Glass interviews Niall Horan

All eyes on Niall Horan – Glass spoke to former One Direction star Niall Horan about what it’s like after taking the plunge as a solo musician.  

You’d have to live under a rock not to know who One Direction are. They took the world by surprise and storm in 2010, and went on to do as much healthy damage a boy-band could possibly do in the six years following their formation. Irishman Niall Horan could never have predicted he’d become a member of the world’s biggest boy-band after appearing on the British television show, X Factor, and One Direction ignited an international hysteria which reshaped pop music as we know it today. 

Niall Horan carried the boyband baton for years while releasing new music and touring the world endlessly throughout his teenage life, but now at age 26, Horan has put down the baton to run an entirely different race. It’s one that’s required him to leave what he knows and dive straight into the deep end as he takes to the stage as Niall Horan and not Niall from One Direction. 


Niall Horan. Photograph: Ricardo Abrahao

Going solo is a move that many aren’t cut out for, but it was an obvious next step for Niall’s music career. Having learnt the guitar at 11 years old, and with bands such as Eagles and Fleetwood Mac at the forefront of his musical influences, he’d worked out the formula for writing catchy songs from a young age. Born and brought up in Mullingar, Ireland, Niall had a thorough exposure to Celtic music, which, he tells us, had a big impact on his debut album Flicker, on songs like On My Own, along with newer songs from his forthcoming album.

His strengths as a songwriter come from a self-confessed love of writing ballads and the rest is as simple as strumming a chord on the guitar or playing around on the piano. Flicker, which was released in 2017, was the debut album which many nervously anticipated. However, Niall passed the test with flying colours as we were gifted with songs like Slow Hands and This Town which showed us the mature inner dialogue of a young man in love; a huge juxtaposition to the adolescent lyrics of One Direction.

Having never performed on his own two years ago, Niall Horan has gone from a solo newbie to firmly finding his feet on stage. Now, gearing up for the release of his second studio album, Niall promises more ballads but suggests his sound will include more genre experimentation and a bigger focus on the guitar as an ode to his love for rock and roll.  

Glass sat down and spoke to him about how he found his sound as a solo act; who his dream collaborations would be, and where he sees himself in years to come.  

Two years ago, you’d never performed on your own before. Have you adjusted to that experience?
Yes, I would say I have adjusted well. I love being on stage in any capacity as that’s where I feel most comfortable. It was obviously a bit of a shock at first but I have my band up there with me and we all get on really well.  

We know a new single is on the way. What can we expect?
You can expect tempo for sure. I’ve been playing around with some cool sample and guitar sounds lately so, yes, expect big drums and crazy guitar. 


Niall Horan. Photograph: Ricardo Abrahao


How will new album be different to from Flicker?
The album will be the same in the sense that I will always have my love for ballad writing. I’m not amazing at showing emotion and I find that if something is on my mind, I can go sit at the piano or pick a guitar up and write about it. Where it will be different is, I’ve just gone and written songs and not worried too much about which genre they will fit in. My first love was rock and roll, so it will always have guitar riffs and stuff. I’ve just allowed myself to be more free with this record and it made the album albummaking process more fun. 

Do you have songs ready or do you write on the go?
I usually have a lot of concepts written down as I’m going, I’ll write stuff down in my phone or in my little book. I struggle to write on tour as there is too much of a routine there, and I just like to enjoy being on the road for what it is, versus, thinking about something else also. 

What triggers your creativity?
Always thinking of something. There is a piano in my living room and two guitars, so If I think of something I can just walk over and start playing. There is no real-time on creativity, you just have to let it happen.  

Who would you like to jam with that you haven’t jammed with before?
I’d love to jam/write with Bruno Mars. I watched him do a sound check at a Christmas show in LA one time and it was amazing to watch. He can play multiple instruments and to an extremely high level and his voice is obviously off the charts. Also I would love nothing more than to sit down and have a jam with Bruce Springsteen. He is the ultimate for me and it would be a real honour. 


Niall Horan.Photograph: Ricardo Abrahao

Do you have a formula to writing songs?
There’s a few ways I tend to start. I would normally have a guitar or piano riff of some sort. Other times, I would just start singing a melody or a lyric I’ve written and try match some chords up to it.  

Music or lyrics first?
Most of the time its music first then melody. 

Did Elton John really email you saying he liked Slow Hands 
Yes he did! Elton has always been a great supporter of mine and always gives great advice. You’ll notice than that Elton is always looking out for young artists and following their careers. He’s a great man and it’s amazing to have a music legend like him on the end of the phone whenever I may need him. Definitely don’t take that for granted, I’m so very lucky. 

The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac are some of your stated influences. Do you think these sounds transfer into your music?
Oh 100 per cent! The first music I ever listened to was the Eagles, the first concert I ever went to was an Eagles concert. Being a fan of both bands can only help my music. I’ll try and emulate some of their little nuances in my music and most of the time I probably do it subconsciously as its its all I’ve ever known.  

If you could curate your own dream music festival. Which three artists would you choose to headline dead or alive?
Oh that’s a hard one. Recently I’ve seen the Eagles, Fleetwood and Billy Joel at Wembley stadium all in one week and that was insane. All of my musical dreams came true in one week. 

I would have to go Bruce, Eagles and Coldplay. Random I know  


Niall Horan. Photograph: Ricardo Abrahao


Coming from Ireland, did you grow up listening to trad sessions? Does Irish music have any influence on your solo music?
Again it’s something that I’ve known all my life and its it’s naturally instilled in me. The 6/8 patterns is are something I pick up a guitar and play on a regular basis. You’ll hear it in songs like Paper Houses on my first album. Also songs like On My Own – it has a very Celtic feel to it – and the same with a couple of songs on my new album also.  I am a very proud Irishman and I got to showcase that in my music.

We know that 1D will eventually return to make more music, but what are your long-term goals for your solo work? Do you have long-term goals or are you just taking it day by day?
Once I’m making music for a long time at a high level, I don’t mind. When everyone is ready to do 1D again, I’ll be here. But at the moment I’m enjoying relative success on my own and it’s been so fun trying something new. Play it by ear and see what happens. I just love music. 

Your wiki page says you make folk-pop. Is this correct in your eyes?
Yeh in a sense I would say that’s right. My first album, apart from say Slow Hands, was singersongwriter/folky pop. This next stuff is a mix of rock pop and then the folky ballads.  


Niall Horan. Photograph: Ricardo Abrahao


What has been your most memorable gig to date?
Now that’s a hard question as I’ve done about 1,000 shows at this rate. With the 1D lads, playing Croke Park in Dublin and Wembley Stadium was amazing. Playing Red Rocks in Colorado on my own last summer was incredible. It’s a venue I’ve always wanted to play as the setting is unlike anywhere else we play. I hope I can do it again next year. 

What artists are you into at the moment?
I am loving my friend  Lewis Capaldi he’s smashing it. I’m a huge Billie Eilish fan. She’s a fucking rockstar and an innovator. I went to see  Dermot Kennedy at Glastonbury and haven’t stopped listening since Maggie Rogers, my label mate, is amazing. Her record is one of my favourites of the last couple of years. I also love Maribou State. 

Who do you think out our most talented songwriters are of this generation?
There’s no doubt that my mate Ed Sheeran is the best of my generation. He’s the most prolific writer I’ve ever seen. Everything he touches turns to gold and he’s an absolute gentleman.  

by Katrina Mirpuri  

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