‘…and then there’s me’
Sometimes, we are so wowed by people that we simply assume that they know the effect that they have on the world. It’s their brightness, their passion, their talent, their heart and we can’t fathom them not realizing their own greatness.
One of those instances is that of Louis Tomlinson. The Doncaster native turned worldwide sensation has given so much of himself to the music industry over the course of his career, but he tends to first think back on what he feels that didn’t give, or at least what he didn’t have the opportunity to give.
Fans of One Direction remember – not fondly – that Louis didn’t get solos during X Factor and that’s one of the first things we’re greeted with in his new interview with Observer Magazine.
‘You know I didn’t sing a single solo on the X Factor. A lot of people can take the piss out of that. But when you actually think about how that feels, standing on stage every single week, thinking: ‘What have I really done to contribute here? Sing a lower harmony that you can’t really hear in the mix?‘
The answer, even back then, was more than Louis could imagine. What did he contribute to One Direction? Everything! He brought a unique sound, a whisper of courage and confidence, song lyrics that fans have tattooed on their skin and painted on their walls, and the very thread that kept the band together so perfectly.
To add a little perspective, in numbers, Louis is One Direction’s most prominent songwriter with 38 songs written/co-written.
Louis won’t ever say that of himself, but he doesn’t need to, the proof is in the pudding – so to speak. What he does say next is something that’s bittersweet to hear. In the year before One Direction announced their hiatus, he was feeling the most confident he’d ever felt and he finally had his ‘groove’. So the discussion that led to the definite decision wasn’t one Louis took easily.
‘It wasn’t necessarily a nice conversation. I could see where it was going.‘
Louis wasn’t sure he’d have gone forward with a solo career at first. In all honesty, he thought he’d spend the hiatus writing for other people and keeping his label strong but then when the opportunity arose, a solo project was something Louis felt that he had to do.
It wasn’t one specific thing that helped him reach that conclusion, instead, it was a number of things. Four of which he shares during the interview.
Louis isn’t want to concede. He doesn’t specify to whom or what he’d have felt like he was conceding to, but it’s not hard to imagine.
He didn’t want to concede to critics, to naysayers. He didn’t want to concede to rumors and to those who willingly told them. He didn’t want to concede to any person who, even for one second, looked at him (or through him) and thought his worth wasn’t up to par with a man who deserves recognition or respect…or general human decency at all.
He didn’t want to concede to those who laughed at the idea of a solo career coming from the boy who wasn’t “good enough” to have solos or strong enough to lead verses and these terrible ideas weren’t just falsely put into the heads of the public, they were drilled into Louis’ head as well.
The boy who dusted himself off and went out for the X Factor three times. The boy who saw a fellow competitor immediately turned friend and asked for his autograph because he knew he’d make it. The boy who saw greatness in everyone, including himself, but was told he just didn’t add up.
Louis didn’t want to concede to himself. He didn’t want to let down the boy who had stars in his eyes, and he also didn’t want to concede to anyone who thought it was all just an impossible dream for him, and we’re so glad that he didn’t.
Louis talent, both as a singer and songwriter, stand out amongst so many people in music today and the fact that he found, after years of being told it wasn’t enough and months on hiatus where he questioned himself, the confidence to go through with a solo record and career during One Direction’s hiatus.
Louis also speaks about his mom, and he does so with the same love and adoration he’s always painted across his face when he speaks of the woman who was also his best friend.
There wasn’t a stronger pair or a mom and son that were more meant for one another. Johannah gave Louis the confidence he often lacked and, when necessary, kicked him in the rear and made him take this life for all it was worth.
‘I remember saying to her: ‘Mum, how the fuck do you expect me to do this now?’ And she didn’t swear much, my mum. She’d always tell me off for swearing. And this time she was like: ‘You’ve got to fucking do it, it’s as simple as that.’ It was football manager, team talk stuff.‘
Louis’ first performance after the loss of his mom looked anything but simple. The emotion he gave off during ‘Just Hold On’ was tangible, even to audience members watching at home – halfway across the world.
In the moments after the performance, Louis sent a kiss up to his mom, and it’s a moment that showed another measure of his strength. A strength she instilled in him.
‘Sometimes my reservation, or my confidence, might have prevented me from doing something. And I’ve needed a mum in the past to kick me up the arse and go: ‘You’re doing it.‘
Louis finished up saying that he’s enjoyed the opportunity to talk ‘super openly’ in this interview and although there were moments, many moments, that made us want to reach out and hug him, we’re glad we got to hear him speak so openly. We’re also hoping that with this interview and his new album – both revealing vulnerability and strength he’s not shown to this degree before, make people open their eyes to the treasure that we know Louis to be.
Some people interpreted his comments about his band mates as something dramatic, but that’s no big surprise. The one thing about One Direction that didn’t take a hiatus was the drama so often surrounding the band. We didn’t sense any of it as anything other than Louis being self-deprecating, and not for attention, but because he genuinely sees his band mates and friends as so talented and strong, personable and worthy of love – and he so often forgets that he is all of those things, too.