How Louis Tomlinson survived the break-up of the world’s biggest boy band and became his own man
The Observer Magazine 25 Jun 2017
Photographs ALEX BRAMALL Fashion editor HELEN SEAMONS
out of a dissolving boy band must be a bit like being an entrant in one
of those dystopian jungle fights –a Hunger Games- style event in which
bandmates are scattered across an unknown terrain and challenged to slog
their lonely route back to fame. Justin Timberlake, after NSync,
enjoyed the unsporting edge of natural talent and crushed his former
colleagues. Robbie Williams looked supreme in the Take That scrimmage,
at least until Gary Barlow circled back, gathered up the other three,
and made the fight a more compelling four- on- one. By the time One
Direction announced they were to go on indefinite hiatus in 2015, many
of us were familiar enough with the conventions of boy-band bloodsport
to start picking favourites for the coming melee.
Styles – charming, a grinner – was best placed to succeed on his own.
Big-lunged Zayn Malik was already out of the band by that time and had
used his head start to good effect, preparing a solo album that went to
No 1. Liam Payne and Niall Horan – always second-tier members – were
given middling chances. And ranked last in any serious analysis, the
most fitfully appreciated member of One Direction, was Louis Tomlinson.
Here was a combatant you might expect to find curled up in a fox hole on
the battlefield, pale and chain-smoking.
is in roughly this position I find the 25-yearold, one afternoon
earlier this summer. Slender, tracksuited, a little wan under his
manicured facial hair, Tomlinson sits on a garden bench outside the
photographer’s studio and rewards himself with an entire pack of
cigarettes. “I know, I know,” he says of the smoking. “It’s not great.
But there’s so much hurry-up-and-wait in this job. It helps me get ready
to go again.”
I’ve often wondered why the
fringe members of boy bands do this to themselves. Why they gather
themselves to “go again”. As Tomlinson acknowledges, in One Direction he
was seen by some as “forgettable, to a certain degree”. “The others
have always been… Like Niall, for example. He’s the most lovely guy in
the world. 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 you. “And then there’s me.” Tracks
from Tomlinson’s solo record have been playing inside the studio.
They’re modest, rather lovely pop songs that in their quiet way seem to
acknowledge his underdog status. Tomlinson lights another cig. “You know
I didn’t sing a single solo on the X Factor,” he says, recalling the
time back in 2010, when One Direction were first put together as a band
on the ITV reality show. “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?” He
guesses, smiling wryly, that in those months he was best known as “The
kid wearing espadrilles, stood in’t back.”
the best singer, not the high-energy guy, not the dude, Tomlinson
discovered he was the one in the band who was most tuned into backstage
logistics – the one who paid attention when “the 20th approval form” was
passed around for a signature. “And if there was any bad news that
needed giving to the label I’d always be designated to have the
argument.” Later this would lead to Tomlinson founding a small record
label of his own, Triple String, and to starting a side project managing
a girl band. In his day job with One Direction, meanwhile, he toured
the world, released five albums and amassed a large, equal-parts fortune
like the rest of the boys. Somewhere en route, Tomlinson says, he found
his feet as a performer. “In the last year of One Direction I was
probably the most confident I ever was. And then it was: ‘OK, hiatus!’”
argued against it, he says, when the band first sat down to discuss
separation. “It wasn’t necessarily a nice conversation. I could see
where it was going.” Tomlinson remembers his instinctive assumption
being simple. He would step away – try writing for other people, keep
his label going, wait the “two years, five years, whatever it be” until
One Direction reformed. “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
What changed? If the management
stuff made you happy, I say, why not sit back and focus on that? “But
then I’d be conceding,” he says. Conceding to who? To what? He waves his
hand in the air. He could mean anything:
Niall is the most lovely guy, Zayn has the voice, Harry is very cool, Liam gets the crowd going… And then there’s me
I honestly think they’ll write books about One Direction fans. They are so fanatical. The intensity. It’s remarkable
bandmates, doubters, the press. Tomlinson is quiet for a while and
eventually says: “I’m trying to work out why it is that I’m [doing
this], now that you’ve asked that question.” He fidgets and trials a few
answers that run out of steam. “It’s frustrating, because I know what I
want to say and I can’t articulate it.” He pats for his lighter. The
odds are against this tilt, Tomlinson seems to understand. But as we
start to talk through his reasons for at least trying, I find myself
hoping that this Last Directioner makes an unlikely go of it after all.
industry has an ineREASON ONE . TH E luctable momentum, and the star
who begins something ( like a skier inching off a hilltop) can quickly
find themselves bound to ride out whatever thrills and trials comes
next. Tomlinson gives the example of how he first became famous. Born in
Doncaster in 1991 he was raised by his mother, Johannah Deakin, and
later also by her new partner Mark Tomlinson. He was 16 when he went to
his first X
Factor audition. Prompt
rebuff. A year later he made it into the audition process, but still
nowhere near the part where ambitious young singers are briskly embraced
or condemned by that great gatekeeper of celebrity, Simon Cowell. In
2010 Tomlinson, twice unlucky, gave the auditions a final try.
told myself I’ve just got to get to Simon, get his opinion, that’s all
my ambition was. Then all of a sudden everything changed. To my friends
in Doncaster I would always say [getting into the band] was the most
incredible thing that happened to me. And it was. But it happened when I
was already having the best year of my life. I was 17, 18, just started
driving, didn’t need fake ID any more, going to house parties. That’s
the time. That’s the age. And to a certain degree… ‘Having it taken
away’ is the wrong phrase. But there was a price to pay.”
says his current efforts as a soloist came about in similar fashion. In
2016, Tomlinson had become a father. (His son, Freddie, “who I love so
much”, was born after a brief relationship with a Californian stylist
called Briana Jungwirth.) He had some other personal matters to work
through and in the summer he went on holiday to Las Vegas to blow off
steam. At a club the American DJ Steve Aoiki was playing. Tomlinson,
giddy with delight from Aoiki’s set, suggested to the DJ they try
writing something together. In career terms, he had inched off the hill
again, without necessarily considering the gradient of the slope.
few months later, Tomlinson says, a single he’d written with Aoiki was
being rolled out for release through One Direction’s old record label,
Syco. Tomlinson was booked in to perform it on live TV. “And I was,
like: ‘Did I really think this through?’”
leads Tomlinson to reason two. He’s well aware he was fast-tracked into
his music career. That, as a part of One Direction, he was only a piece
of a “heavy machine”. And as a self-aware northerner, from a proudly
working class family, this has left Tomlinson with residual guilt to
answer about wealth and status that do not feel to him fully earned.
“And I know, I know it sounds ungrateful. But I think about a man, on a
nine-to-five, working his arse off for six months so he can go to his
family and say: ‘Guys, I’m taking you to Disneyland.’ That moment… I’ll
never have that in my family life. And I’ve worked hard. But I’ve never
worked hard, not like that.”
says he has already sweated more for this record than any before. When
you’re putting together material as a soloist, he says, you quickly
learn that those hot-shot collaborators who once dribbled to work with
One Direction no longer pick up the phone
readily. “I couldn’t say to you now that I could definitely get a
superstar writer in a session with me. And I understand that.” Tomlinson
adds, with no real vinegar: “Harry won’t struggle with any of that.”
their One Direction days, no question, Styles got the most attention.
But all the boys had their devotees and Tomlinson wants to prove to his
own fans – reason three – that he’s been worth the backing all these
years. “I honestly think they’ll write books about One Direction fans,”
Tomlinson says. “Because they are so fanatical. The intensity. It’s
Tomlinson cannot talk about
it with me, not without getting into muddy legal waters, but there was
recently a difficult episode involving a small crowd of fans at an
airport in LA. He was travelling with his partner, Eleanor Calder, who
is viewed with some distrust by the fiercest corps of Louis fans. Video
footage seems to show Calder being surrounded and attacked by a group of
girls. Tomlinson, unable to discuss the matter, says to me more
generally that he hopes his new music will reveal to fans a more
complete version of himself than before. “Honestly, it’s crazy. It’s
hard for a lot of people who are fanatical to believe that you are a
real entity and a person.”
Which brings us
to reason four. Reason four Tomlinson discusses with caution. Reason
four he enshrouds with disclaimers: that it is not his intention to tell
“a sob story”, that “I don’t like people feeling sorry for me”. Reason
four concerns his mum.
Johannah Deakin was
diagnosed with leukaemia in early 2016. Tomlinson had been worried his
luck would run out; that having been “dealt that amazing hand” to squeak
into the last berth in One Direction, he was due some sort of
equalising blow. And he gives a bleak little laugh when he recalls where
he was when the terrible phone call came. “At Jamie Vardy’s wedding of
all places. Talk about your places, for something super-traumatic. My
mum told me, uh, yeah, that she was definitely terminal.”
were unusually close. He recalls how she was often one step ahead
“because she had the password to my email”. It was an intimacy he
attributes to them being close in age. “I remember the day I lost my
virginity. I hadn’t even told any of my mates and I was, like: ‘Mum? I
know this is really weird. But I’ve got to tell you…’ I remember
thinking this is a bizarre conversation to be having with your mother.
But it’s testament to how comfortable she made me.”
Deakin died, in December 2016, Tomlinson was only days away from the
live gig he’d agreed to do on the X Factor. “I remember saying to her:
‘Mum, how the fuck do you expect me to do this now?’ And she didn’t
swear much, my mum. She’d always tell me off for swearing. And this time
she was like: ‘You’ve got to fucking do it, it’s as simple as that.’ It
was football manager, team talk stuff.’” The footage of Tomlinson’s
performance that weekend is hard to watch. When he first appears on the X
Factor stage he looks rigid, almost plastic, with grief. He’s clearly
able to lose himself in the three-minute drama of a pop song. And after
that the colour drains right back out of his face.
Tomlinson smokes for a bit. He says: “I’m not gonna claim this is all for me mum. But it was definitely… It was…”
thinks. Throughout his life, he says, his mum always had greater belief
in him than he did. “Sometimes my reservation, or my confidence, might
have prevented me from doing something. And I’ve needed a mum in the
past to kick me up the arse and go: ‘You’re doing it.’”
boy bander has his reasons, then. “I’ve enjoyed this,” he says. “An
opportunity to talk super openly. Not, y’know, answer questions about
who my favourite superhero is. I don’t feel I get that many chances.”
pile of cigarette butts in front of him has mounted to quite a height.
Tomlinson, seeming to notice it for the first time, mutters: “Sorry.
I’ve been chaining.” His mum hated smoking, he says. Then he smiles.
“Though I remember she had the occasional cigarette herself.”
taps his lighter on the table and asks what I make of everything he’s
said. “Do you think your readers are still gonna wonder: ‘Why doesn’t he
just not do it?’”
I’m not sure, I tell him, trying to be honest. But let’s see.
day I lost my virginity, I hadn’t even told any of my mates, and I was,
like: ‘Mum? I know this is weird but I’ve got to tell you…’
Louis’s new single ‘Back To You’ featuring Bebe Rexha and Digital Farm Animals is coming soon
Hi!! I'd love to have a jonerys fic of maybe sometime in their relationship where Jon is jealous?? Thanks so much im so excited!
“She is fair.”
Jon pulled his eyes away from Daenerys’ ethereal ‘fairness’. He wanted to rebuke Davos’ remark but to do so would be to lie. Even Aemon would have been able to see this in the queen with his terrible sight because her beauty seemed to shine from within like a discreet fire. He wished he could call her ugly and cruel and be done with the whole exchange.
But he could see it, even if she hadn’t shown her kind heart to him, personally. He could see it in how she didn’t attack King’s Landing with one brutal, fiery hit. Instead, she cared for the poor souls in Flea Bottom; for people, she had never met. She cared because they were to be her people.
Unlike Cersei, Daenerys was a beauty with her looks and her actions.
And Jon was drawn in.
“I don’t have time for such things,” he remarked, deciding to return his attentions to the map Sam had managed to provide him by raven. Within a day, he believed he would be looking at a mountain of dragonglass. This wasn’t the time to be deciding on how fair any woman was, especially not a queen. He wasn’t meant for such luxuries, northern king or not.
“You make time,” Davos remarked, knowing even through all the strife and hardship he had lived, he had still found the time to marry his wife and bear sons. “He does.”
Against his better judgment, Jon raises his eyes to see the newcomer, Jorah. While still ignorant of women and their fancies, Jon didn’t need to second guess himself with Mormont. The ex-victim of greyscale was enamored with Daenerys. To say it was puppy love would be impolite to canines everywhere and Jon found it hard to like the man. Not only was Jorah not like his father but a fool for the queen.
Honestly, Jon found it effortless to find strikes against the man.
“A fool,” Jon said, letting his map fall away from his face.
“A fool with her attentions.”
The map was left forgotten in his breast pocket as they watched as Jorah escorted Daenerys through the stone garden to a bench that looked to be made on the back of a stony winged dragon. He was telling her something that caused her to smile.
An expression he had never seen before. One of joy and glee, almost childish in comparison to all the other smirks he had ever seen on her pale face. Jorah soaked in its beauty while Jon felt his stomach curdle, knowing she would never look at him in such a way.
Bastards weren’t meant for such beauty.
He turned away. “A fool is still a fool.” He looked towards the heavens, where dragons encircled, watching. He wouldn’t be a fool. He couldn’t be his grandfather. He couldn’t be Robb. He couldn’t be his lord father.
He had to be better.
No matter how fair the queen was, he wasn’t going to be the next Stark male to fall for some southern lass only to lose everything else in the process.
“To the mines now,” Jon remarked, wishing to return to the dark caves rather than see another moment of Daenerys and her most faithful sword.
He walked away, not seeing her curious eyes following his steps.
- - -
PLEASE leave a comment and some hearts! and sorry about the wait on this! the new season has light a FIRE underneath me, though. i can promise you that. I hope you enjoy this. please tell me what you liked about it! i can only get better this way. lol
ALSO, i would like to offer up my keyboard and writing utensils to the cause of JONERYS! i’d love to do some more writing for this beautiful ship! please send me prompts/ideas if you have any! this ship needs more FANFICS! i’m both book and show FRIENDLY! seeing as how i’m caught up on both. lol
i’d also love to just CHAT about these two. im absolutely OBSESSED with them right now! i keep checking the tags constantly! haha. my one big got friend is a j***a shipper, which I don’t mind but jonerys has my heart right now. haha
<br /><i>Via Flickr:</i>
<br />An uchiwa-e (fan print) from a sample book by the Haibara Company, showing a beauty seated on a garden bench. Beside her is an insect cage, so that she can enjoy cricket song, while contemplating the moon.
Genre: series, doctor!baekhyun au, fluff, angst, smut (in this chapter)
Summary:You’re about to start your internship in Seoul’s most prestigious hospital but before you devote your whole life to medicine, you decide to have one more night of freedom and meet someone you didn’t expect to meet again. (inspired by Grey’s Anatomy)
A/N: omg I’m finally updating. I’ve been so excited to release this chapter but I’ve had trouble writing the smut part, oh btw there’s finally a smut part again! I feel like I’m not good at writing smut so please beware of some cringy shit. But anyways I hope ya’ll like it. Also, there’s a lot of medical terms so don’t worry if you don’t understand them, I don’t either and they’re not that important to the storyline. Oh and thank you so much to those of you who send me messages, I absolutely love receiving them. Shout out to that one anon that said he/she reads all my author’s notes, love ya! (photo credit to the owner)
Hello! You're doing a great job with the blog; I love your writing! I was wondering if you could do a post with the Sakamakis & how they would treat their SO if they were overly stressed out about work/school/etc? I'm currently stressing myself out so... XD
Sure thing! And I feel you, it’s summer and I’m more stressed out than I was in school 😅
Shu: -Doesn’t really understand why you’re stressing out so much, mostly because he just skips all his classes -Reminds you to take breaks in between work/studying so you don’t self destruct -Lays on the couch with you while you’re studying and actually helps out from time to time, though it won’t be more than a short note -He may skip his classes but he’s still very intelligent -If he finds you working absurdly late he’ll literally pick you up and carry you to your room despite your protests -He plops you on the bed and tosses a few extra blankets on you before getting in himself -Wordlessly climbs into bed beside you and gives you of his earbuds -You lay there and quietly snuggle into the blankets, listening to Chopin and feeling your anxiety melt away
Reiji: -Immediately offers to tutor you to help with your school work or gives you advice for your job -Insists it’s because he won’t allow his significant other to become a slacker with poor grades or status, but really just cares about your mental health (not that he’ll show it) -Doesn’t like seeing you stressed out -He says it makes you look less like a proper lady, but it also bitterly reminds him of all the work he did as a child to try and catch up to Shu’s level -Every night after school you two sit down and study for a bit in the candle lit library -He’s strict but incredibly efficient at getting you to memorize the material -Practically makes you a check list so you can take things one at a time -Rewards you at the end of a long day with a warm cup of tea and some quality time reading together in bed
Ayato: -Acts like he doesn’t understand your stress (to him he’s already at the top of everything) -However, memories start to creep up from his childhood; the work overload he was forced into isn’t exactly something he likes to remember -Decides to make it his personal mission to de-stress you -Tries to take your mind off things by going to theme parks and basketball games so you can take a break -Will probably attempt to help you with your job or school work but he’ll most likely be terrible at it, which will stress you out even more -Actually acts oddly… Nice for once?? -You can’t stop smiling when you see he’s really trying his best -Maybe you should be stressed out more often so he’ll stop being a dick for a while
Laito: -Gets slapped immediately when he suggests his method of “relieving your stress” -Can’t really relate since most things come easy to him in school; he doesn’t really think about it too much -Figures you’re probably not in the mood when you’re stressed so he helps you out of your little rut -Will sit with you at the table while you study, keeping your desktop clean and your mind somewhat focused -When not thinking of his ulterior motives he’s actually quite helpful with your work -You sort of forget how smart he can be sometimes, he’s a pretty entertaining tutor -On the days before your tests or job interviews he’d buy you a little box of macaroons to ease your nerves -Will always congratulate you after a victory at school or work, but of course will ask for a little reward~
Kanato: -At first he’d jab that you should have better time management and just figure things out by yourself -However as your physical conditions worsen from your deteriorating mental state he’d try to do something -But doesn’t really know how to help??¿ -His grades aren’t the best, he skips assignments he doesn’t feel like doing and he’s too combative with the teachers -Suggests you do the same thing with your work and doesn’t understand why you’d reject his advice -When all else fails he drags you to the dining room for tea and sweets -You’re a bit surprised he’d share his sweets with you, but you feel a lot better after sitting down and resting for a bit -It’s actually a rather relaxing afternoon, simply enjoying each other’s company and eating cake in comfortable, calming, silence
Subaru: -Doesn’t really know how to handle your stress -Like your stress is stressing him out -He’s never seen school as something too important or something he needed to take seriously so he’s in the dark here -Wants to offer but doesn’t really think he can help you much as far as academics go -Makes small gestures to help you relax and take your mind off things, even tried to make tea without Reiji’s help -He’s found that the best way for you to relax is to take a little walk through the garden -When it starts to get dark you two go out for a bit to admire the roses -He doesn’t mind sitting on the garden bench with you, stargazing -Will defiantly get flustered when you thank him for everything he’s done, and even more so when you gently lean your head on his shoulder