when he finally felt confident, when he finally started considering himself good enough, they decided to go on hiatus and i can only imagine how much painful this should have been for him. i hope he gets everything he wants now, because he fucking deserves it. louis is a really good guy, a talentend and a lovable person, i really can’t imagine not stanning him, because he is a shining star.
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 Loves! Here’s quite a long imagine for ya. Its kind of my interpretation of the song, so a little bit different from the story the lyrics tell. Enjoy!
(for those who don’t know/aren’t familiar, the term “kiwi” is a term for people from New Zealand, kind of like “aussie” is for Australians)
Disclaimer: included swearing/cursing towards the end.
It was the call that hurt Harry the most. It was all the weeks, months and days you two had spent together, and it was all jumbled together in one crackly, long distance call. To be fair, the gap between you was very present. He was hard to track down, constantly travelling from place to place. And you were in New Zealand, just like you always had been.
When you first walked into the studio all those many months ago, Harry nearly fell off his chair. He was in New Zealand for a bit of time while he was on break. The small country attracted him, its peaceful serenity was calming in his hectic life. You were calming. Harry always said that it was your laugh that made him fall, literally and metaphorically. The minute you walked into the small box-like studio and saw the shocked faces from the several nearly 6 ft men, you just couldn’t help yourself. It was a cackle, and it made everyone who was near you light up. It was infectious. Harry was stunned, and his dimply grin broke forth. From that day on, he was undeniably infatuated. People thought he had been drugged. He had in a way. You were his drug, and he just couldn’t get enough of you.
His large hands were constantly running down the dip in your back or resting on your knee. His green eyes always followed you, and his mouth drank you up. You had never really thought you were pretty. Sure, being a social butterfly, people were always around. You like your hair, and your smile wasn’t shabby. But Harry was mesmerised, and everyone could see it.
New Zealand was your oyster. After weeks upon weeks cooped up in the tiny studio, working on a billion different songs, cabin fever was growing. So you and Harry loaded up your ageing Ford Focus and drove for as long as you could. His ringed fingers tapping along to the beat of the radio, and your voice singing to the mountains. It was a good life, Harry decided. The endless green hills and ocean went on and on, and cheesy as it may sound, so did your love.
They say that every relationship has a honeymoon period. At the time, you were both completely locked at this stage, But life goes on. You started to get tired of Harry coming back home at 4 in the morning, mumbling a “hey love” before collapsing on the queen sized bed in your apartment. You started to hate the paparazzi, their beady cameras scanning your body. You couldn’t even go to the supermarket anymore without being photographed. You started to despise how Harry’s days and nights were spent away. You hardly ever saw your boy anymore.
Harry knew you were upset with it all. He was always empathetic towards you, at times he really felt like he was living through you. But there was only so much his brain could hold. It seemed like he just didn’t have enough space for you anymore. The nights were either filled with shouting, or angry sex that neither of you enjoyed. The only time you could really look at Harry without wanting to argue was when he was sleeping. His eyes closed, dark lashes gently resting on his cheeks. Pink lips slightly parted, forehead smooth. It was the Harry you remember falling in love with.
You knew and Harry knew it was never gonna last. It was a Tuesday night, and the house was still echoing from your biggest fight yet. You lay curled up on the bed, staring at the ceiling, the words that rocked your world still vibrating in your ears.
“You are so fuckin annoying! I never have any peace anymore, you just nag nag nag at me every fuckin minute of every day!”
“Well, what the fuck do you want me to do Harry? I know shit all about what’s going on and I’m sick of it! You’re out all bloody day. It’s like you don’t give two shits anymore!”
He looked up at you sharply then. You had been sitting on the edge of the couch, and he had been lying on the floor by the TV. You remember his eyes flashing. They normally looked at you with so much love and emotion, but you couldn’t remember seeing any of that. There was just pure raw anger. He had got up and stormed into the kitchen. You just had to get off the couch and follow him. Looking back now, that was such a stupid fucking decision.
Harry had been pushing through the freezer before noticing you. He had straightened up, mouth set in a firm line. “You’re damn right. Maybe I don’t give two shits anymore. Maybe I want to be in England or LA right now with my friends, or loving some other girl and having the time of my life. But I’m here, aren’t I?” You lost it then. You always had a fiery temper at the best of times, but there was something about his words that made your voice come out quiet, cold and hard.
“There’s nothing stopping you ya know. It’s not like you have a girlfriend that loves you or cares about you. It’s not like you have a girlfriend that’s given up her whole fucking life to live with you. It’s not like you have a girlfriend that wants to marry you someday!” There were tears streaming down your cheeks at this point. Fingernails cutting into your palms as you clenched your fists. “You were my fucking saviour Harry. I thought you were always gonna love me.”
Harry paced over to the front door of the apartment, grabbing his coat off the dining room table.
“Well, I guess you thought wrong then, didn’t ya love?”
With those dreaded words, the wooden door slammed. The bang clouding your ears as you had slid to the ground sobbing. After about 2 hours, you had gone the bedroom you shared with Harry. That’s where you were still, laying there, just breathing.
You expected Harry to come back. He expected himself to. And he tried. Every night he would let himself into the apartment, just to grab his things. At least that’s what he told himself. He always got stuck. Sometimes it would be because you had fallen asleep on the couch with the TV still blaring Call the Midwife. He would watch the light flicker over your face, before picking you up and placing you gently in bed. Sometimes it would be because you had fallen asleep in his walk-in wardrobe. Weird as is sounded, it was because you had been cuddling his colourful shirts, pretending they were him. At first, Harry laughed at this. But the more and more he found you asleep in the wardrobe, the more he found himself with tears running down his face. He missed you. So much. And it was always with regret that he left you, asleep in the quiet apartment.
You knew he came every night, but you never willed yourself to stay awake, and you didn’t quite know why. But the weeks went by, and Harry gradually stopped coming. It could have been he had retrieved all of his things. But you knew and he knew the crowded apartment was still filled with his belongings. It could have been the fact that his friends and family were getting fed up with his moping, and finally decided that it wasn’t healthy. And it could have been the fact that he had finally got over his kiwi.
You had seen the magazine articles. Harry was finally back in London and causing a raucous. You on the other hand, and found out about the baby a couple of weeks ago. Harry’s number stayed cemented in your phone. It took your mum to finally knock some sense into you, saying that maybe you should tell the father of the child that he actually is going to be a dad. So you called. When the ringing finally subsided, and Harry’s voice came over the speaker, telling you to “leave a message, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks.” it almost broke you. But finally, after many coffees and pep talks, a message flowed from your lips.
“Hey Harry, it’s me. Been a while huh? Wasn’t going to call you at all, but Mum persuaded me. She’s always been a fan of yours. Charmed her right to the bone. Anyway, just thought you should know. I’m having your baby. It’s none of your business, but it is technically half of you, so best you know. You don’t need to care for the kid or send money or anything like that. We’re gonna be just fine without you. Just like I have been. So just leave it, ok? So yea, kinda dropped a bomb there didn’t I? Have fun living your life being a rock star. Don’t call back. Bye”
It was those words that made Harry’s healing heart explode.
hOLY SHit! This has been sitting in my notebook for a while now, so it’s a bit overdue. I’m kinda thinking of doing a part 2, so pretty please let me know if I should! Lots of love xxx
You don’t audition twice/three times, seek a review from Simon Cowell and put your shit on YouTube without some balls.
You don’t ham it up on live TV and interviews, become the impromptu leader/spokesperson of a supergroup and make a few enemies along the way without a strong personality and presence.
You don’t write a shit ton of songs, start a mini label and reach out to artists to collaborate without some courage and conviction.
You don’t have that devil may care, head strong, rebellious and honest voice without some personal swagger.
You don’t openly admit your shortcomings, your weaknessness, your vulnerabilities without a lion heart.
Those of us who love and respect him do so because he treads that line between raw/real and polished, sensitive and strong, light and dark. He’s sharp and talented and cunning and self aware and he’s always used that fire inside to get ahead.
He’s got a lot to prove to himself, the industry, 1D fans and the general public. But the fact that he’s decided to go for it, publically and honestly, is so damn amazing.
Some aspects of that article did make me emotional and empathetic, but they also just made me proud. ❤
I just got the chance to read Louis’ interview for The Observer and I want to say that I love, respect and admire that man so much.
He deserves the world and I sure as hell will do my damn best to give it to him.
He is so brave, generous, kind hearted, intelligent, outspoken, TALENTED.
I feel so unbelievably proud of him right now: for all his accomplishments, for being such an inspiring human being and an outstanding role model.
I hope he knows he is so, so loved and I’ll do everything to remind him how much he means to us every single day. 💙