Niall Horan’s debut solo album, Flicker, arrived on Friday (October 20), giving us the third full-length project from a member of One Direction (waiting on you, Liam and Louis!). While fans continue to soak up its folk-pop warmth, Apple Music has offered up a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the album with On the Record: Flicker.
The 31-minute documentary includes interviews with Horan and his collaborators, footage from his studio sessions, live performances, and more. Here are eight revealing things we learned from the new doc.
An Asian excursion gave Horan the break he needed before getting to work on Flicker.
“There was no real plan for me to do an album at all. I was kind of just about to relish the fact that One Direction was going to chill out for a little bit,” Horan admitted. It was only while taking a long backpacking trip through Asia that he began to jot down song ideas in a Moleskine notebook. After returning to London and realizing he was bored, he finally brought his ideas into the studio and Flicker started to materialize.
He worked with a couple of beloved One Direction collaborators.
Jamie Scott — who produced a bevy of 1D hits, like “Story of My Life” and “Drag Me Down” — worked on Flicker because, as Horan put it, “he’s one of my best mates.” On the first day in the studio, he and Scott wrote “This Town,” the album’s eventual first single. Horan also worked with frequent 1D collaborator Julian Bunetta on the project.
He also branched out to work with some musical big-shots.
Among the other collaborators Horan worked with were Don Was, a producer for the Rolling Stones, and Greg Kurstin, a Grammy-winning producer famous for his work with Adele and Sia. Another key collaborator was Jacquire King, whom Horan was psyched to be in the studio with. “He’s famous for doing James Bay’s album a couple years ago, and responsible for Only By Night by Kings of Leon, which has got some of the best songs of the 21st century on it,” Horan gushed.
He took his sweet, sweet time making the album.
Kicking off a solo career is hard work, and it’s something that Horan didn’t want to rush. “When I played the songs to the label, I was like, ‘Listen, I don’t want to be put under any time constraints. If I’m going to do it, I'm going to do it right. I don’t want to just hammer out an album because you guys want me to,’” he said. “I’m grateful for that, because I feel like I got the best out of myself, in a stage where I’m trying to figure myself out too.”
He was initially uncomfortable playing with a live band.
Horan had never recorded in a studio with live musicians, and the adjustment was weird for him. “You’re playing with a band that you’ve just met that Jacquire, the producer, selected. Being in a room with these guys who do it every day, I felt like they're judging me,” Horan said. “I felt very uncomfortable on the first day. Because they’re taking their job seriously; they’re not laughing and joking all the time.” Ultimately, though, he came to love it. “It felt so organic. It felt like, this is how music should be made.”
Recording the album’s title track was super emotional for everyone involved.
“I remember saying to Jacquire, ‘I want you to be really delicate with this,’” Niall recalled about his “favorite song” on the album, “Flicker.” They performed two or three takes of it, before King called for them to take a break because of the palpable emotion in the room. “I remember looking around watching grown men nearly ball their eyes out,” Horan said. King added, “People were getting emotional. It felt like something special. It kind of gave you the goosebump feeling.”
He got feedback from one of his musical heroes.
Horan pointed to Fleetwood Mac, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and, most especially, The Eagles as his biggest musical influences. He ended up befriended Don Henley, the lead singer of The Eagles, whom he’s become close friends with. “The whole thing of me becoming mates with Don... my younger self would have laughed,” he said. In fact, Horan sent songs to Henley for feedback, including the eventual hit “Slow Hands,” which owes its guitar riff to the rock legend.
There’s plenty more to come.
At least, that’s what Horan’s friends and collaborators think. Co-writer John Ryan predicted, “I think this is the first of many albums. I think it’s really just the tip of the iceberg.” Fingers crossed that he’s right!