In May, Harry Styles will release his self-titled debut album. Following the sudden departure of Zayn Malik from One Direction and the boy band’s indefinite hiatus following 2015’s Made in the A.M., Styles will be the second 1D member to release a full-length LP, but the fourth to release to new music. Styles’ solo venture has been one of the most highly-anticipated for many fans given his more vintage taste than the rest of his group, which led to some Seventies FM sounds on One Direction’s later albums. In his new Rolling Stone cover story, Styles and producer Jeff Bhasker revealed some new information on what to expect on the 10-song LP.
1. Harry Styles was not the original title for the singer’s album.
The 23-year-old knew he wanted to go in a rock direction and originally settled on the word Pink for the album’s title. He quote the Clash’s Paul Simonon when revealing his reason for the color to be the name: “Pink is the only true rock & roll colour.” Another name that floated around was Sign of the Times, which is also the title of his anthemic glam single, released earlier this month. “I don’t know. I mean, it has been used,” Bhasker told Styles in the studio, referring to Prince’s iconic album of the same name.
2. He felt that he had never written his own story before.
Even though Styles was given more opportunities to write as time progressed with One Direction, the quick turnaround for new music with the band didn’t allow for much growth or exploration of his own life and mind. “I think it was tough to really delve in and find out who you are as a writer when you’re just kind of dipping your toe each time,” he explained, noting his love for songs like “Olivia,” “Stockholm Syndrome” and “Happily,” all 1D tracks he contributed to. “We didn’t get the six months to see what kind of shit you can work with. To have time to live with a song, see what you love as a fan, chip at it, hone it and go for that … it’s heaven.”
Having over a year to write and record his debut solo material, he set out to make an album that represented himself as full as possible. “I didn’t want to write ‘stories,'” he said. “I wanted to write my stories, things that happened to me. The number-one thing was I wanted to be honest. I hadn’t done that before.”
3. The album was recorded in England, California and a surprising third location: Jamaica.
For two months last fall, Styles, Bhasker and the band recorded in the remote Geejam studio near Port Antonio, a location where Rihanna and Drake have previously recorded music as well.
4. Love is his favorite subject to write about, and he even gained an obsession with romantic-comedies while in Jamaica.
“The one subject that hits the hardest is love, whether it’s platonic, romantic, loving it, gaining it, losing it … it always hits you hardest,” he said in his RS interview. “I don’t think people want to hear me talk about going to bars, and how great everything is. The champagne popping … who wants to hear about it? I don’t want to hear my favorite artists talk about all the amazing shit they get to do. I want to hear, ‘How did you feel when you were alone in that hotel room, because you chose to be alone?'”
While recording in Jamaica, Styles and his band’s guitarist began watching romantic comedies on Netflix daily, and he grew a particular affection for Nicholas Sparks. He has even taken up calling Sparks “Nicky Spee.”
5. A recent relationship is at the center of the album, but he won’t reveal who it was with.
While he finally directly addressed the Taylor Swift singles rumored to be written about their brief relationship, Styles is taking a page from his ex-girlfriend’s book and staying silent on who he is singing about on his LP. He did point out how a recent relationship that has taken place over the last few years and may have ended has affected his writing, with many believing he could be referring to his rumored courtship with Kendall Jenner. “She’s a huge part of the album,” he said. “Sometimes you want to tip the hat, and sometimes you just want to give them the whole cap … and hope they know it’s just for them.”
6. Even fans will be unfamiliar with the Harry Styles they hear on this album.
Though his music taste and style are well-known to the Directioners who have paid close attention to the breadcrumbs he has left over the years leading to what we could potentially hear on his first outing as a solo artist, the final product will surprise even the most thorough Styles expert, according to Bhasker. “It’s different from what you’d expect. It made me realize the Harry [in 1D] was kind of the digitized Harry. Almost like a character. I don’t think people know a lot of the sides of him that are on this album. You put it on and people are like, ‘This is Harry Styles?’ ”
7. His solo career doesn’t mean the end of One Direction.
Following his exit, Zayn Malik was a bit more bitter about his time in the boy band, yet Styles’ recollections are much more positive. “I love the band, and would never rule out anything in the future. The band changed my life, gave me everything.”