It's been a wild ride for One Direction, the boyband formed by Simon Cowell himself on last year's UK X-Factor. After finishing the competition in third-place, the group soared to the top of the UK charts thanks to their strong singles and debut album Up All Night, and in the meantime gained some hefty internet buzz. Next up for the boys is a North American tour beginning February 24th and the US release of Up All Night on March 20th.
MetroLyrics had the chance to sit down with One Direction member Niall Horan to discuss the whirlwind success of the band, his musical inspiration, and a bit of a celebrity crush (*cough* Demi Lovato *cough*).
ML - What's the ride been like going from an audition on the X Factor to a Brit nomination to a full North American album release?
NH - We've done a lot in a year, but it's gone by so fast you don't realize what you've done. We've been nominated for a Brit Award which is literally amazing. After a year, no way did we ever expect for any of this to happen — to have a #1 single, to have a #2 album, and obviously we're coming to America to give it a go. It's been a crazy year.
ML - So you haven't really had a chance to soak it in at all yet then?
NH - Every now and then you have like a realization moment where you get goosebumps and think, "I am literally the luckiest person in the world." I had it last night. We're on tour at the moment around the UK and Ireland and we played in Dublin last night. I was standing in the biggest arena in the country, in front of 12,000 people, and they were all screaming my name, and it's just like, what the hell is going on here?
ML - What do you think makes your fan base so dedicated?
NH - I think our fans are a bit like us — they're very fun, like to have a laugh, like to party. I think that's what comes across on our album as well. It's very fun. It's music that you could play at a party, but it also deals with teenage relationships.
ML - What was your life in music like before the X-Factor? Did you play any instruments growing up?
NH - I played the guitar since I was like 11, 12, so I'm big on the guitar. I like to write music on it.
ML - I noticed that you have a songwriting credit for the song "Taken" on the album. What was it like contributing to the writing?
NH - I always like to — I'm not a very good lyricist, but I like to write chord patterns on the guitar. We wrote that song with Toby Gad. He wrote "If I Were A Boy," "Big Girls Don't Cry," those kind of songs, so it's a pleasure to work with people like that.
ML - Do you have a favourite line from the album? Favorite line that you sing?
NH - "Cause your friends, they look good, but you look better."
ML - What song is that from?
NH - It's from the song "Stole My Heart."
ML - I saw an interview where you and the band interpreted the lyrics to your lead single "What Makes You Beautiful" as "You're hot, and you don't know it." Tell me one person in real life who that could apply to.
NH - Ummm... there's no one like that in my life at the moment, but you see a lot of celebrities like that. You know Demi Lovato? She's hot and she don't know it.
ML - Is there an artist you look up to for musical inspiration? Role model?
NH - When I was growing up, I was a big Swing [music] fan, so I'm big into Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and nowadays it's [Michael] Buble. Buble is a big inspiration for me because he has a great voice, can write a song, has a great ear for music, and demands your attention when he's performing. As a performer myself, I kind of look up to him.
ML - Kelly Clarkson and Ed Sheeran contributed to the songwriting on your album. Did you get a chance to work with them at all during that process
NH - Yeah, we're quite good friends with Ed. We always hang out with him. If you listen to Ed's album, you'll know that he is one of the best lyricists I've ever heard in my life. He knows how to string words together like you wouldn't imagine. We were very lucky to work with him. He wrote a song with us for our album called "Moments." He's very up and coming. He's gonna be big himself.
With Kelly Clarkson I think that the song that she wrote for us could've been her first single off of her new album as well. It's another perfect example of a good songwriter.
ML - Yeah, your album boasts a pretty stacked roster of talent.
NH - Yeah, we were very lucky. When you have Simon [Cowell] — you know, Simon's very good at getting people involved. He's very persuasive. [We worked with] Red One, Toby Gad, Kojak — all these big, big producers. These guys are massive in terms of songwriting and producing music.
ML - Coming up on your album's release in North America, are you feeling the pressure or is it more excitement than anything?
NH - Well at the moment it's very exciting. We've had to go to America to promote the concerts by going on TV shows and doing radio. When the album comes out, it's going to be nerve-racking, especially if we put loads and loads of work into it and people don't grab onto it. But at least [we'll be able to] say we gave the [United] States and Canada a crack. Hopefully it all works out.
ML - What's it like being compared to groups like Take That, N'Sync and The Backstreet Boys?
NH - It's absolutely incredible to even be put in the same sentence as these guys. These guys have sold an endless amount of albums. Hopefully we can emulate a tiny bit of their success because if we were to get anywhere near that it would be a very big achievement. Hopefully we can do something like that. As you said, a [boy]band hasn't really made their stamp on the Western World [recently], but hopefully we can go out there and people like us and like our music and get what we're about.
Watch the video for the band's breakout hit "What Makes You Beautiful":