It’s all happening in the world of Louis Tomlinson. The British singer is in the final stages of his first ever global tour. Seven legs, five continents, and over 80 concerts later, he will wrap things up in Milan, Italy, in just a matter of days. Fear not. As one chapter is about to close, another one has just opened.
Tomlinson’s new song in over two years, “Bigger Than Me,” arrives today as the lead single from his upcoming sophomore album, Faith In The Future, which is slated for a November 11 release. The album aims to not only push the boundaries of Tomlinson’s sound but also to provide a collection of material that has been crafted for more live shows to come.
To discuss the whirlwind of the last two years, I meet Tomlinson on a sunny yet gray day in London on a balcony at his management office. Welcomed by a warm handshake, he is all geared up for a full day of promotion. “Do you mind if I smoke?” he asks. “Go for it!” I reply. Tomlinson picks up his red lighter, which matches the design of his Stone Island t-shirt, and is all business.
Let’s go back to 2020—a memorable time for everyone in many ways. For Tomlinson, he put out Walls, his long-awaited debut album that had been two years in the making. Released on January 31, 2020, he began touring six weeks later in Europe before the inconvenience of the pandemic put everything on pause for longer than expected. While Tomlinson was only initially able to perform the first two shows, it was a short-lived experience he remains grateful to have had. “I’m thankful for having those two shows; otherwise, lockdown would have been a lot of wondering, a lot of light thinking of what might be,” he tells EUPHORIA. “And those two shows, although there were smaller venues, they were incredible. So, at least I was going into lockdown really excited about what was to come as opposed to wondering and crossing my fingers for what I hoped they would be.”
Lockdown allowed Tomlinson to take time out of his busy schedule and enjoy life. Having been used to being on the go constantly, he admits it was a time when he didn’t have to persistently worry about the next thing. “It was the first time in my career, One Direction included, where I didn’t really feel the pressure to be working as quickly as I possibly could,” Tomlinson explains. “I wasn’t creative, especially in the first half of lockdown, but it meant that when I was ready to be creative, there wasn’t as much of a clusterfuck going on in my head. I felt like I just had the time to breathe and actually think about things properly as opposed to finishing this and starting the next thing and just rolling off.”
It didn’t take long until Tomlinson did start to get creative, though. Six months before continuing his tour, the writing process began for the second album. “I didn’t do any Zoom sessions. I know some people had some success through that,” he says. “I think some songwriters, they’re very clinical. I think it does suit a certain kind of writer.” Like many artists, Tomlinson missed being in the room with other creatives and bouncing off others’ energy. For this reason, he resisted for as long as possible so everyone could experience the magic together under one roof.
Tomlinson made most of Faith In The Future in London while completing the rest in LA. Even though the album’s name gives off major pandemic vibes, it has been stuck with him for some time, way before the Coronavirus and another record was even in the picture. “I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that it’s a title that, for some reason, spoke to me. COVID and the lockdown happened, and I thought it was kind of weird and that it felt appropriate to have this hopeful sentiment to go out there,” he says. Having the title before writing any songs helped Tomlinson create an optimistic narrative which he believes his debut album lacked. “The thing that frustrates me a little bit with Walls, even though I’m incredibly proud of it, there is a weight to it emotionally, especially with songs like ‘Two Of Us,’ etc. And that’s not really what I’m about; you know what I mean? So this was a moment with the second record to kind of break away from that and try and create these hopeful, happy, positive stories,” he continues.
The album’s lead single, “Bigger Than Me,” not only kicks off an exciting new era but also plays a big part in shaping this album. He shared that the track became his first moment of excitement in the studio. Described as a coming-of-age song, it helped boost Tomlinson’s confidence and gave him the freedom to explore further. “It’s definitely the biggest sounding song I’ve got on the record, definitely the song that stands out as being one that should be a single,” he says. “I wasn’t certain I was going to have one of these songs on this record that has a big chorus. It shows off my vocals, so I’m really proud of what we got out of it.”
After having several conversations with different songwriters, Tomlinson mentions he wants to be “more careful” and doesn’t want to be “too specific” about what the songs are about this time around. “I think part of music is people making their own opinions,” he insists. What he does share, however, is that the concept for “Bigger Than Me” came about after overanalyzing during the lockdown. “There have been a lot of times in my career where I’ve gone on stage, and 50% of the show, I’m in my own head. I’m thinking about ABC and questioning, ‘Is this right?’ And from doing even those two shows, and I do this festival called Away From Home, you get a sense of what the shows mean for people who come watch it. It’s so much more about what’s going on in my head and if I think I’ve done great or shit or whatever it is,” Tomlinson explains.
He continues, “Everything I do musically, the shows, etc., is a joint effort. I suppose it’s just trying to capture that idea, which is also why I don’t want to shed too much light on the concepts because it’s bigger than what I thought. It’s whatever everyone else wants it to be.”
Faith In The Future showcases Tomlinson’s range like never before. Opening with the pounding drums of “The Greatest,” the song was penned with the intention of being the opener for his next tour. “That was specifically written as a tour opener, not necessarily an album opener at the time,” he says. “Musically, it’s interesting. There’s probably not another song like that on the record. It starts the album with a statement of intent, which I think is important. There’s a certain ambitious level to that.”
The album immediately switches it up and dives straight into “Written All Over Your Face,” an infectious indie floor-filler that we both agree is reminiscent of the first two Arctic Monkeys albums. “I’m a big fan of that sound, big fan of that energy,” Tomlinson says. “I went into the room with these people I’ve done a few sessions with, and I said, let’s try and take this as punk as I can get away with. I suppose that’s where the Arctic Monkeys reference comes from; there are obviously punk elements within what they do.” At just two and a half minutes long, Tomlinson confesses it wasn’t a song he was trying too hard with. The aim was to create a “punchy energy,” declaring this was another song he could imagine performing live.
Still keeping future tours and live performances in mind, Tomlinson continues to compare his previous album to Faith In The Future. If there’s anything Tomlinson believes Walls fell short of sonically, it’s the number of bangers that featured on it, which is why this new record will be jam-packed with even more of them. “There’s ‘Kill My Mind,’ which I close the set with currently. That’s probably the closest I had, but I didn’t have another one like that,” Tomlinson explains. “My band did a great job on this first tour by beefing everything out and making things feel more lively. While on the record, a lot of them sound like mid-tempo. I’d say this new album maybe makes up a third or even half of that energy. That, for me, makes me proud.”
With that, one particular track that Tomlinson is most pleased with is “Silver Tongues,” a joyful and wholesome moment that honors the little intricacies of his relationship. Once completed, he boldly stated it was the first time Tomlinson had written a song that he could imagine being sung by an artist that he is really fond of. “That song was a great part of the writing process,” he says. “On this record, I tried to write with less professional songwriters and more artists, and ‘Silver Tongues’ is a good example of that. What you get with that is a different level of care and love for what you’re doing, instead of making it about money and trying to get the single.” Another reason Tomlinson credits “Silver Tongues” for being so special is its authenticity. “It’s not trying to be anything that it’s not. We were not trying to write a single, and there’s just a certain level of energy to it,” Tomlinson adds.
Faith In The Future is bursting with exciting moments. However, what might surprise fans the most is the fact that Tomlinson is delving back into the dance genre sooner than expected on “All This Time” and “She Is Beauty We Are World Class.” His first-ever single in 2016 without One Direction, “Just Hold On,” saw him team up with hit producer Steve Aoki. A global smash in its own right, Tomlinson had chosen not to revisit that sound until now. “On my first record, I was very particular about the sounds I wanted to use, and I wasn’t necessarily worried about perception, but I wanted everything to be as authentic, bandy, and guitar-driven as possible,” Tomlinson says. “I’ve still done that on this record, but I tried not to shy away from some of the more interesting modern sounds. And it was actually the DMA’s record, their last album they did with Stuart Price, which has quite a lot of dance elements to it, but they did it in a really authentic way, and it doesn’t feel like a play for radio or anything like that. It just gave me real food for thought for the album. There were lots of sounds that I would have alienated on the first record. I took a bit of that inspiration into those two songs.”
After taking on a journey through various sonics, Tomlinson closes Faith In The Future with the melodic and most tender song, “That’s The Way Love Goes.” After playing around with the tracklisting, Tomlinson claims that he “couldn’t get away from that idea,” adding that “you’ve got two options to end the album: you either end with a slap round the face or a little ballad moment.” Detailing a non-sexual love between two best friends, Tomlinson is confident that this is a song fans are going to adore. “I think it’s an interesting story, an interesting visual going through the song. With the way the album is structured, it kind of fits nicely to finish on that message. I wouldn’t have been able to do that on the first album because there weren’t enough peak moments of energy,” he says.
At age 30, Tomlinson has lived the dream and continues to do so. As a member of one of the biggest boy bands of all time, he has won countless awards, performed on the world’s most prestigious stages, sold millions of records, and achieved No. 1 hits left, right, and center. With that being said, how does Tomlinson measure his success today as a solo artist? “It’s a difficult question,” he replies. “It’s very easy to be over-analytical in my job about a million different things. If I leave the stage after a show and I feel like 90% of the people in there have had a good night, then I’ve done a fucking good job,” he continues.
When Tomlinson first came onto the scene, musicians didn’t have to think about trying to secure their songs on Spotify playlists or coming up with TikTok challenges. With those two factors now at the forefront of the music industry, Tomlinson has maintained an ongoing triumph without depending on them, which is extremely commendable and rare. Instead, he credits his loyal fanbase for all his recent victories over the past few years. “That’s where I feel incredibly blessed for the fanbase that I’ve got because in terms of that side of my job and how much support I’ve had, there’s not been a ton of it, to be fair. The reason I’ve sold my tour, it’s not thanks to Spotify, Apple Music, radio stations, or a record label. It’s just down to my fans. It’s as simple as that,” Tomlinson says.
While others may immediately think of Coldplay, Dua Lipa, and Harry Styles as this year’s top touring artists, it must be said that Tomlinson has been considered an underdog and deserves all the mentions. His “Louis Tomlinson World Tour” allowed the Doncaster-born star to perform to over 500,000 fans in eight months. When he could not do in-person performances due to the pandemic, he arranged Live From London, a live-streamed concert, and broke a Guinness World Record for the biggest selling live stream from a male solo artist, shifting over 160,000 tickets. As far as Walls is concerned, it also racked up accolades, reaching the spot in four countries from two different continents, gathering over 500 million streams, and becoming the first artist in nine years on his label to reach the Top 10 in the US.
“This tour has done so much for me, man. So much for my confidence, so much for my understanding of what it is I need to do with my job,” he says. “I’ve waited for this moment for a long time, and I didn’t know what to expect. You know, when I’m comparing my touring experience, I’m comparing it to the pinnacle in pop, the One Direction days. After 90,000 capacity stadium shows, it was a really hard thing to work out what the shows were going to look like.”
Tomlinson continues, “I know every artist says this, but there’s such a powerful connection between me and my fans. That’s what I felt collectively throughout these shows. There is this kind of co-dependency, and I really thrive off them. When I’m having a good show, I can feel their energy, and their levels go up as well. It’s taught me a lot this tour, and it’s probably been the best year of my life, professionally.”
Now Tomlinson’s career is back in full swing, and he’s ready to keep things moving. Fans will be more than happy to know that another tour is fairly imminent. After a crazy year back on the road, he is eager to get back out there and perform all the new material that he has been imagining will go down a treat with audiences. “I want to keep the momentum going. My solo career since the band has been a bit stop-start, some for personal reasons, some for professional reasons. Now, I’m finally feeling comfortable where I am. I just want to keep it rolling,” he says. That’s not all, however. Tomlinson also wants to start working on album No. 3 sooner than expected. “Ideally, I’d like to try and write the next record before I go on tour next year. I want to do something similar to what I’ve done this past year,” he adds.
With Faith In The Future, Tomlinson has already made it clear that he wants listeners to take the album into their own hands and come up with their own thoughts. But, if there was to be one thing he wants them to take away from the songs, it’s that they get a sense of hope. “As long as they get a feeling for that, and maybe if there are times when they need to hear those messages, I hope it makes them feel good,” he says. “I think one thing that makes me proud and that I hope will also make them proud is that I’ve just followed my heart loads more on this record. Through my experience with my fans, when I’m doing what I love, that’s when I really grab their attention, and that shit’s infectious, man. We feed off each other like that.”
Tomlinson concludes, “I hope that they listen to the record and think, ‘This is what Louis should be doing.’”