It's been a year of huge, transformative — and at times, exceedingly painful — change for Louis Tomlinson. Following the late-2015 announcement that One Direction would be going on indefinite hiatus, Tomlinson was one of the first members of the band to step into his own solo career with Steve Aoki on their collaborative single, “Just Hold On.” His mother died just days before he and Aoki performed the song for the season finale of The X Factor UK, and he's spent the majority of 2017 working on new music and occasionally showing his love for his bandmates on social media.
Now, Tomlinson's first major cover story since the 1D hiatus has dropped, and loads of real talk came with it regarding One Direction and how it's affected him as they rose to international superstardom before pressing the pause button in a big way. At first, he qualifies his place in the group by listing off the strengths of the lads — and then refrains from talking himself up at all.
“[Niall Horan]'s the most lovely guy in the world,” he told The Guardian. “Happy-go-lucky Irish, no sense of arrogance. And he’s fearless. There are times I’ve thought: ‘I’d have a bit of that.’ Zayn, back in the day. He could relate to me on a nerves level. In the first year we were both the least confident. But Zayn has a fantastic voice and for him it was always about owning that. Liam always had a good stage presence, same as Harry, they’ve both got that ownership. Harry comes across very cool. Liam’s all about getting the crowd going, doing a bit of dancing ... And then there’s me.”
Tomlinson is modest, as he's clearly got plenty to brag about — he's launched his own label and managed another band in addition to recording his solo stuff, and he announced yesterday that a new single with Bebe Rexha is on the way — but the One Direction situation is complicated, and he continued to unpack his role in the group and how that's shaped him as an artist.
“It wasn’t necessarily a nice conversation. I could see where it was going,” he told The Guardian of the decision to go on hiatus. “If you’d asked me a year or 18 months ago, ‘Are you going to do anything as a solo artist?’ I’d have said absolutely not ... You know I didn’t sing a single solo on the X Factor ... A lot of people can take the piss out of that. But when you actually think about how that feels, standing on stage every single week, thinking: ‘What have I really done to contribute here? Sing a lower harmony that you can’t really hear in the mix? The kid wearing espadrilles, stood in’t back.”
He also compares his solo trajectory to that of the guys, specifically in regards to writing his solo material and how that was a wake-up call because he wasn't necessarily the most public, popular member of the band: “I couldn’t say to you now that I could definitely get a superstar writer in a session with me. And I understand that. Harry won’t struggle with any of that.”
He goes on to discuss the painful realities of having to perform when his mother was dying of cancer, and following through with the X Factor performance in his most vulnerable moment. The whole interview is a doozy, and it makes for an important — if not devastating — read. Props to Tomlinson for putting it all out there.