“How did you feel when you were alone in that hotel room, because you chose to be alone?“
Harry Styles is days away from releasing his solo album, and while the world of music anticipates his big debut, he revealed a preview of what it took to get there to Rolling Stone Magazine. In an interview that took place in early 2017, Harry speaks of being honest with his music, having time to live with it, and how there’s no room for judgment towards ‘young fans’.
2016, which the interviewer notes was the year of recognizing a lost world for many, it was a year of self-discovery for Harry. ‘For Styles, it was a search for a new identity that began on that bench overlooking London.’ He didn’t know what solo Harry would sound like and instead of rushing into it in a blazing glory, and burning out just as quickly, he set a goal and worked towards it.
The album would have ten songs, have more of a rock sound, and cover relationships. Pink, ‘the only true rock n roll color’ sets the visual aesthetic for the album, but also embodies the feeling. While some of the ideas changed over the course of a year, one word remained the same, and it’s the word fans of Harry have been waiting for. Honest.
It’s been outright said by Zayn, and hinted at by others, that the time the boys spent in their first chapter with One Direction was incredible, but not a true testament to who they were at the core of themselves. The most simple things, like facial hair, were dictated by ‘the powers that be’ and with tat being the case, the larger-scale things were too. Things like identity and a true sense of self were cloaked in character profiles of sorts – they all had a role to play and they did so, until they couldn’t.
The time spent in the band, for the boys, including Harry – was the most incredible time of their lives, but you can only play a part for so long. There isn’t a huge spot of disdain in their hearts for what they experienced together. Harry says that the hiatus was for the fans but also for themselves. This would give them time to not just explore new outlets in the entertainment world, but to find out who they were outside of the roles they played.
‘I didn’t want to exhaust our fan base, if you’re shortsighted, you can think, ‘Let’s just keep touring,’ but we all thought too much of the group than to let that happen. You realize you’re exhausted and you don’t want to drain people’s belief in you.‘
Everything Harry and the rest of the boys have said about the band at the core of what it was, them – together – has a positive connotation for the future. No matter how many outlets will sell that Harry hates, and always has, being part of One Direction, he cared about it too much to let it burn out. Instead, their hiatus was agreed upon, and the idea of a future together exists.
‘I love the band, and would never rule out anything in the future. The band changed my life, gave me everything.‘
For now and for the foreseeable future, however, Harry Styles is finally taking on the industry as Harry Styles, but fans shouldn’t expect much to change. While he’s being more honest and open in his music – he enjoys his life and the way he’s lived it with privacy – and doesn’t plan on turning into that heartbreaking rock star anytime soon.
‘More than ‘do you keep a mystery alive?’ – it’s not that. I like to separate my personal life and work. It helps, I think, for me to compartmentalize. It’s not about trying to make my career longer, like I’m trying to be this ‘mysterious character,’ because I’m not. When I go home, I feel like the same person I was at school. You can’t expect to keep that if you show everything. There’s the work and the personal stuff, and going between the two is my favorite shit. It’s amazing to me.‘
Having a personal life and space is something important to Harry, and something he’s always had thanks to his mom Anne, who he credits for so many things. Harry and his sister Gemma are smart and talented, dedicated and kind, and compassionate – the world would do better with more people like them.
‘Since I’ve been 10, it’s kind of felt like – protect Mom at all costs. … My mom is very strong. She has the greatest heart. [Her house in Cheshire] is where I want to go when I want to spend some time.‘
Harry also spoke about his parent’s divorce and how he just realized, in that moment, that he didn’t remember what he was told, but he does know that the love and support from both of them never went away. He spoke of his band, White Eskimo and a song they wrote about luggage, and his first girlfriend and how he recognized her scent everywhere.
Harry has a past full of incredible stories, and those stories have led him to the now, which is just as incredible as he looks into a bright and beautiful future. One way that is certain for Harry is that he won’t base his happiness upon ‘sales or chart debuts’. This album was something that he lived with, looked at like a fan, and was able to write in a way he’s never done before.
‘If all I get is to make this music, I’m content.‘
It’s also something different. Those who have heard it and Harry himself know the truth of that statement. It’s a reflection of the music he loved, but not a replication. He doesn’t want to write about an era he wasn’t alive for, he’s writing about his era and what has influenced that. Fans of One Direction were brought up, in terms of whether or not they’d like his new sound because it’s not the type of ‘pop’ on the radio. Harry jumps to defend fans, the interviewer actually says he becomes animated and makes a statement that only makes us love him more.
‘Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music – short for popular, right? – have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy? That’s not up to you to say. Music is something that’s always changing. There’s no goal posts. Young girls like the Beatles. You gonna tell me they’re not serious? How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage-girl fans – they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.‘
His debut single ‘Sign Of The Times’ was a reflection of his musical growth and how his sound is different than it was in One Direction, but it doesn’t discredit the band. He’s been able to grow with his new songs, they’re bound to be different.
‘Most of the stuff that hurts me about what’s going on at the moment is not politics, it’s fundamentals, equal rights. For everyone, all races, sexes, everything. … ?’Sign of the Times’ came from ‘This isn’t the first time we’ve been in a hard time, and it’s not going to be the last time.’ The song is written from a point of view as if a mother was giving birth to a child and there’s a complication. The mother is told, ‘The child is fine, but you’re not going to make it.’ The mother has five minutes to tell the child, ‘Go forth and conquer.‘
Harry’s first album being a reflection of love and relationships gets the most difficult topic out of the way for him. It’s not that he won’t still write about the emotion – have you heard the love songs he wrote for One Direction? He knows what he’s talking about. However, he’ll do so in a way he wasn’t able to before. This first album is a reflection of that.
‘The one subject that hits the hardest is love, whether it’s platonic, romantic, loving it, gaining it, losing it … it always hits you hardest. I don’t think people want to hear me talk about going to bars, and how great everything is. The champagne popping … who wants to hear about it? I don’t want to hear my favorite artists talk about all the amazing shit they get to do. I want to hear, ‘How did you feel when you were alone in that hotel room, because you chose to be alone?”
Harry mentioned, in a recent interview, that he doesn’t want to be seen as a womanizer, a fact long known by his fans. However, the Rolling Stone interview does ask questions about his past romances and he’s still tight-lipped. People are always willing to speak of his romances for him, however, and this one was no different. Harry himself says that he won’t ever tell everyone everything, but Ben Winston was happy to mention that Harry brought home A-listers when he was staying with him and his wife. Harry says he didn’t, ‘too scared of Meri’ (Ben’s wife). Regardless, Harry isn’t interested in talking about it, and we don’t think he ever will be. He holds love in a high regard, it’s not something he takes lightly.
“Sometimes you want to tip the hat, and sometimes you just want to give them the whole cap … and hope they know it’s just for them.“
Harry was asked about Taylor Swift and if he thought her songs ‘Out of the Woods’ and ‘Style’ were about him, he gives no hard yes or no answer but admits that her music is good and it’s everywhere. He also mentions tipping his hat to time spent together, ‘that’s the best shit ever’ he says.
Harry’s self-titled album was born out of love in Jamacia. The entire experience was a ‘get out of dodge’ move so that he could live with his music – and he did. Rolling Stone describes the experience and the environment perfectly.
‘At Geejam, Styles and his entire band were able to live together, turning the studio compound into something like a Caribbean version of Big Pink. They occupied a two-story villa filled with instruments, hung out at the tree-house-like Bush Bar, and had access to the gorgeous studio on-site. Many mornings began with a swim in the deserted cove just down the hill.‘
He also spent a lot of time with romantic comedies and it allowed him, and his band, to leave the island with incredible memories. One of those memories led to Harry in someone’s girlfriend’s dress making a toast. ‘I don’t remember the toast, but I remember the feeling.‘
The feeling seems to be what’s most important to Harry. He wants a well-lived life, he wants experiences, he want’s the bad as much as he wants the good, and he allows himself to take every little moment in.
Another thing that 2016 brought Harry was ‘Dunkirk’ his acting debut comes in the form of a Christoper Nolan film. That is another thing he doesn’t take lightly.
‘The movie is so ambitious. Some of the stuff they’re doing in this movie is insane. And it was hard, man, physically really tough, but I love acting. I love playing someone else. I’d sleep really well at night, then get up and continue drowning.‘
Harry exits the interview with another statement that embodies who he is. Dangerous heartbreaking rock star? Not a chance. He’s never wanted that sort of legendary life.
‘I always said, at the very beginning, all I wanted was to be the granddad with the best stories …? and the best shelf of artifacts and bits and trinkets.‘
That’s who Harry will be, years from now when life slows down, he’ll have the best stories and the unique trinkets and he’ll be happy. What a dream.