Interview: Louis Tomlinson Talks “Kill My Mind” & Debut Album
After experimenting with everything from EDM to acoustic ballads, Louis Tomlinson finally found his sound on “Kill My Mind.” The just-released single is a throwback to the fuzzy, indie-leaning pop/rock of the ’90s and early ’00s. Which is not a coincidence given that it was inspired by the bands Louis grew up listening to on UK radio. (Think Oasis and the Arctic Monkeys). The song also sets the tone for the superstar’s debut solo album, which will be similarly raw and organic.
I spoke with Louis about his gutsy new single on Friday (September 6) and he recapped his search for a sound that was authentic to him. The “Miss You” hitmaker then revealed that his debut album is finally finished and gave some insight into its tracklist. He also reminisced about his heartwarming “Two Of Us” video and fond memories of being in One Direction. Other topics of conversation included the “Kill My Mind” video, upcoming live shows and his next single. Find out more about the 27-year-old’s solo journey below.
It feels like you really found your sound with “Kill My Mind.”
I think it’s important for any artist to play around with different sounds and find a place in their industry. For me, it frustrates me now that I’ve got four or five singles that just feel different sonically. It’s important to me, and something I’m going to focus on moving forward, to have a real identity as an artist. With the album that is really, really important to me. I feel I found my home on “Kill My Mind,” definitely sonically and the way it makes you feel and how it sounds to you. Yes, it feels good.
Was it a matter of finding the right collaborator or producer?
Definitely. You need someone who is going to embrace your ideas and embrace you for who you are. I did quite a lot of different sessions with producers in America. Everyone has their own opinion of what they think you should be. With some people, you can go into the session and say, “This is who I am, let’s work with this.” Whereas in other sessions, I can sometimes feel producers trying to pull me certain ways. When I found Jamie Hartman, who I wrote quite a few songs with including “Kill My Mind,” I didn’t even have to explain too much about who I am or what I want. We were just on the same page straight away.
It definitely has more of an indie sound. There’s also something quite ’90s about it. Was that your intention?
Yes, I’m a massive fan of ’90s music. I always talk about when I grew up, pop Radio had the like of Amy Winehouse, Arctic Monkeys and Oasis. Now it’s a little bit more urban-leaning. I just went with what I grew up with. That’s where my influences lie.
I think that really comes through on the song. It’s a bit fuzzier and more organic than what you heard on radio right now.
That’s a big compliment. I appreciate that, thank you.
As you said before, you now have maybe five songs that all sound very different. Will you go back to those songs and tweak them?
Well, there are some songs like “Two of Us,” for example. That is just a really simple, organic ballad that fits in line with what I want to do. There are songs like “Back To You” with Bebe Rexha that I absolutely love but, sonically, even just melodically, it’s so set on what it is. Whereas the Steve Aoki song, I have actually reworked to try to fit more in line with “Kill My Mind.” It has been stripped back and that worked straight away actually. I think it’s kind of song dependent really.
I can’t wait to hear the new version.
It’s such an anthemic melody. Anyway, it leads to that guitar-driven stuff. It works pretty well actually.
How far along are you with an album or an EP?
I’m done! I’m finally finished recording the album thank fuck. That took fucking ages. I’ve probably got another two or three more singles after “Kill My Mind.” So the album’s probably going to be out early next year. I’ll be relieved the day the album is out, I can’t wait for that day.
It must be so exciting to have it in the can.
Oh, definitely. It’s been two or three years in the making and when I was in One Direction, we were literally putting out an album once a year. It does feel like a long time for me but I’ll feel really proud when I get it out. I’ve been quite meticulous with it. I’m really excited to hear the feedback.
Who else have you worked with apart from Jamie Hartman?
Let me think about this, who else have I worked with? There’s a guy called Sean Douglas, who actually also wrote “Kill My Mind” and wrote with him on a couple of tracks. I’ve probably done sessions with close to 75 different producers. I think what I’ve realized and learned during the process is that finding the right writing and creative partners, who are all on the same page, is priceless. I have also worked with Wayne Hector, Steve Robson, Julian Bunetta also. There are probably four or five songs that I wrote with Jamie, so they really will be a big chunk of the album.
Will those earlier singles be on the album?
They will be, definitely. I’d say, maybe 30 percent of the songs on the album were written longer than a year ago. There are some songs that are so special to me and I think they mean a lot to the fans. Some of those songs also represent that time in my life in whatever way. So I couldn’t necessarily start fresh, but once I’d written “Kill My Mind,” I kind of found my sound. Once I’d written “Kill My Mind,” there were three or four songs that followed on from that, and it was a little bit more straight forward because we knew exactly what we were aiming for.
I can imagine “Kill My Mind” sounding great live. Have you thought about a live show or tour?
I’m lucky enough to be playing a show in Madrid. They’re doing a Coca Cola festival and I’m headlining one of the days. I’m really excited about that. I’m doing 10 songs. Now, to this point, I’ve only done three or four songs on the odd radio show. So I’m really, really excited to get out and get a reaction and feed from the audience. I know, “Kill My Mind,” is naturally going to make the transition to a live show and I’m pretty confident it’s going to be fun. So I’m really excited about that moment.
How different is it standing on stage by yourself compared to being in a band with other guys?
I’ve done the odd performance. I feel like I’m growing into that. It won’t be so new to me, but doing 10 songs and creating a show about me on the stage, it’s a little bit, I would say, daunting. There’s naturally more pressure. That’s another thing I’ve realized from working on my own as a solo artist. I have to stay across absolutely, everything and all of a sudden, I’m so meticulous about every single detail. When I think about the tour, it’s going to be an even more rewarding situation for me because when we put it on, I will literally have painted this picture from the ground up, so it’s something that really excites me.
You mentioned “Two of Us” a little bit earlier. I love that song.
The video was so touching. Who came up with that idea? That old guy is a legend.
Oh my God, honestly. Of all the things that I’ve done in the last 12 months, that is definitely one of the best things. It was an absolutely amazing experience. I think it was a conversation between me and the record label. We talked about different, interesting ideas that we could do for the video. Everyone should watch that video and be inspired. Not from my story, but from Richard’s story. That old guy recently lost his wife and it was raw to him, but I’ve never met anyone with such an amazing view on life. Although he wasn’t dealt the best hand, he lived so happy and so fun, and he was up for anything literally. He was a proper, proper, brave old guy and I was really taken aback by him as a person.
Has he inspired the way you approach your own life?
Definitely. I think that I have the luxury of now being able to see that the glass is half full as opposed to half empty. Richard really taught me that. There are some things that we did together, which he had obviously never done before. It takes a brave man of that age to do new things. Yes, we can all learn something from that, definitely.
Have you thought about what you’re going to to do for the “Kill My Mind” video?
I’ve already filmed the “Kill My Mind” video, and the next video actually. I’m really excited about this. It’s with Charlie Lightening who directed a documentary about Liam Gallagher. I’m really excited about that. Visually, he’s really cool. Conceptually, for “Kill My Mind,” I wanted it to be like all the Oasis videos I love. I wanted it to be more about the performance. Not focusing too much on a narrative and just being lit really well. I think we pulled it off. I’m excited about that one.
I can’t wait to see it. Do you know when it’s coming out?
Yes. What day is today? Friday. I think it’s due Monday or Tuesday. I think we’ve got some last few notes to do before signing off. So, yes, early next week.
Do you enjoy the visual element?
Yes. I’ve always been quite inclined to get involved in conversations about that. To be honest, sometimes One Direction was so manic, there literally wasn’t time to be across as many things as I am now. It’s really, really rewarding. It’s the same buzz that I get off writing songs. Like when we sat and we spoke about the idea for the Richard video, “Two of Us.” Then you actually watch the final piece, you’re like, “Wow, we’ve actually created something really interesting.” To a certain degree, important, that’s proper refreshing. Definitely.
You mentioned some of the One Direction videos. Has enough time passed that you can look back on it and feel nostalgic or does it still feel recent to you?
It still feels recent but there have been numerous times where I find myself kind of reminiscing about old videos on YouTube, interviews, or performances, whatever it is. There’s still that side of the nostalgia where you miss it as well. It’s like looking back on your school days or your university days. It gives you that funny feeling in your stomach where you miss it, definitely.
You said you filmed a video for the single after “Kill My Mind,” how long will we have to wait for it?
Because I have other songs that don’t really reflect the overall identity and sound of the album, I just want to get as much music out as I can before the album comes out. I’m pretty sure the plan is to release a song every month or every six weeks, so there’s more music out there. I want to really drive home who I’m trying to be as an artist. I think the next single’s coming middle of October, something like that.
Thanks so much for your time. Good luck with the album.
Thank you. I appreciate that.