Niall Horan surprised longtime fans of his boy band One Direction when he became the first still-active member of the group to go solo following the release of the group's 2015 LP Made in the A.M. In September of last year, he dropped the folky, tender single "This Town," a fine debut and perfect statement of what his solo career would shape up to sound like.
Further surprising fans, he took his time after "This Town" to craft his solo debut Flicker; out October 20th, the record promises, among other things, the Seventies California soft rock influences heard in "This Town" and his most recent hit "Slow Hands."
"It all really started in March last year when me and my long time friend Jamie Scott sat down in the studio in London and wrote 'This Town' on day one and then 'Too Much to Ask' on the second day," Horan recalls to Rolling Stone. As he puts it, he spent half a year writing new music in London, Los Angeles and Nashville.
"The last track I wrote was 'Slow Hands,' [and] after that I knew the album was done."
For the later half of his year leading up to Flicker, Horan became immersed in the process of recording the music, working closely with producers, musicians and engineers to perfect every sound heard on the final product. For him, it's a whole different world from the relentless grind of being in the world's biggest pop group.
"The whole recording process this time around has been completely different to what I was used to."
Ahead of his album release, he has previewed live versions of the as-yet-unreleased music in an intimate Flicker Sessions tour, playing the smallest venues his fans have ever seen him in. It fits the nature of the album, which unveils a never-before-seen personal side of Horan to listeners both new and old. To do so, he teamed up with many of the writers and producers behind One Direction's songs, including Jamie Scott, Julian Bunetta and John Ryan who helped unleash a new vulnerability.
"I wanted this album to be completely personal," he says, "and therefore the best way for me to get what I wanted out of the songs was to write them with friends."