1D's Niall Horan: ‘I can’t dance. I can’t ice-skate and I’m not going in the jungle’

One Direction’s only Irishman talks fame, pints with the lads, Zayn's departure and what the band's upcoming hiatus is really about


It’s funny how things change. Less than four years ago, The Irish Times interviewed One Direction in a windowless room in the basement of Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Hotel. There were no emotional teenyboppers clawing at the hotel doorman for a sniff of a pop star, although there was no question they were a boyband on the rise. Still, a few hours previously they had made an appearance at Tesco in Clare Hall to sign copies of their debut album Up All Night. You’ve gotta start somewhere.

Who could have envisaged the five disinterested young men perched on a sofa, surrounded by bored-looking managers and PR people, would become the world’s biggest boyband? Back then, they were just five youngsters who’d gotten lucky on The X Factor and were hoping their claws had sunken in with the necessary force off the back of What Makes You Beautiful.

Nearly four years later – and with the prospect of a hiatus looming in the coming months, after their fifth album Made in the AM is released – it would probably be easier to arrange an audience with the Pope than to gather the four remaining members together for a chat.

Interviews are now conducted with military precision; meet here, you’ll be brought there, wait here, now leave. We’re backstage at Dublin’s 3Arena, having pushed our way through the crew entrance and a gaggle of worried-looking teenagers, draped in scarves and baseball caps that light up with “I Love Niall” and “I Love Harry”.

“You are going in?” ask two wide-eyed Spanish sisters, who have travelled from Madrid for the concert. “You bring us in?” It’s midafternoon, and they are two of several hundred who have been queuing for hours.

Flying solo pop interviews are rarely revealing, and they’re even less so when it’s a roundtable affair (in other words, a mini press conference where journalists talk over each other to fire random and often asinine questions at their subject). Upstairs, Niall Horan is ushered into one of the band’s small dressing rooms for the interview. His bandmate Louis Tomlinson is “not feeling well” (pop speak for “couldn’t be arsed”), so the Mullingar man is flying solo for the next 15 minutes.

Horan is a likeable chap, impressively grounded despite his insane levels of global fame.

“I dunno,” he says, shrugging nonchalantly. “I just go along with it. There’s no manual on this: you just deal with it how you do. Obviously you have to do some things differently, but I still try to do normal things: go to a football game, go to the pub with the lads.

“I do quite live a simple life outside of this. I just plod along, and don’t think about it. If you think about it, you’ll ruin it.”

The past five years have taught him valuable lessons about who is worth trusting. “I always felt like I had a good judge of character and I know who’s taking the mick and who’s not, so I’ve got a solid group of friends. I was out last night with two lads I’ve been friends with since the day I started primary school, so I have the same friends and good family. I was brought up, not dragged up.”

When One Direction go on their break early next year, he says it’s the live shows – like the deafening Dublin gig the previous night – he’ll miss most. “That’s the best part of what we do, getting up there and playing, especially when we get nights like that. Of course I’ll miss it.”

As for what he won’t miss about being in the band? Horan is insistent the hiatus is just that: a temporary break, rather than a permanent split.

“What do you mean, ‘miss about being in the band’? You’d think we were stopping,” he says. “It seems like no matter how many times we say we’re not breaking up, the more people say that we are, so I’m just giving up on that.

“What I won’t miss? It’ll be good to maybe go home a little bit more, because that’s probably the only downside of what we do. I haven’t been home since Christmas.”

He says they will continue to write on their downtime: “Just to be ready for when we come back from the break and be ahead of ourselves.”

Of course, there is also Zayn Malik’s departure from the band to touch upon and, as expected, diplomacy is the name of the game.

“Obviously, we’re missing a voice, so that’s a noticeable difference. But I think we did well; the process was pretty much the same. We took about 10 weeks out of the touring schedule and went off and wrote in London and LA and places like that with the guys we always write with, and some new people that we brought in,” he says, continuing off on a long tangent about the places they recorded and the time it took to do so.

Yeah yeah, but is the atmosphere in the band better, now that he’s gone?

“Well, it’s the same in anything; I can imagine if someone leaves your office, or whatever, you’d miss them around,” he says. “That’s what it’s like – it’s the same with any team, like if someone on a football team gets transferred. Obviously it was a shock at the start, but if you’re not into it, you shouldn’t be doing it, and that’s what he did for himself. He made that decision and he’s happy and it brought us closer together. We’re probably closer than we ever were.”

He has no plans to start his own music empire on his time off, nor will he be getting involved in any sort of reality TV show.

“I don’t think I’d be suited to The X Factor – I’m not opinionated enough. Strictly? I can’t dance. I can’t ice-skate and I’m not going in the jungle. So no,” he says, laughing. “I’m going on holidays for a while, sitting around doing nathin’. I was thinking about learning a bit of Spanish or something like that, something to keep me going.”

Outside, the young sisters from Madrid are on tenterhooks for any scrap of news.

“They are in there?” they plead, their eyes blazing with an unhinged concoction of jealousy and rage. Well, Niall is at least, I tell them. And guess what? He plans on learning Spanish on his time off.

“Niall is in there! ¡Dios mio!” they sob, turning to clutch their friends in collective ecstasy. It seems to be enough for them

- One Direction's Made in the AM is out now

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