No rivalry in One Direction

Niall Horan has two singles, This Town and Slow Hands, to his name.
Niall Horan has two singles, This Town and Slow Hands, to his name. PHOTO: UNIVERSAL MUSIC SINGAPORE

Singer Niall Horan, here for a private showcase, says the band members act as sounding boards for one another's music releases

It does not take long for One Direction singer Niall Horan to shut down speculation that the members of his pop band, which is on hiatus, are not close to one another.

In town yesterday as part of a promotional tour of this region, he says "we talk all the time", adding that they have an e-mail thread running.

"The media usually likes to create rivalry between us, but it's great that they can't because we're all releasing different types of music," Horan, 23, says, referring to the music they have released individually since the popular band took a break last year.

The Irishman - who has two singles to his name, This Town and Slow Hands - is in the Asia-Pacific region for a whirlwind promotional trip and was scheduled to play an exclusive showcase yesterday for selected fans and invited guests.

Horan adds that he and the others in One Direction act as sounding boards for one another's new music.

"I've heard Liam's new song and Louis' stuff, and they've heard some of mine," he says, referring to band members Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson. "It's good to have that because we will be honest with each other if we don't like it, especially because we've done that for so many years."

Payne, 23, has gone for more of an urban sound; Tomlinson, 25, has released an electronic dance music single with DJ Steve Aoki; and Harry Styles, 23, the only member so far to have released a full-length album, went for a decidedly rock sound. Zayn Malik quit the band in 2015 before releasing the album Mind Of Mine the following year.

Horan declines to reveal details about his upcoming album other than a hint that it might be released in October or November.

His first single This Town is a slower, acoustic-guitar driven number, while Slow Hands is a groovy, sexy number. But he insists that the latter is the outlier on the upcoming album.

"Slow Hands is probably the most out-there song on the album, but the rest of it is quite chilled out," he says.

"I already had all the nice, fingerpicked guitar stuff and the more mid-tempo stuff, but it was missing that kind of sexiness - that early 1980s funk rock that I'm kind of into as well."

That said, he did not find it difficult to decide on the style of his album.

"I wanted to make the album that came most naturally to me and not have to overthink the sound," says Horan, who admits he wishes he had written Styles' Two Ghosts, since the rock ballad is "right up (his) alley".

There is also a track in his upcoming album with "more of a country feel to it" and what he describes as a poignant song, his favourite on the album, which took only three or four takes to record. "Everyone was starting to tear up and no one said a word to each other for 20 minutes because we couldn't believe what we'd just done," he says.

Horan also relished being able to work in a studio with a live band, instead of making an album on the road with One Direction in hotel rooms, a process that was chronicled in the documentary concert film This Is Us (2013).

"Giving myself the time to make the album, and being in the studio and having control over absolutely everything that happens - every sound from every drum, every guitar - has been amazing," he says, his bright blue eyes lighting up.

Another perk of not travelling with one of the biggest boybands in the world has been to be able to step out of his hotel room and see the countries he visits, something he says "has kept (him) sane".

"Before, when we did promotional trips, there'd be lots of fans outside the hotel and you're stuck in the hotel, letting the anxiety build up of how you can't get out of the room.

"All you'd end up knowing (about a country) is the ins and outs of the gym, spa and swimming pool," he says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2017, with the headline 'No rivalry in One Direction'. Print Edition | Subscribe