Interview: Louis Tomlinson Opens Up About ‘Walls’ & Tour Plans
It’s go time for Louis Tomlinson. After years of building anticipation, the 28-year-old unveils his debut solo album Walls today (January 31). And the 12-song collection (featuring familiar titles like “Two Of Us” and “Kill My Mind”) was well-worth the wait. On it, he reintroduces himself to fans after taking over the world as one-fifth of One Direction. And the crooner does so by placing the focus on his powerful pen to provide a glimpse into his heart and soul. Whether he is overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles on the title track or embracing a youthful sense of adventure on “Fearless,” every song offers a chance to engage with him on a new level.
But dropping Walls was just a warm-up. Now he turns his attention to the accompanying world tour. It all starts with a March 9 set in Barcelona. Then the hitmaker spends the next several months making stops across the globe. That includes a string of North American dates in June and July. And it’s the moment he’s been waiting for. Last week I had the opportunity to chat with Louis about the rest of his action-packed 2020. He opened up about how he mentally prepared for the arrival of the album and his goals. After that he spilled some tea about the show. That includes a little insight into the setlist selection process.
OG fans will be happy to know that they’ll definitely hear a couple One Direction staples in a live setting again this year. Even better, Louis plans to play every song off Walls. Keep an eye peeled for our official album review in the coming days. In the meantime, dive into our interview below to learn more.
You’ve been working towards Walls for a couple years now. How does it feel to be so close to releasing it?
I think just a big sense of relief. I’m excited to release it and to have the fans hear it. And to go out there and tour it. So I’m just excited to get into this stage. It feels like it’s been a long time coming.
Obviously you’ve done a couple album releases before, but it was always as part of One Direction. Do you feel like this being a solo project changes your perception at all?
Yeah, I think there was a slightly different goal. Naturally with the One Direction albums versus with my own solo album. I think I actually kind of review once I’d come out of the band… I had to almost redefine the word success really. Because the experience I had in One Direction wasn’t really real life. So in terms of what I want to get out of this album and what I’ve for starters learned a lot along the premises. But what I want to get out of it is that hopefully my fans think I’m a good songwriter. So really it’s almost less pressure in a way.
I think lyrically your writing is coming across so well.
Speaking of the songs you’ve released, it’s interesting looking at the tracklist. Some of the songs made the final cut, but there are a couple older singles that didn’t. How did you decide what would live as a stand-alone moment in time versus what would make the final album?
I think when I looked at the older singles that I’d done it was hard sonically for them to sit on the album. On the vinyl I did a version of the Steve Aoki song “Just Hold On.” But it’s a completely new production. We reworked that. But with the other singles, it was kind of difficult to imagine them on that record. I feel like my songwriting kind of matured a little bit since then.
Can you talk about why you settled on Walls as the overarching title for the album?
To be honest it’s my favorite song on the album. I think it’s the best song on the album. It’s the song I’m most proud of. So I’d been thinking about what title I was going to have for the album for a while. And then I kind of just thought let’s not overthink it. What’s my favorite song? I love the concept behind the single so I kind of just went with my gut and went with that.
It’s interesting too because as I’m listening to the album I notice that you obviously reference walls in the title track. But you also talk about fences on “Defenseless.” It seems like there was a theme emerging of overcoming barriers or putting yourself out there without barriers. Was that intentional that you were doing lyrically while writing?
Not deliberately but I do try to write in an autobiographical sense. And as relatable as possible. I think that’s one of the things that we all go through at times. So I felt like yeah it was important to cover that. I hadn’t realized. A lot of walls and fences.
A lot of things we had to get over. Looking at the tracklist, is there a song that hasn’t been released yet that you’re most excited for fans to hear?
I’d say “Only The Brave,” which is the last song. It’s just short of two minutes long, and it doesn’t really have a traditional structure to the song. You only really get the chorus once. And I think it’s an interesting moment in the album. It closes the album, and I think it’s interesting.
One of my favorites is “Fearless.” I love the message. I took it as encouraging yourself to return to our youthful confidence and just saying fuck it to expectations and anxiety.
I was hoping you could tell me a bit about how it came together?
I think the age that I’m at at the moment, I’m 28 now. I’m kind of in this strange age. We’ve got a bit more life experience, but it’s kind of reflecting on how fearless you are when you’re young. The fact that you are willing to make mistakes over and over again. It’s just drawing on that whole vibe, really.
That’s something I relate to being at a similar point in my life.
Nice. I appreciate that.
Do you plan to release any more singles off the project?
No I don’t think so. I think I’m going to release the album, and I’m going to get into tour and just concentrate on that for a little bit. Just so I have more stuff to write about. Then at some point this year I’ll get into writing the next record I suppose.
Awesome! It’s good to hear that there are already plans for another album.
Something else I wanted to ask about was the “Walls” video. Some of the other videos this era have been more straightforward in terms of a plot, whereas this felt more conceptual. How did you come up with the idea for this one and what does it mean to you?
This is the fourth video that I’ve done with that director Charlie Lightening who’s amazing. I really enjoyed working with him. The first three videos fit together. Were narrative driven and had a bit more story to them. So I thought, we both thought it was important with this video to kind of move away from that and make something visually more interesting. We went to Morocco to film it in the desert. I Think it looks incredible. You’ve got that scale with it being in the desert. And yeah, we were just trying to make it look kind of trippy and surreal. Visually interesting. Just a good sort of performance video instead of getting lost in a narrative.
Cool. I also wanted to talk about touring. How are you getting ready for the show?
I’ve been doing little bits of rehearsals here and there because I’ve got TV performances anyway. Like two or three weeks of rehearsals. To be honest since the year started I’ve kind of been counting down the days in terms of my solo career. This is what I’ve been working towards. So I’m really excited about it.
It brings everything together, and it’s great to see that this is coming. I was reading your last interview with us and you mentioned that touring was a big goal. So it’s great to have it be here.
Definitely. It feels good.
Speaking about the show, will the focus of the setlist be on your solo music or do you plan on throwing in any of the material you wrote for One Direction?
I think it’ll be like there might be three One Direction songs in there. I mean I’ll definitely put a few in. It would be rude not to, and there are some bangers in there. But mostly Walls. I’ll probably do the whole album and maybe two or three One Direction tunes.
That’s awesome. I can’t wait to see what the setlist ends up being. Thank you so much and good luck with everything you have going on.
Thank you very much. I appreciate your time, man.