How does an artist find himself after leaving the biggest boy band on the planet? He leans into authentic self-expression. “I'm aware that to a certain degree, I'm swimming against the tide,” Louis Tomlinson tells Apple Music. “I've had all this amazing success with One Direction, I realized that I might as well just follow my heart.” And so the English singer-songwriter has: Walls, his solo debut, is electric pop-rock, triumphant in the face of tragedy—he writes with diaristic precision (the balladic ode to his late mother on “Two of Us” and the ’90s Britpop guitars on “Kill My Mind”) and consideration for his most ardent fans (the 1D-channeling “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” and the life-affirming “Perfect Now”). In this track-by-track guide, Tomlinson opens up about Walls, revealing a side of himself previously undiscovered. Kill My Mind “That song was written for two reasons: One, I was listening to the album and it annoyed me that I didn't quite have that moment of excitement, and I think that song definitely evokes excitement. [Two,] it was a bit of a statement of intent. ‘This is where I want to be, this is the space I want to move into.’ But I'm aware that's a transition as well. I wasn't going to put ten ‘Kill my Minds’ on the album, because I don't think that would've been right.” Don’t Let It Break Your Heart “Straightway, that chorus reminds me of a big One Direction song. It's got that big, great, hopefully hooky chorus. In terms of concept, it almost sits in the same world as the Steve Aoki song I did, 'Just Hold On.' It's just one of those songs that's trying to promote hope regardless of what life throws at you.” Two of Us “I wasn't ready to write that song. The original lyric on the verse was ‘So I'll leave a message after the tone.’ And it always fucking bugs me, listening to it, because there's so much beauty in that song. Then I changed it to ‘So I'm not alone,’ and I think that really captures the weight, emotionally, of the song. And that song is probably the most special song that I've ever written.” We Made It “I wrote ‘We Made It’ about three years ago, so I had about 20 different mixes. That took a second to get right, and we made it. Listen, I like the song, I like the song. Would I say it's one of my favorites? No, probably not. It was one of the record label’s favorites. So I kind of rolled the dice on that one, really. The strive for authenticity is a constant battle. That's something that I have to be strong on, as often as I can.” Too Young “I can remember that feeling of being 18 and meeting the person that you might spend the rest of your life with. We all made mistakes when we're younger, and I just wanted to capture that idea of true honesty. Look, I wasn't ready for that responsibility. And now I reflect, and I'm older, and I can look back with experience. I can see why that was wrong. But at the time, there's a lot of 18-year-olds—especially 18-year-old lads—they're not ready for that responsibility. I wanted to capture that.” Walls “We had an amazing moment for this song in London. I went down to record some live strings for ‘Walls’—that was a real fucking breakout moment for me, because there's been times on this album where I've been pretty frustrated and it's been hard to keep with the get-up-and-go because the creative process can get frustrating. But I had this moment, in this massive, amazing studio in London called Angel Studios, watching—I don't know how many people were there, but let's speculate 15, 18 people there for my song. I feel like the live strings on it really give it an extra edge of credibility.” Habit “It's got quite a storytelling lyric that I know hardcore One Direction fans will like: There's a line about the place that we all grew up with in the band, and that was an apartment complex called Princess Park. It's like an Easter egg for fans. I'm sure they'll like that.” Always You “It’s autobiographical, me making that realization that it's always been that one person and that no matter what you do or what you see, you miss that person.” Fearless “What I wanted to try and capture with the song is the idea of feeling youthful and how important that is. I'm at this age where I'm on the cusp—I'm definitely not a teenager, I'm not a young lad anymore, nor am I old, but I sit in this space where I'm aware of my age now. I hear it as a playground or going back to real youth.” Perfect Now “I worked on this with Jamie Scott, who was part of the One Direction writing team. Lyrically, it's kind of an extension of ‘What Makes You Beautiful,’ One Direction's first single. It was written quite deliberately as an attempt to write a fan favorite song. There is a long history of people coming out of bands and then talking shit about that band. I absolutely fucking love One Direction. I love the music. I love the music that we made, the fans, the culture, and everything behind it. There are songs like ‘Kill My Mind’ and ‘Walls’ where I’m trying something different, but of course there’s always room for those [1D-like] songs on the album.” Defenceless “I’m trying to be vulnerable and I’m trying to be honest. I’m trying to write as many different feelings as I can. One day you might be feeling great, youthful, and amazing, and the next day you might be feeling a little bit down in the dumps. I wanted to capture that.” Only the Brave “The crackly sound goes way beyond my production comprehension. The way the guitar was recorded, I don’t know. But what I love about that song is that it feels classic, like going back in time. It’s one of my favorite songs because it doesn’t have a traditional structure. You only really get the chorus once. You haven’t heard a song like that the whole record, and then you get it at the end. There’s something interesting about that.”

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