Niall Horan Exclusive: "The Show was informed by the biggest life experience we've ever had"
Niall Horan has been an Official Charts mainstay for well over a decade: first as a member of era-defining boyband One Direction; then as a solo artist who blends pop, soft rock and folk into inescapable bops like his recent Top 20 hit Heaven.
That chart-conquering song comes from his third solo album, The Show; a charmingly-melodic collection of guitar-led tunes out today. In an equally-charming interview, Niall talks about how the pandemic affected his songwriting process and outlines his aims for his latest album campaign.
Niall, The Show is finally out there. Does releasing a new album ever get easier? Do you still get nervous?
It's the biggest cliché, but as an artist, when you've been away for three years, the nerves kick in even more. Because you just don't know [how it will be received]. Obviously I've got a strong fanbase and they'll be there. But you want them to like what you're putting out there. And a lot of shit has happened in that three years, hasn't it?
Was any song on the album more difficult to write than the others?
Heaven, to be honest with you. I was singing the first two lines of that chorus for about two or three days! And then it was like, "What is that? Am I singing a lullaby?" Like, I don't know what it is. And then, after days of me singing that, one of the lads just started playing the opening guitar and I was like, "That's exactly what it is."
Sometimes you need to hear a music [part] for it to match up, but it took a while to get to that point – like, you rack your own brain to get to there. And you've probably been past it six times already.
Was there a particular life experience that stuck while you were writing this album?
The pandemic. To be honest, that's the biggest life experience we've ever had. I don't want it to be "my pandemic album", but a lot of the concept came to me during that [time], when you're sat around just, like, listening to your own thoughts all the time. It just felt like a bigger thing. You know, [as musicians] we're used to getting out and about and writing stories about things that happen on a daily basis. But when you're just sat in your living room, you don't have any of that, so it's more introspective. And yet, the thoughts end up getting bigger because of that, too.
Did the way life kind of just stopped affect your creative process?
Massively, because it was the first time probably since 2011 where I actually had time off. Like, it was obviously annoying because I would love to have toured [my last album]. But in hindsight, now, it made this album better because I had time to think. They always say that you have your whole life to write your first album and, you know, a few weeks to write your second. So it was good that I had that amount of time to make the third and I think you can hear that I've taken time over it.
What was the starting point for the album?
I felt like this time I had a solid concept. When I was going into [the creative process], The Show was the first thing that I'd written down. And it became the kind of through line for the record. And so every time we sat down to write a song, I would stick to it and that bigger thought would be in my head instead of [in the past], where I would sit and play the guitar and write like a heartbreak song. That's the singer-songwriter in me, I suppose, but this [album] is a bit more of the bigger picture stuff.
You've achieved so much and ticked a lot off your bucket list. But is there anything you particularly want to achieve in the next couple of years?
I never really set long-term goals. At the end of the day, if the album goes well, I just want to be in the conversation around different things – like, when the BRITs [nominations] come around. And you know, the bigger the [live] show, the better for me. I struggle with the smaller ones. And obviously a Number 1 album would be nice, too
Niall Horan's new album The Show is out now via Capitol Records.
Article images: Zackery Michael.