hold On” with electronic dance music producer and award-winning DJ Steve Aoki as his debut single back in December 2016.
2017 was another exciting year for Louis, releasing “Back to You” with American singer Bebe Rexha and English producer Digital Farm Animals, as well as tracks “Just Like You” and “Miss You.” But with 2018 coming to an end, we got the pleasurable opportunity to speak with Louis about the super hectic yet exciting year he’s nearly completed, chatting everything from judging The X Factor to recording new music over in LA.
“I didn’t realise quite how much The X Factor was going to take over my life, from a schedule point of view, but also emotionally!”
“I spent the first half of the year doing a lot of writing and a lot of recording. Then, The X Factor came at a good time because I felt like I had been in the studio every day, for such a long time, so I needed a bit of time away from writing. So, everything worked out nicely with The X Factor. However, I didn’t realise quite how much The X Factor was going to take over my life, from a schedule point of view, but also emotionally! Honestly, it was such an amazing experience and it gave me experience that I can’t really get elsewhere. I proper enjoyed it but I am excited to get back to the day job and get back in the studio.”
“I am very proud of being the winning mentor. I am so proud of Dalton! Honestly, I think Dalton was a frontrunner from the very beginning. We had a really strong category this year. Like I said before, it’s experience that I can’t get anywhere else. I loved getting involved in the creative side. I loved it all, but I did have peoples f*cking lives in my hands! *laughs* So, it was a heavy responsibility but also really good fun.”
After finishing The X Factor in third place back in 2010, One Direction has since released five albums, embarked on four world tours and won several awards, deservedly becoming one of the most successful bands of all time. But 2010 wasn’t the last time Louis would be involved in the show. Five years on in 2015 he returned to The X Factor, serving as a guest judge alongside Simon Cowell. Now, eight years since he first stepped foot inside The X Factor world, Louis judged the show alongside Simon Cowell, Robbie Williams and Ayda Field on the 15th series, becoming the show’s first former contestant to secure a victory as the winning mentor when Dalton Harris finished in first place. “I think it was probably more fun being a judge, because obviously as a contestant you’ve got a hell of a lot of pressure riding on you each week. I think as a judge, once I had settled into it I proper enjoyed it.”
“I loved the show and it’s given me great experience, but there are just so many times we had as a band that I look back on so fondly. We did an amazing gig at Madison Square Garden where all our family came, and that was really special. As a big football fan, playing Wembley was unbelievable and honestly so exciting. But definitely my favourite memories are from One Direction.”
“Looking back on what we did as a band is like looking back on a bunch of crazy memories.”
With his highly anticipated debut solo album on the horizon, we can’t help but wonder what we might find in the new record. As both a singer and a songwriter, we already know that Louis packs his tracks with emotive sounds and honest lyrics. With his autobiographical stance, he takes us on a personal journey through the highs and the lows, connecting to his fans on a private level.
“I have been doing a bit of recording both in the UK and over in LA. I’ve had a range of different emotions throughout this writing process; it’s super exciting writing for yourself and I feel like I’ve learnt so much more as a writer, but also there is a lot more responsibility and I’ve found that I am so pedantic over every word and every sound. It kind of took me a second to work out where I fit on the radio, which is why I dabbled with a couple of different features just whilst I was working that out. I love writing, I love getting in the studio and writing with people. It’s always a great environment to be in and there is nothing better than leaving on a successful day with a great song, it’s a great feeling. So, I have had loads of different emotions throughout this writing process, but once the albums out I feel like I would have achieved what I want to achieve. The fans know a lot about me already but I think everyone will learn a lot more about me through this album.”
“Lyrically it is quite honest, it is quite raw.”
“Most of the songs are quite autobiographical to be honest. Some are a little bit more subjective and open-ended. I feel like I have been making songs forever now, but when I set out to make this album I wanted to make it chronological, so the fans could go through my journey of the last two years with me.”
“Writing for One Direction was a lot more straightforward. By the time Liam and I had really got into writing, we knew exactly who we were as a band so we didn’t really have to go through that experimental writing stage. So, I think the challenge as a solo artist has been keeping up the motivation as I’m trying different things, and keeping up the confidence that eventually I’m going to find it. As a band, when we were writing we were on fire, so it took me a second to really find myself as a solo artist. Sometimes that can be demoralising, so I think the key is to stay confident and stay true to who you are.”
Since being thrown head-first into the music industry back in 2010, it has been a whirlwind journey for Louis these last eight years. He has established his own record label (Triple Strings Ltd) and even played football alongside Robbie Williams and Olly Murs at Wembley Stadium for the 2016 Soccer Aid charity match. Yet working within an ever-evolving industry, Louis has witnessed many changes since his career began. “Dare I say it, and I might be wrong in saying this, but I feel like there is a bit less risk being in the music industry nowadays as opposed to when I first begun.
There is less risk-taking in general. Obviously I was in a very very pop band, but in the last couple of years – because of the massive takeover of RnB and hip-hop on the radio, which hasn’t always been to my taste– things have changed. One of my favourite songs this year was Tom Walker’s “Leave A Light On.” I like lyric-driven songs. I feel like there are a lot of cool-sounding dark productions out there, but I do still like a good strong lyric.”
“My dream is that one day we go back on tour together as a band. That would be f*cking ace.”
So, what is the dream? “On a person level I am really interested in development, I started a record label and obviously I did a lot of development working on The X Factor. So, having my own management company one day sounds exciting to me; I like the idea of developing artists and helping them progress from A to B.”
“I feel like I have spent a good half of this year locked in to The X Factor, so next year I am really looking forward to getting stuck in to the music again. Also, I am really looking forward to getting on tour at some point, I don’t know if that is going to happen at the end of next year or a bit further down the line. I miss being on the road. We were on the road all the time as a band and I loved it.”
Photographer Doh Lee
Art Direction Abeiku Arthur
Styling Helen Seamons
Grooming Krystle Gohel
Assistant Tanc Newbury & Anne Danao