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Louis Tomlinson Acknowledges Status as the Lowliest One Direction Member: “Forgettable, to a Certain Degree”

Over the last year and change, we’ve seen the dissolution of One Direction and the fitful beginnings of solo careers for each member of the former boy band behemoth. Zayn Malik and Harry Styles were clearly marked for stardom from the beginning, and are currently putting their vocal abilities and extreme good looks to use as Taylor Swift’s sexy duet partner and the world’s last rock’n’roll star, respectively. Liam Payne is stuck doing “Rack City” cosplay with Quavo five years too late, but Niall Horan has at least one pretty good song to his name. What of Louis Tomlinson?

The fifth 1D member, who debuted with a forgettable Steve Aoki collaboration last year and is now preparing to release his first solo album, is the subject of a new Guardian profile. It begins with Tomlinson acknowledging that he was “forgettable, to a certain degree” within the group that made him famous, and ends with the singer asking the writer whether fans will wonder why he’s attempting a solo career at all. It’s full of passages like this one, in which Tomlinson candidly discusses the fact that he never had a single vocal solo during One Direction’s run on The X Factor:

“You know I didn’t sing a single solo on the X Factor,” he says, recalling the time back in 2010, when One Direction were first put together as a band on the ITV reality show. “A lot of people can take the piss out of that. But when you actually think about how that feels, standing on stage every single week, thinking: ‘What have I really done to contribute here? Sing a lower harmony that you can’t really hear in the mix?” He guesses, smiling wryly, that in those months he was best known as “The kid wearing espadrilles, stood in’t back.”

And this one, in which he observes that his old bandmate probably has an easier time networking with songwriters than he does:

When you’re putting together material as a soloist, he says, you quickly learn that those hot-shot collaborators who once dribbled to work with One Direction no longer pick up the phone so readily. “I couldn’t say to you now that I could definitely get a superstar writer in a session with me. And I understand that.” Tomlinson adds, with no real vinegar, that not all of his former bandmates will be operating in these same straitened circumstances: “Harry won’t struggle with any of that.”

Tomlinson is admirably, and sometimes painfully, frank about his struggles both within One Direction and the uncertain start of his next phase. It’s enough to make you want to pat him on the back like a little league baseball coach and tell him that the important part is that he stepped up to the plate at all.

The Guardian’s profile writer, who heard snippets of the forthcoming album, called the songs “modest” and “rather lovely,” adding that they “seem to acknowledge his underdog status.” The record is due out sometime this year. We’re all rooting for ya, kid.