Congrats on being named Billboard’s Top New Artist of 2012. How does it feel? It’s been an amazing year for us. We’ve been having such a great time since when we first came to the U.S. It’s been absolutely crazy and amazing.
At this time last year, what was your outlook on 2012 and possibly cracking America? We looked at this album as a very big deal. It’s a good feeling obviously to work with everyone and put everything out with the team that’s worked so hard to get us this far. It’s been absolutely incredible.
I’m told you’re the music guy in the groups who’s always turning others on to new bands. What’s your personal taste like? I actually get a lot of music from my sister, who’s into all these bands. She’s been listening to and downloading stuff that I get from her.
A lot of times suggested stuff comes on iTunes I’ll have a look at it, or the fans will send me things. But I’ve been listening to The Lumineers. I love their album and also Elvis Perkins, he’s great.
You guys accomplished a lot in 2012, but what’s your personal highlight? For me the Olympics literally can’t be topped. Just the feeling of being in that room, all our families were there. The whole feeling was just unbelievable. What about performing at the VMAs, where you also won three awards?
There was something about being in the room and the whole kind of atmosphere that really surprised me. To be on that stage and perform was unbelievable. I think it kind of felt like people learned a bit more about the One Direction thing. It felt like we were making music where people of all kinds could appreciate.
You’ve got a concert film up next. What can we expect? We’re excited. I think we’ve had cameras on us for a long time, we’ve just been filming a lot of stuff. It’s just gonna be exciting to watch it back. Just to have the ability to be able to kind of look back at that while we’re older and to have your children see it will be amazing.
One Direction Q&A: Zayn Malik
For Zayn Malik, joining a pop group like One Direction was a blessing in more ways than one. The token “shy one,” Malik was a big R&B and hip-hop specialist before joining the group. “I had kind of pigeonholed myself a little bit, so I was very aware that the guys had different musical tastes. It really broadened my taste.” But Malik was anything but shy when he spoke at length about 1D being named Billboard’s Top New Artist of 2012 .
Congrats on being named Billboard’s Top New Artist of 2012. How does that feel?
It is so hard to put into words what 2012 has meant to us. Last year was an amazing year for us, but when our debut album went to No. 1 over here we were blown away by that. We didn’t expect any of the support to the kind of level we were getting out there in the UK. And then we come out eight months later with our second album over here and it goes to No. 1 again. Things like that don’t happen and we know that. We’re incredibly humbled by that. Wow, what can we say except for thank you to the fans who went out and bought it.
Did it surprise you that so many people are connecting with One Direction’s music? Because it’s kind of ballsy to be pure pop, not really chasing any genre trends.
I think that’s the amazing thing is we didn’t try to fit in anywhere. We needed to make a sound that’s not gonna fit in with everything else – we wanted to make something that was completely unique and individual to us. We spent a lot of time trying to make a sound that was a One Direction sound. At first it was quite hard to do that, but I’m really happy with the sound. I guess it’s just a new thing.
What about your personal tastes – what are you listening to lately?
You know what, I consider myself very lucky essentially – I was put into a pop group even though my musical taste was very niche before. I was literally listening to R&B and hip-hop and I thought that was the be all and end all of music. I had kind of pigeonholed myself a little bit, so I was very that the guys had different musical tastes. It really broadened my taste. I listen to a lot more different stuff now — Kings of Leon, The Script. I think there’s so many great bands out there I hadn’t really heard before and now I get to listen to them.
You guys do covers at your shows, including Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” at Madison Square Garden. Whose idea was that?
The idea came from Louis. He said ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ and the minute he said it everyone was like, “yeah let’s do it!” except for me. The boys were laughing. It grew on me, though. The initial idea of it, I didn’t know if we could do it but it worked.
I’ve been asking the boys about their roles in the band’s dynamic. What role would you say you play?
I’d call myself the mediator. I kind of just float around and do my own thing. I’m kind of chilled out, laid back. But whenever it gets into a rap session I’m always looking for something to do. I love to write. I’m kind of like a bit of everything wrapped into one.
You guys filmed a commercial with Drew Brees for Pepsi — did you know who he was before you filmed that?
Honestly, like American football is not that big over in the UK, so we hadn’t really heard of Drew Brees before. I did know that he was like a massive football player. He’s a massive star, so I was still a little bit anxious and nervous to meet him. I think Niall knew who he was. He was a really cool guy and quite funny – he was up for laugh. We just had a lot of fun on that Pepsi shoot.
There’s a lot of brands lining up to work with you, and you’ve already done deals with Hasbro, Nokia, Sharpie and even Colgate for singing toothbrushes. How do you deal with all the requests?
You know what, I think there’s always gonna be interest from people that might not actually fit your brand. And some people need to take in the endorsements just for the sake of taking them. We try to take ones that best suit us and do things we want to put our name to and just have a laugh. We try to choose things wisely as we can – we have a lot of help with management and stuff, but at the end of the day we’re still new to it all in the sense that we just try to do whatever’s good for us.
One Direction Q&A: Liam Payne
Liam Payne, 19, stands out in One Direction — for starters he has the shortest hair of the bunch, but behind the scenes he’s stepped forward as one of the band’s strongest musical assets. “He’s growing to become a great songwriter,” says writer/producer Savan Kotecha, who co-wrote many of the band’s biggest hits. Payne also has a refreshing realist streak when it comes to fame. “We know that this won’t last forever but we’re having a great time out here,” he told us recently. “It’s just about living in this moment.” Well, this moment involves being named Billboard’s Top New Artist of 2012 and we recently caught up with the singer to talk about it.
Congrats on being named Billboard’s Top New Artist of 2012. How does that feel?
It’s been incredible, but I think it’s a credit to the power of our fans more than anything. They’re an amazing force. We can’t believe, number one, that we played at Madison Square Garden the other night and that we accomplished something like that.
You’re about to gear up for a World Tour in 2013. Any sense of who might open up for you guys yet?
We’re quite excited to see who comes forward. We’re thinking about it. It was nice to have Ed [Sheeran] at the Madison Square Garden show, but I don’t think he needs any help. He’ll do tremendously well.
What about your personal tastes in music — what have you been listening to lately?
I listened to a lot of Jay-Z and Kanye coming up, which would be unexpected for a boy bander like me. But I’d listen to a lot of that, and a lot of Ed Sheeran actually. I never get bored listening to all the songs over and over. It’s a general mix I suppose.
The five of you contributed to the songwriting process for the first time on “Take Me Home.” How did that work with so many of you?
It was actually usually groups of three. It’s nice to have to have two people around. When you have more than two people working together it gets a bit unfocused as an idea. We tend to pair off a little bit. It was nice on this album because the room was laid out to write the songs. We’d work with a topline writer and just write about whatever we were thinking about that day.
What about the recording process itself — you had fans waiting for you outside, singing your old songs, while you were inside writing these new songs. Was that stressful?
It was crazy we only had a month or so to record the whole album, but we always felt like we had the fans on our side. They’re always anxious to know where we are even before I do. Like today, we’ve been staying at the Trump Hotel all week and they’ve been greeting us when we leave and when we come back. It’s good to see that level of dedication.
That kind of stuff is probably becoming more part of your daily life. Do you ever wonder what it will be like when it all goes away?
I’ve got a tattoo on my arm ['Everything I Ever Wanted, But Nothing I'll Ever Need'] to make sure I’ve managed to keep up with my family and friends and stuff. We know that this won’t last forever but we’re having a great time out here. It’s just amazing, I’m just really enjoying working for the money our whole year on tour. We’ve got the film and that stuff coming out next year, still loads of things. It’s just about living in this moment.
What about your personal music tastes – what are you listening to lately?
There’s a band called Passenger who’s got an album out at the moment that’s really, really good. It’s really acoustic stuff. They’ve got a song called “Let Her Go,” which I think could be a gig one.
You’ve had a lot of big accomplishments this year. What’s been your personal highlight?
For me it would be popping out the floor of that big stage at Madison Square Garden the other night. I think that would be my moment for this year.
One Direction Q&A: Niall Horan
Niall Horan is blonde, Irish and One Direction’s resident rock and roller. “He just bounces off the walls and has not changed one bit — he’ll always be Niall,” says writer/producer Savan Kotecha. Horan, 19, has also picked up a taste for country music while in the States (he’s a “big fan” of Lady Antebellum) and is excited about playing more acoustic guitar during the band’s 2013 tour. “Someone told me the smile on my face gets bigger when I pay the guitar,” on stage, he told us in a chat about being named Billboard’s Top New Artist of 2012 .
Congrats on being named Billboard’s Top New Artist of 2012. How does it feel to have had so much success so fast in America, and being the first British band ever to have their first two albums go to No. 1?
It’s been a massive year, but we felt like last year was a big for us, too. People were asking, what are your hopes for next year? And we said if we could have as good as year as 2011 we’d be happy, we’d be stoked. A big shock to us is what happened this year, having two No. 1 albums as you said in America. It just unbelievable. We can’t even believe how crazy it’s been.
You got a chance to celebrate with 40 of your biggest fans in New Jersey yesterday. How was that?
It was great because we hadn’t really been to that many countries. We’d been to Australia and Canada, America, a few places in Europe but we haven’t really been to that many. The places the people who came to see us from was just unbelievable. The album at the moment is No. 1 in 36 countries and the support has just been unbelievable. It was kind of nice to be able to just chill out. We kind of asked them, “how did you find out about us?” and it was through Twitter and YouTube. We owe a lot of our success to Twitter and YouTube and the fans spreading the word through there.
You also owe a good bit of debt to “The X Factor” as well, where the five of you had competed individually before forming as a group on the show. Was it Nicole Scherzinger that first suggested it?
Yeah, it was Nicole and Simon [Cowell] who came on and said they wanted to put a group together. They did a good job, I think
You’re signed to Simon’s Syco label. What’s his involvement been throughout this past year?
He’s been all over. He’s been really good for us – always looks after us. I’m sure I’ll be getting an email from him. If he’s heard something happened we’ll always get a congratulations or something. He’s been very supportive, obviously moreso for our music. Luckily enough we’ve never had to disagree. He gives us a lot of freedom and stuff that we want to do. He’s great, a good boss overall really.
“Little Things” seems to really be taking off among fans, and prompted you to change your plans to make “Kiss You” the next single. Do you think having an acoustic ballad out there will help you reach more people than just tween girls?
It’s broadening the audience for sure. I get a lot of dudes, a lot of moms and dads coming up and saying they love it. It’s great for opening people up at our shows. As you know, a lot of our TV performances are quite high energy. We want to just sit down and sign the song and show people what we are.
What about your personal tastes in music – what are you listening to lately?
We’ve been doing a lot of traveling in the States, and country music’s quite big over here, so I’ve been listening to a lot of that. It’s as big back home I’ve been listening to a lot of Lady Antebellum — I’m a big fan of them. And I think The Script’s new album is really good. I like stuff that’s a bit more guitar-y. I’ve got my old favorites like The Eagles and Bon Jovi. Tonight I’m going to watch The Who at the Garden. I’m kind of an old ’80s ’90s rocker.
And you play guitar yourself. Will we see you doing more of that going forward?
I played six or seven songs on the album and probably a lot more of them on the tour. It’s nice to do. I kinda get into my comfort zone. I like to just sit there on the guitar sing and play. Someone told me the smile on my face gets bigger when I pay the guitar.
One Direction Q&A: Louis Tomlinson
The elder statesman of the group, Louis Tomlinson, 20, is also known in inside circles as the defacto leader and resident perfectionist in One Direction. In our conversation about being named Billboard’s Top New Artist of 2012, Tomlinson doesn’t exactly dispute the labels. “I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I have to be kind of be on board with every minor detail and [I'm] quite opinionated,” he said. “It’s quite important for me personally to be involved with the whole project.”
Congrats on being named Billboard’s Top New Artist of 2012. How does that feel?
It’s absolutely amazing to have that kind of recognition in America. Obviously for boy bands it’s huge – it’s just so nice. To have this opportunity to come here and perform is amazing, nevermind who has been recognized so far. At the end of the day we’re having a good time. It’s almost a cliché but it’s so true — if anyone hadn’t bought a record we wouldn’t be here.
This week in New York is certainly quite the culmination of the incredible year you’ve had – headlining and selling out Madison Square Garden, hosting a global fan convention and playing the Z100 Jingle Ball.
This week’s been crazy, crazy busy but so much fun. We were all nervous that we were gonna be rehearsed in time [to play Madison Square Garden], then when we were finally onstage we got to relax.
Was it representative of what we might see from your 2013 World Tour, or was this more of a one-off?
That’s kind of the thing with our shows, loosening the reins. We don’t dance because we can’t dance. Our shows, production-wise, are always quite minimal. We always try and keep it more about us having fun and stay away from gimmicks.
Going into 2012, what expectations did you have about breaking America? Did it seem impossible, knowing the challenges other British boy bands had before you?
I remember the flight over here when we first came to America when we were supporting Big Time Rush, we were delighted we even had that opportunity. We said, “Let’s give it a go.” I remember we said as a band we would be really, really happy with a top 20 album – that would be incredible. When we came off that first show our management was saying, ‘This isn’t your show. You might not see the reception you were expecting so just prepare yourself.’ We went onstage terrified that people would be like, ‘Who are these blokes?’ We finally go onstage and we got an incredible reaction. And even at that stage we thought it was amazing that we’re getting recognized here. We had no idea how the album was going to go. We were lucky enough to get to No. 1.
And didn’t the fans at the Big Time Rush shows already know your songs?
Yeah the fans were chanting our names. They knew the words to the songs off the album that wasn’t even out in America. The album’s doing this and this on YouTube. They’re singing all the words on the album charts as well. It was amazing.
That kind of fan frenzy made recording “Take Me Home” difficult as well, because you had fans waiting for you outside the studio singing the words to the hits from the first album while you’re inside trying to create new ones. What was that experience like?
We were very blessed to have that when we recorded. We go to a show and a recording studio with 1,200 people — that makes you a little bit nervous. You want to leave everything a surprise, because the last thing you want is the fans outside to hear the new material. But it was cool.
You largely worked with a lot of the same writers and producers as you had on “Up All Night.” Why was it important to keep the same team this time out?
It was great but it was not as easy as you might think. It was great to have people like Carl [Falk] and Rami [Yacoub] and Savan [Kotecha] — we feel comfortable around them and obviously get better vocal performances. But at the same time we had the opportunity to work with Dr. Luke, which was amazing, and we had Julian Bunetta, who wrote some of my favorite songs. We’re in a very lucky position to be working with the people that we are. It’s not just a band who’ve had a successful album, it’s the producers as well.
Obviously One Direction’s music is very pop. But what about your personal tastes — what do you listen to?
My favorite music isn’t necessarily the songs that One Direction come out with. That doesn’t mean to say I don’t secretly really love some of our songs, which I do. My personal tastes.. I actually like quite a bit acoustic and more mellow kinds of things. I quite like American music, like The Fray, I’m a massive fan of them, and The Killers. I also like more acoustic stuff like Ed Sheeran, I like this English songwriter James Morrison and another singer called Ben Howard.
Do you have a favorite One Direction song?
Off the album my favorite is “Little Things,” or “Back For You” which we all wrote and feels quite band-y.
You guys are about to film a concert movie with Morgan Spurlock. What can we expect?
We’ve been documenting stuff for a long time actually, just because it’s important. We’ve had a crazy week and a crazy year — it’s important to document everything on the way really. I’m really excited about the prospect of the film, it’s a great chance to all get across our personalities. The fans do know them to a degree, but they’ll get a real chance to have a real insight on what our day to day is and exactly what we do.
Several people in your management and inner circle have described you to me as the unofficial businessman or leader of the group. Is that a fair assessment?
I’ve sometimes felt like that, but to be honest most of the time I’m the immature one who needs to be told to get focused. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I have to be kind of be on board with every minor detail and [I'm] quite opinionated. It’s quite important for me personally to be involved with the whole project.
It also probably helps that you’re technically the oldest one in the group.