Not many people are given the opportunity to come face to face with their idol. Let alone ask them any question you like – within reason.
The face from the poster is suddenly 3D and tangible in front of you. The name that you’ve chanted out for of an evening, is a person right there. The voice that has soothed, has reassured and has bought endless happiness, is next to you, reaching out a hand and saying ‘hello’.
Of course, you have an idea of who this person is. You feel like you already know them, inside and out, and in my case, Wagamama order and all. So looking up and seeing Niall Horan stood before me, weirdly wasn’t as bewildering as I thought.
I think that your brain plays tricks on you. It leads you to think that the years before have led to the very moment. If I could know this Irishman, braces and all, then he would know me – I mean, I’ve bought the albums, queued outside the venues from concert halls to the stadiums, tweeted ‘x231’ for a ‘#followback’, and spoken about Niall as though he was the boy who lived next door. Watching Niall on that shoot, he was everybody we believed he would be. No charade. No diva. No dramatics. He was neither a caricature of himself or a poker face blank slate, he was instead charming and funny, relaxed and sometimes shy.
For our chat he slumped himself down on a beanbag; letting a grin take over his face, seemingly grateful for this small moment of innocent, childlike comfort. Niall talks happily about golf and food. He asks if I’m from Derby and mimics my accent. Even gives me some directions for the underground, telling me “I think I’m quite a relatable guy”. He is too. I catch him throwing glances at the two cockapoos in the house that we’re shooting in, he had puppy love in his eyes and was itching to just give them a fuss. He admires his surroundings – a quirky house in Paddington, where the dog’s basket is bigger than my bed at home, and a winding staircase revealed a rooftop paradise. Niall, despite his jet setter lifestyle, savours the moment that he’s in, and takes the time to talk to everybody he meets.
We talk about old tours and on stage antics, he poses in front of the photographers, giving us a twirl for each look with a wit woo.
The cover? He chose that. “That’s your cover!” he had grinned, as the shot appeared on the laptop and he high fived the photographer with a weird Niall only mix of enthusiasm and grace.
His team hover and they prime and they prep, they tell him he can’t wear his hat despite protests and remind him of that day’s commitments. But you can tell that they’re his adopted family, for he pulls the faces we pull at our nagging parents behind their backs but secretly smiles with affection.
Niall is easy to talk to, maybe too easy, as he runs on a tangent like a kid with a kite. We talk happily about ‘This Town’, a song that he’s clearly comfortable in. It’s in his soul. It is his soul. Evidently, Niall poured himself into that track. Treading new ground to talk about the newer material isn’t so simple. It isn’t a PR cover up, but maybe more needing to adjust. He’s tentative, reveals on the tip of his tongue – feeding me clues like a playground game. There’s the song that sounds Celtic, the songs written about strangers on trains, and this was pre-Small Hands; the one that is ‘baby making music’. There’s glitter in his eyes when he talks about 80s gritty chick flicks, an excitement when he reveals plans for live shows.
As our afternoon together draws to a close, Niall finds each of the tmrw team and pulls us in for a hug and a hand shake. He thanks all involved, seemingly unaware of how gracious I was to have spent time in the presence of Niall Horan. Once he’d left, there was a few seconds silence, and the team looked at each other, and burst into giggles of disbelief. This was a secret that we couldn’t wait to let slip.
Watch the behind the scenes video below. Order Volume #19 from our store, stocks are running low.
video: james kelly / @jameskellyphoto
photos: jack margerison / @jackmarge
Words by Tanyel Gumushan