After a two-month break, Harry Styles is back on the road for his extensive world tour. The arena tour kicked off in Europe this week and fans in Asia have to wait a little longer until May to witness the Brit singer’s Gucci good looks and rock out to his number one solo album, unreleased tracks, old-school covers and 1D favourites that will sure bring back all the memories.
To keep your spirit aloft until then, we have an exclusive interview with the “Kiwi” singer himself, where he shares about life on the road as a soloist, how starring in Dunkirk helped him finish his debut album, plans for a followup record and more.
How does it feel to be back on tour, with your own band this time?
It’s exciting and definitely different. But I love doing new things and trying different things. I wasn’t on the road for a couple of years and now I’m back on it. Performing has always been my favourite part of being in music. I’m having a lot of fun.
What was it like last September when you did a show yourself for the first time?
It was one of the most nerve-racking things. During a show, there’d be a couple places where I have to do things or speak. When we played for the first time, I was very aware that I was on my own. So that was interesting. But I’ve really enjoyed doing that and tried to embrace it. It’s a lot of fun. I guess I enjoy the attention (laughs). It’s been good.
You’re going on an arena tour soon. Give us a clue of what it’s going to be and how it’s going to be different from 2017’s shows. Any new surprises?
I hope so! It’s important that every show, whether the venue is changed or not, gets a little bit bigger and better than the one before. Although I’ve toured before, this is the first time doing it on my own. And I’ve learned so much about what it is to perform on my own, to man a crowd with the show being me and the band. It’s been a big learning experience for me so going into the next one is a lot of things that I’ve learned that I didn’t know before. It’s always important to me that the show is good because I want people to come and, even if they aren’t necessarily the biggest fans of the music, have a good time and appreciate the show. It’s important to make sure the show is always growing, sharing more things and putting out some surprises, so I’m looking forward to working exactly what that’s going to be for each show.
What is your favourite track to perform on stage?
I think it’s probably “Kiwi”. It’s the one song that is so different live from how it is on the album. Every night I get different responses from the crowd and they’ve been so amazing every time that we play it. I love playing all the songs but I think “Kiwi” is the standout for me. Some of my favourite moments from the tour have been during this song.
You’ve written all the songs in this album. Where did you get the inspiration from?
When you sit down and write, it’s a combination of the stuff that you grew up listening to and anything you’ve ever heard. It’s hard not to be influenced by the things that you grew up on and what your parents listened to. That forms the basis of what you come to think what music is and what you hold as reference. And every time that you listen and like something that you haven’t heard before or work out that you don’t like it, that too forms what you’d want to make and listen to if it was yours. It’s constantly changing every time you listen to something. You use these influences in different ways.
Your album, with its grunge, country and Brit rock elements, is very different from what we heard from you previously. Is this the real Harry Styles or are we in for more sonic changes?
I think for a musician, an album represents a snap shot of time or where they’re at at that point. For me, I feel like it’s a lot of getting out stuff that I thought about in the past. The stories that I wanted to tell. The self-titled is an album that I wanted to make but didn’t necessarily know exactly how it would sound. I think it’s difficult to tell exactly how something’s going to sound. I’m sure the next one is not going to be exactly the same. It’s just as important to grow and learn new things as it is to have the foundation of who you are. There’s a lot of different sounds on this album and a lot of that is from how I was working out what my first album was going to sound like and what I would sound like as a solo artist. I’m excited to see what the next album brings. I don’t think it will be too crazy for our way but I also think it’s important to try different things. And I’ve learned a lot since the album came out, about what I’d do differently and what I like musically. Touring has been another different experience. I feel lucky that I get to take all of this into the next one. I’m very excited to see what comes after the end of the tour.
In the album-making process, was it like you taking the lead and making the decisions or everybody putting it together?
I worked with a couple of guys that I’d never worked with before. The thing is, when you’re writing, all my favourite stuff is usually honest, things that I feel like I connect with the most. The one thing that I wanted to do was be honest, and that is not always particularly easy to do when you’re going into a room with people you don’t know. To just open up and be honest about things that have hurt you and when you’ve made mistakes can be quite difficult when you don’t know people. So when I found a group of people that I felt comfortable doing that with, I knew from that point that I wanted to make the whole album with them. For some of them, it was their first time making an album as well, so I wouldn’t say it was like everything that I say goes, because it was like, we’re in a band and working it out. I was lucky that each person on the team had as much invested in the album and wanted it to be as good as I did. We listened to each other and talked a lot of things out. Ultimately, I have to perform it. It’s my words, so, to a degree, that gives me a bit of decision-making power. But we were very much in it together and we all wanted it to be great.
You’re known for your fashion taste and the fans love your outfits. What’s your favourite look and what goes into picking out an outfit?
In general it’s nothing crazy (his minimal T-shirt, jeans and sneakers he put on for the interview would testify). For the shows, it’s important to me that it’s fun. I want the stage to feel like what my music sounds like. Clothes are just another way of expressing myself and being able to do that with music and as part of the show makes it so much fun for me. I get to experiment different things. I just wear stuff that’s fun and that I’ll be comfortable in on stage and what I think looks right for the show.
Has your experience working on Dunkirk influenced your work ethic and artistry?
For months I’d always thought about what my record might sound like if I was ever going to make it on my own. I went through so many different thoughts that were overlapping and they became this mush. What the film let me do was to put music aside for a while, for five or six months, and not think about it. I’d never had that break from thinking about the album. By the time the filming finished, I was just grateful to not be swimming in freezing cold water anymore and to be writing songs. It felt like I was coming back to it fresh. You don’t really get that chance if you’re constantly thinking about music. It’s rare to have a restart button pressed. The film helped me in that sense.
The majority of your fans are young people, especially girls, for whom you’ve shown a lot of pride and faith in. How do you ensure they stay empowered and how do you help make the music scene a safe space for them?
I think music is and should be a safe space for everyone. I don’t see why that would or should ever exclude women. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have the support that I’ve had for all my time in music. I’ve said this before that it’s often young girls’ taste that is dismissed and I still really don’t understand that at all. Women and girls in particular are very much the future, our future. I feel very lucky to get to play in front of such amazing groups of strong women and men every night. It’s something that I feel very honoured and grateful to get to do. I think music is something that is so individual. Not everyone’s taste is the same at all. It’s something that can’t be taken away from you. That in itself is incredibly powerful.
From putting out an album to performing at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, 2017 was a huge year for you as a solo artist. What are the three most memorable moments?
Finishing the album was a big one for me. I’ve always really enjoyed writing music and being in the studio. This was the first time that I really got to immerse myself in the studio part of things. I had never got to make an album this way before. Making this album was one of the best times in my life. The people I worked with who I didn’t really know are now some of my closest friends. I fell in love with the studio side of music. When it was done, listening through it and realising it’s finished is definitely the highlight for me.
Seeing Stevie Nicks is something that I’d never forget. As a fan of hers and someone who grew up listening to her music, it was pretty crazy to get to perform with her at The Troubadour (an iconic venue in Los Angeles). When we sound-checked was probably my actual highlight. We were in an empty room and it was just me and her prepping the show. That was definitely special to me.
And lastly, just the tour in general. I have so much doing it. It’s so nice to get out and see people. People coming to your show is like the nicest thing that they can do for you. Not only do they get a ticket and come to the show, they also cheer for you if they like it. The whole experience is something that I can’t compare to anything that I’ve experienced. It’s the greatest feeling I could possibly imagine. I’m definitely looking forward to coming to Asia and do it again.
Any last words you’d like to say to your huge Asian fanbase?
A massive thank you for the support. It’s amazing to get to do this at any level. If I was just playing shows and putting music out in England, I would feel incredibly lucky, so the fact that I get to it and travel around and meet lots of amazing people is something I don’t know if I could ever top with anything else. I feel lucky to have the support of everyone who’s allowed me to travel this way and play shows. The fact that people are coming to the shows is amazing even when I have ten songs (laughs). I feel pretty amazing that I get to this right now. So thank you to everyone for the support you’ve shown me over the last few years. I’ve been truly blown away. Thank you so much for everything.