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But as he recounts the events leading up to his year out of the spotlight, the layers begin to slip away.
It was in a London studio in late 2014 that Styles first brought up the idea of One Direction taking a break.
It's said the puke was even sold on e Bay like pieces of the Berlin Wall. Then there was the unauthorized fan-fiction series featuring a punky, sexed-up version of "Harry Styles." A billion readers followed his virtual exploits. (He quotes the Clash's Paul Simonon: "Pink is the only true rock & roll colour.") Many of the details would change over the coming year – including the title, which would end up as Harry Styles – but one word stuck in his head."Honest," he says, a year later, driving through midcity Los Angeles in a dusty black Range Rover.
("Didn't read it," comments the nonfiction Styles, "but I hope he gets more than me.")But at the height of One D–mania, Styles took a step back. He's lived here off and on for the past few years, always returning to London.
Drake and Rihanna have recorded there, and it's where Styles produced the bulk of his new LP, which is due out May 12th.
And that mystery – it's why those people are so magical! When I go home, I feel like the same person I was at school.
"I wanted to write my stories, things that happened to me. I hadn't done that before." There isn't a yellow light he doesn't run as he speaks excitedly about the band he's put together under the tutelage of producer Jeff Bhasker (The Rolling Stones, Kanye West, "Uptown Funk").
He's full of stories about the two-month recording session last fall at Geejam, a studio and compound built into a mountainside near Port Antonio, a remote section of Jamaica.
"Being around musicians like this had a big effect on me," Styles says. Nasci cranks "Sign of the Times," the first single, to a seismic level. ' Sign of the Times' came from ' This isn't the first time we've been in a hard time, and it's not going to be the last time.' The song is written from a point of view as if a mother was giving birth to a child and there's a complication. He doesn't Google himself, and checks Twitter infrequently.
"Not being able to pass an instrument without sitting down and playing it? It was Styles' first full immersion into the land of musos, and he clearly can't get enough. It's a new song called "I Don't Want to Be the One You're Waiting On." His voice sounds warm, burnished and intimate, not unlike early Rod Stewart. The song began as a seven-minute voice note on Styles' phone, and ended up as a sweeping piano ballad, as well as a kind of call to arms. The mother is told, ' The child is fine, but you're not going to make it.' The mother has five minutes to tell the child, ' Go forth and conquer.'" The track was a breakthrough for both the artist and the band. "I'll tell you about Twitter," he continues, discussing the volley of tweets, some good, some cynical, that met his endorsement of the Women's March on Washington earlier this year.