DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And, you know, there have been these musical acts over the years, like The Monkees, The Jackson 5, New Kids on The Block, 'NSync - all of them had one thing in common. They had individual members leave the group and try to find their own voice. And that is what is happening now with this band.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT MAKES YOU BEAUTIFUL")
ONE DIRECTION: (Singing) You don't know you're beautiful. If only you saw what I could see...
GREEN: That is One Direction, the wildly popular boy band. How popular? Well, just listen to this.
You got sick on the side of the highway, the freeway, in California and threw up. And someone was so...
HARRY STYLES: Yeah.
GREEN: ...Obsessed with you, they collected your vomit and tried to sell it online...
STYLES: So I hear.
GREEN: ...Which - so you hear.
STYLES: I don't know if that's actually true. But yeah, my mom actually sent me, like, an eBay link to my own puke, which was very interesting to receive on a Tuesday morning.
GREEN: I can't believe that happened. So that is the voice of Harry Styles from One Direction. His first solo album recently debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. charts. Now, often when boy bands dissolve, former members will try to distance themselves from the adolescent pop music but not Harry Styles. He insists that at age 16, he had a lot to learn, and One Direction taught him how to be a musician. But his sound is changing. His new music is grittier than his work with One Direction. It's almost like he dug into his parents' record collection.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAROLINA")
STYLES: (Singing) Feels so good. She's got a book for every situation, gets into parties without invitations.
GREEN: So Harry Styles was getting ready for a performance at the Roxy in West Hollywood, and I talked to him upstairs in his dressing room. He was wearing a Rolling Stones T-shirt, which is pretty fitting because he's been compared to frontman Mick Jagger. He even played Mick Jagger on "Saturday Night Live." But when I asked him about that comparison, Styles made it clear that he is not trying to be anyone else. He's just trying to find his own voice as an artist. And he thinks he's started doing that with the first single on this new album, "Sign Of The Times."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SIGN OF THE TIMES")
STYLES: (Singing) Just stop your crying. It's a sign of the times. Welcome to the final show. Hope you're wearing your best clothes.
I think I've always written bits of songs alone. And then I usually take stuff in and try and finish it with someone. And "Sign Of The Times" was, like, one of those where I just kind of wrote it. We basically ended up in a place where the album had a bunch of, like, rock songs. We had a bunch of acoustic ballad songs. And I wrote "Sign Of The Times," and that's the one that kind of started bridging us to different places in terms of experimenting a little more.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SIGN OF THE TIMES")
STYLES: (Singing) We don't talk enough. We should open up.
GREEN: I read that "Sign Of The Times," the genesis was the idea of a mother being told that she wasn't going to make it and what message she wanted to give to her child. Is that the...
STYLES: Yeah, I mean, I think we were thinking about - you know, there's a lot of bad stuff going on in the world. And I think it's not the last time that we will be in a place like that. And I think the way that we receive information all the time now, it's really difficult to ignore that stuff. And...
GREEN: Being in the news business, I sort of know what you're talking about (laughter).
STYLES: Yeah. And I think it would have been weird for me to kind of write an album and not acknowledge that there's anything bad going on in the world. And I think we were just writing it from kind of a place of - all right, you have five minutes to kind of say it's going to be all right.
GREEN: But it's - there's a sense of comfort. Like, it's going to be OK.
STYLES: Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I like to think of it that way, yeah.
(SOUNDBITE OF HARRY STYLES SONG, "SIGN OF THE TIMES")
GREEN: Well, let me ask about your fans because I - when we were walking in here to get to the Roxy, I mean, there was legion of a few dozen young women peeking around to see if maybe they would get a glimpse of you at some point. It's so easy, I think, to stereotype that kind of fan base and say it's a bunch of young, teenage girls who are just Snapchatting when they spot you and not even paying attention, really, to the music. But what do you make of that fan base?
STYLES: I mean, I think the thing is is that people stereotype it as their attraction to the music is something other than the music. And I think that's unfair. And honestly, I think it's just writing people off. I think - I mean, it's kind of rude. Everyone's musical taste is different, and there's no right or wrong answer. So I don't - I don't really know who's the person in the world who has, like - oh, that guy has good music taste.
GREEN: Yeah because I wondered if, with such a loyal, obsessive fan base, if you ever feared that they were just going to be with you no matter what music you made. So it'd almost make it less meaningful, what you were doing, because they would never say something bad about you because they love you so much.
STYLES: I actually think that the kind of fans that we've had are the most honest. And I think that's amazing.
GREEN: There's no, like, playing it cool or...
STYLES: There's no, like...
GREEN: ...Or overthinking it, you're saying.
STYLES: There's no, like - yeah. I mean, everyone meets those people where they like something and they'll never admit they like it.
GREEN: Hipster might be a word...
STYLES: Yeah. And...
GREEN: ...That we might bring up here.
STYLES: ...You know, I think they're honest. And I think I'd rather someone be honest with me. And I think I wanted to be honest with the album. And - yeah.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ONLY ANGEL")
STYLES: (Singing) Broke a finger knocking on your bedroom door. I got splinters in my knuckles, crawling 'cross the floor.
GREEN: Let me finish with this. Is it scary to be out on your own?
STYLES: Yeah. I think I've never felt this vulnerable putting out music because I just don't think it's a piece of myself that I've ever really put out there before. And just simple fact - when there's other people around you, you share the good stuff, but you also get to share the bad stuff and kind of hide behind everyone else a little bit. So with this, yeah, it is scary. But I think it was time for me to kind of be scared, I guess. And I'm still very much learning. And I'm having the time of my life kind of working it out, so it's been a lot of fun.
GREEN: Harry, thanks a lot.
STYLES: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.
GREEN: Is there a song you want us to make sure we play when we go out here?
STYLES: My favorite from the album is the last song, "From The Dining Table." It's just personal. And I don't feel like I'd written a song like this before.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FROM THE DINING TABLE")
STYLES: (Singing) Comfortable silence is so overrated. Why won't you ever be the first one to break? Even my phone misses your call, by the way.
GREEN: Harry Styles - his debut album, which is called "Harry Styles," is out right now.
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