After making his name as a member of One Direction, Harry Styles is branching out on his own. The musician’s self-titled solo debut, a collection of 10 songs, including previously released single “Sign of the Times,” arrives May 12.
After One Direction went on hiatus in 2016, some of its members — past and present — got to work on individual projects. Former member Zayn Malik dropped single “Still Got Time” in March after releasing album Mind of Mine in 2016, while Niall Horan premiered “This Town” this past September. During that time, Styles signed with Columbia Records and acted in Christoper Nolan’s upcoming war drama Dunkirk, out July 21.
With his album’s release date soon approaching, we’ve gathered everything we know so far about the set. Read on for details on where Harry Styles was recorded, the theme running through it, and how Styles feels about the finished product.
He recorded the album in Jamaica…
…at Geejam, a studio and compound that’s also housed big names like Drake, Gorillaz, and Rihanna. According to its official website, the studio, located in the Caribbean island’s mountainous Port Antonio, has “catered to the music industry for over 10 years.” In a 2015 interview with Fader, Geejam Studio co-founder Jon Baker said the space attracts stars because it allows them to “walk down to the local village and not be harassed — and not have paparazzi, and not have anyone give a sh– who they are.”
“Katy Perry, when she was there last year, went into Port Antonio and just showed up at a local dance studio,” he continued. “That’s down-to-earth sh– that a lot of these guys can’t deal with anymore because of the culture of paps and all the rest of it. Gwen [Stefani] went down and would play dominoes with the locals.”
There are about 20 songs that didn’t make the cut.
Styles revealed he and his team had about 70 songs — some fully formed, some just “little ideas” — by the end of the recording process. “I’d say full songs, I’d say there’s 30,” he told BBC Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw.
On that same show, he said Ed Sheeran listened to a couple of the songs after Harry Styles was done. “He liked one that wasn’t on it,” Styles said before admitting that encouraged a moment of doubt — the song remained left off, though.
He looked to older music for inspiration…
In his Rolling Stone interview, the musician talked about how a lot of his influences are “older,” but that doesn’t mean his record won’t sound new. “I didn’t want to put out my first album and be like, ‘He’s tried to re-create the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s,” he said. “Loads of amazing music was written then, but I’m not saying I wish I lived back then. I wanted to do something that sounds like me. I just keep pushing forward.”
…and that’s clear on the two songs he’s released so far.
The piano-driven “Sign of the Times” is a ballad with hints of rock staples like Elton John and David Bowie and an anthemic chorus fit for arenas, while “Ever Since New York” — which Styles debuted during his April 14 appearance on Saturday Night Live — brings guitars to the forefront for a considerably shorter (“Sign of the Times” clocks in at five minutes and 41 seconds), folk-tinged cut.
The theme is honesty.
Styles told Rolling Stones the word “honest” stuck with him throughout the recording process even as other facets of the album changed. “I didn’t want to write ‘stories,'” he said. “I wanted to write my stories, things that happened to me. The No. 1 thing was I wanted to be honest. I hadn’t done that before.”
Even if you don’t love the new album, Harry does.
“The guys I was writing with, we just wanted to make what we wanted to listen to,” he said on BBC Radio 1. “In the least weird way possible, it’s my favorite album to listen to at the moment. … If you put out something you don’t stand behind and really love, then if it doesn’t go well, then you could regret not doing what you wanted to do. Whereas if nothing happens with it, [at least] I love it.”