On Niall Horan, Blake Shelton, One Direction and Their New Album ‘The Show’

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The road from boy group fame to solo stardom is notoriously bumpy, but Niall Horan 2017 made the transition seem easy with his debut album “Flicker”. Avoiding One Direction pop for more earthy, singer-songwriter fare, the Irish established his own artistic identity, one hit at a time. Horan, 29, later broadened his audio horizons on “Heartbreak Weather,” but the film’s release coincided with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, and its promotion suddenly came to a halt.

With time in their hands for the first time in ten years, the pop star looked inside and began writing “The Show.” On her third album, due out on Capitol Records on June 9, Horan finds her revealing her feelings as she opens up about the challenges of love and adulthood. “If I had made this album four years ago, I probably wouldn’t have written some of these songs,” says Hitmaker. “The pandemic was a good time for me to think about everything that had happened so far.”

After the stillborn sophomore project wore off, Horan somewhat reluctantly returned to the studio. “I had just written a thousand songs, so I didn’t do anything for most of the early pandemic,” she recalls. He eventually sat down at the piano and wrote the title track of his third album. With its introspective lyrics and unconventional, low-profile production, “The Show” would go on to set the tone for the entire project.

“I wanted to say things I haven’t said before,” says Horan, acknowledging that dizzying ups and devastating lows are inevitable side effects of being human. “Writing a song like this gets you thinking about what else you should be grateful for.” It also encouraged him to be more vulnerable and open about his fears and anxieties for the rest of the album. “I’m guessing it’s pretty thoughtful,” he says, “but there’s some fun stuff in it, too.”

And often, darkness and light intersect – a gripping pop-rock song with a radio-ready chorus that also details Horan’s struggles with anxiety, as in the new single “Meltdown.” Exploring darker lands was new to the hit producer, and he turned to New Zealand producer Joel Little for guidance. “I’ve always been a huge fan of Joel’s work,” Horan says of the Grammy-winning artist, who has worked with superstars like Lorde and Taylor Swift.

Horan asked A&R to send Little a demo of “The Show”, and they were soon chatting on the phone. “We both agreed on how the song should sound,” Horan says. “I just knew he was the man.” Together, they added sub-developments to his sound, as evidenced by the anthem’s lead single, “Heaven.” “There are definitely more alternative approaches than we’ve probably had before,” Horan says.

Another notable example of this is the title “You Could Start a Cult”, which went viral when the track listing first came out. “This title was flying around,” he laughs. “I like the idea of ​​writing a love song with a dark, weird title.” The almost anxious reaction of the fans amuses Horan. “Everyone was like, ‘What is this?’ People haven’t even heard of it yet, and they think I’ve already started a cult.” [Spoiler: he’s not].

As happy as Horan is to shatter expectations, he hesitates to stray too far from his signature voice. “Obviously I make music for myself, but I never try to alienate,” the chart-topper admits. “I want the fans to enjoy it.” Ultimately, Horan sees “The Spectacle” as an exciting new chapter in a much longer story. “It’s just nice progress,” he says. “There’s nothing there to scare people off.”

Horan, who has been the center of attention since adolescence, has shouldered the burden of expectations throughout his entire adult life, and it hasn’t been easy. “It’s scary dude, but I’m not afraid to work a little hard,” she says. “I’ve spent a year or more on songs, so I want the best possible outcome.” But Horan is also smart enough to know that there isn’t much he can do. “You just gotta keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best.”

When asked if the commercial success of his One Direction bandmates has increased the pressure to release solo material, Horan pauses to collect his thoughts. “I don’t think so,” he says. “Everybody releases different kinds of music.” In fact, Horan seems genuinely excited about the success of his former cohorts. “A great watch as a friend. There is an unbreakable bond there and we always support each other.”

Horan’s tenure with One Direction has paid off since he signed on as coach for the final season of “.SoundAfter all, Simon Cowell mentored the band on the UK show “The X Factor,” which brought the concert full circle. “This is so weird,” he admits. “’Do I want to go back to this? Isn’t that something from my past?’ But then I thought, ‘Fuck it’. It’ll be a great laugh.’ It turned out to be a wise decision.

“I really enjoyed choosing songs, dealing with the artist and going to rehearsals,” Horan says.
“I didn’t enjoy making ridiculously difficult decisions and holding people’s futures in my hands.” When in doubt, he turned to veteran coach Blake Shelton. “As soon as I met the man I knew, I was going to get on well with him,” Horan says. “Absolutely hilarious and he doesn’t care one bit.”

With his commitments to “The Voice” fulfilled, Horan will depart for a 30-plus date US tour that will begin May 29, 2024, in Fort Lauderdale, FL. “That’s the best part of what we do,” he says. “Going out there every night, feeling that emotion, playing the tunes you wrote, hearing them being sung, there’s no emotion that can replace it.” When asked how he would squeeze three albums into a 90-minute set, Horan looks audibly stressed.

“There will be a rotating set list,” he says. “Your average arena show, how long, 90 minutes? This allows for about 20 songs. So I will rehearse a lot of songs and then choose as I go. While “The Show” will dominate the set list, Horan promises to steal jewels from his growing arsenal of lovingly crafted pop songs. “This is my public service announcement to people who like my album: please buy a ticket.”

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