By JOSH DUBOFF NOVEMBER 8, 2017 Niall Horan—formerly known as “The Blonde One,” or perhaps “The Irish One,” in extremely popular […]
NOVEMBER 8, 2017
Niall Horan—formerly known as “The Blonde One,” or perhaps “The Irish One,” in extremely popular boy-band One Direction—is now a genuine star in his own right. Even as several of his previous bandmates have pursued a more traditionally “pop” sound with their solo endeavors following the group’s breakup, Horan, 24, has traveled in a more folksy direction, his songs more Mumford & Sons or John Mayer in vibe than might have been expected.
And audiences seem to be liking what they are hearing from Horan. Two singles from his first album—“Slow Hands” and “This Town”—hit the top 20 on the U.S. charts, and his album, Flicker, debuted at No. 1 after its release on October 20. Horan—who will soon tour the record—is also enjoying other benefits of solo pop stardom: Wilhelmina Models has signed Horan as a client, adding the singer to their list of other artists who now double as models (including Nicki Minaj, Shawn Mendes, Maren Morris, and more).
Vanity Fair spoke to Horan about the new demographic of his fan base, which celebrities he sees as his personal style icons, and how he handles the incessant gossip items written about him.
Vanity Fair: What did it feel like when the album hit No. 1? How did you find out, and what was your first reaction?
Niall Horan: Yeah, I was a bit nervous because Future and Young Thug, I think it was, they dropped a surprise album [the same week]. You know, when you get all these plans together for months and months, myself, and the label, and my management, and all of that, we come up with all these plans, and then [there is a surprise album] . . . I started freaking out. I was a little bit worried about it. But, [the sales] got off to a really good start. Then when I saw the mid-week [numbers] were flying ahead . . . but I was a bit nervous all week. Then, yeah, I found out officially on the Sunday, I think it was. I was in Philadelphia, and my manager come over and shook my hand, and just said, “It’s official.” So it was a bit of a sense of relief, and it’s a little bit a sense of pride in myself having written all those songs, you know, myself. And to have them go No. 1 as a collective in the most powerful music market on the planet is a very, very nice feeling.
Did you get a chance to celebrate at all?
Yeah, I got all of my crew together in New York. There’s 20 of us on the road right now including all of my techs and production people and my band. I just took everyone out for dinner. I’m not one to go crazy celebrating. I’m on a bit of a tour right now, and after I got the No. 1 I nearly wanted to go and write the next [album]. I got a goal right here. So, I don’t know, I just kinda keep my head down. It’s my first album. Everyone was a bit excited, you know. Everyone’s excited about it and stuff like that, so I’ll try and do my best on the next one.
Do you like checking in to see what people, and your fans, are saying on Twitter, Instagram, social media? Do you take time to look at the comments?
Yeah, I’ll have a little look initially. I don’t get too deep into it, but I do like to see if people are liking what they’re seeing or hearing, but I don’t overthink stuff. I’m not gonna change the way I post stuff or whatever. Yeah, I just kinda go about being my normal self, and hopefully people like it.
What kind of reaction have you gotten since the album’s out? Have you been surprised with how people have responded to things?
Yeah, I think it’s quite an old-school sound. I noticed at the gigs that it’s a different kind of demographic in a way. There’s a lot of dudes my age—you know, older guys as well and older ladies. It’s not all just what you might expect from the typical show of mine. I think it’s kinda changed up a little bit with the style of music that I’ve been making, but that’s exactly what you want. You want to open it up to all different types of people and invite everyone down. So it’s nice to have newer fans as well.
When you were working on putting Flicker together did you have inspirations or albums in mind?
Yeah, well obviously I have my inspirations, and if I’m stuck somewhere writing a song, and I’ll think back, what would Don Henley do? Or, what would Dylan do? Or, what would Billy Joel do? Or Stevie Nicks? I kind of look to that for inspiration, but yeah, I wanted to make an album that came as natural as possible to me, and the kind of stuff that comes natural as possible to me is from my old-school references and inspirations.
Are there other songs or artists that are out right now that you are really loving?
Sam Smith’s new album. I’d obviously heard a couple of bits and pieces [before it came out]. We’re on the same label. But, hearing it as a collective, hearing his story, and just hearing his voice, and how talented the guy is. He’s just unbelievable. He’s kinda one of those people who can’t put a foot wrong really. But, yeah, he’s doing great.
Do you ever feel competitive with other artists out there?
I think it would have been very easy for me to go and make a straight pop record. I think that’s what people probably would have expected, but I wanted to make an album that came the most naturally to me. I was kind of hoping, fingers crossed, that with how competitive today’s music market is, and the types of music that are in the charts, that my stuff would hopefully stand out in a good way. But, yeah, I’m not really competitive with other artists because we’re all making different types of music. It’s just depending on what people are into at the time. I think that’s why songs like “Slow Hands,” for instance, did so well. I think it’s because they stand out in the crowd amongst all the other stuff that’s going on. So it’s been an amazing year for me.
Had you been wanting to explore modeling?
Well, to be honest, no, not really. Obviously, I’m into the fashion side of things. I think it’s part of our culture, and what we do, and my job. I just kind of like fashion in general. I wouldn’t say I was a model. I’m far from that, but obviously Wilhelmina thinks different. It’s gonna be fun to see what happens. Now that it’s been put in front of me I’m just really excited about it to be honest.
What’s your personal approach to fashion?
I’ve got a couple of different styles that I like. If it was possible to transport easily I would wear a suit every single day I think. I love getting into a suit. I like a slick suit. Any chance that I get, not often, but any chance that I get to go to a red carpet, I kinda relish the fact that I might have to wear a suit or whatever, and get into the design of things. I would say I was pretty casual, but with a bit of a twist to it, and I sometimes can be quite folky and rootsy in what I wear. A lot of boots, and hats, and shirts. Yeah, quite basic, simple but effective type stuff.
Are there other artists or actors that you have kind of looked up to in thinking they always look really great?
I suppose David Beckham gets it right pretty often. He’s pretty cool looking. Yeah. You know, I’ve seen shoots with Ryan Gosling’s looks and stuff, some acting shoots and stuff like that, and he’s always looked pretty rootsy. I’ve always kinda looked up to him. I like Bruce Springsteen. It’s cool and simple. Obviously Bruce is a lot more ripped than I am. He’s, what, 68 years old or whatever, but he’s holding it together very well. I mean he looks great. I’ve seen him in Broadway recently. He just looks shredded still, and he pulls off the most simple stuff really well. James Dean, people like that are quite cool.
Could you ever see yourself getting into acting as well at some point?
To be honest, I’ve never really thought about it. I am quite impatient so a lot of that waiting around between takes would absolutely kill me. But still, you know, I never thought that I’d be signing to a modeling agency, so I don’t know. Obviously if the right thing came around I’d give it a look, but I doubt that they’ll be coming and knocking at my door. I’d probably have to go looking for them.
Having people writing about your personal life, and the gossip items, is that something that you’ve gotten more used to over time?
Yes, I guess it does come with the territory. I’m quite carefree. I know what I’m like. I know who I am. I would say I was a pretty decent fella. They can write what they want, to be honest. I don’t really care. I never have been one to worry about things too much. You can’t walk down the street with a female without it being written about. I’ve just kinda given up caring. If they ask me [personal] questions, you know, it’s a bit silly. So yeah, they kinda can write what they want. That’s their job I suppose. They’ve got a job to do. I’ve gotten past the point of caring.