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One Direction’s fifth album, Made in the A.M., hits retailers on Friday — and to celebrate the massively popular boy band’s last album before going on a hiatus, EW caught up with the group to learn about the songs, albums, and artists that have inspired them over the years. Below, Liam Payne shares his picks. For more, here’s Louis Tomlinson, Harry Styles, and Niall Horan.
Onstage, Liam Payne is a born performer. During One Direction concerts, he’s the one most likely to change up the songs as heard on the studio albums, adding trailing melodies and sky-high falsettos while providing added texture to even the most staid of tracks — like “What Makes You Beautiful” — thanks to his backing harmonies. “I do love being on stage,” he tells EW.
Behind the scenes, Payne boasts the second-most writing credits since their third record, Midnight Memories, when the band began taking creative control of their output in earnest. (Payne’s bandmate and frequent co-writer, Louis Tomlinson, has the most writing credits.) On Made in the A.M., Payne even has a producer credit on “Love You Goodbye,” one of his favorite new songs and one which Payne tells EW he would have loved to perform live if the band toured toured on this record. He also has, oddly enough, a string arrangement credit on MITAM opener “Hey Angel,” and he remixed “Drag Me Down” under the moniker Big Payno with Lunchmoney Lewis on the Perfect EP. “That is one of my favorite parts of [putting out a record],” he says. “Taking something One Direction and [remixing] it into dance music, because we’re not really the most … dance-music band in the world. This time we went for more of a trap sound, which was a lot of fun to do.”
Below, Payne, 22, talks about the performers that inspired him to become a singer-songwriter, and the musical influences that led him and his bandmates to their strongest outing yet.
THE FIRST MUSIC I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY: Linkin Park
“I used to be a skater boy,” he jokes. “I used to stand on a skateboard outside the house after school,” he says, but he never actually mastered much more than standing on that board as tricks were a bit out of his grasp: “I’m really rubbish at that.”
THE FIRST SONG I EVER PERFORMED IN PUBLIC: “I Believe I Can Fly,” R. Kelly
Payne was “about 7 years old on a karaoke machine” the first time he performed in public, singing “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly. “I’ve actually got video at home, it’s so funny. I mumbled my way through it but it’s good fun.”
THE ARTISTS THAT HAVE MOST INSPIRED ME: Michael Jackson, Chris Brown, Justin Timberlake, Robbie Williams
“Whenever I’m writing these days, I do often think of Michael Jackson,” says Payne. “And obviously he’s one of the best performers ever. And Chris Brown, as well as Justin Timberlake and Robbie Williams.”
THE ALBUM THAT REMINDS ME OF HOME: Just Enough Education to Perform, Stereophonics
“It would probably be [Just Enough Education to Perform] by Stereophonics. I used to listen to that while walking to the bus on the way to school,” he says. “Have a Nice Day,” in particular, came to mind: “Just a good way to start your morning, really.”
A SONG I WISH I HAD WRITTEN: “I Want to Write You a Song,” One Direction
There’s no doubt that the members of One Direction truly believe this is their best record to date — when asked to name a song he wishes he had written himself, he names one from his own band: “I Want to Write You a Song,” written by Ammar Malik, Julian Bunetta, and John Ryan — one of the few songs on the record written without the band members.
“I’ve always tried to write that song for a special person but you never quite get up to your own expectations, [because] you want it to be your best piece of work ever,” says Payne. “That song’s actually about the moment you try to write someone a song and not knowing what the hell to write about. I love that. Made me feel like, ‘Damn, I wish I was there when that happened.’ “
THE ALBUM THAT REMINDS ME OF MY FIRST LOVE: 8701, Usher
” ‘Burn’ is a big one,” says Payne, first citing 8701 as the album that reminds him of his first love. (“Burn” appears on Confessions.) “I probably cried to that one a few times about a few girls — as many other people have cried! Sometimes you’ve just gotta let it burn,” he adds with a laugh.
THE SONGS I’M MOST PROUD OF: “What a Feeling,” “Better Than Words”
On Made in the A.M., Payne is most proud of “What a Feeling.” “That was a big one that me and Louis sat and wrote together,” he says. “It just kinda came together. It was inspired by a Fleetwood Mac[-esque] sound. It’s just a nice driving jam — imagine driving down the coast.”
From the previous four albums, he cites “Better Than Words” from Midnight Memories, which was written by Payne along with Tomlinson, Bunetta, Scott, and Ryan. “That whole song was written about song titles. When I write with the boys, we never write anything down, and we have to try to remember it. There was a point in the middle of the night where we totally forgot the whole song, and we were like, ‘Ugh, what did we start with?’ And we were on a bus at like three in the morning in Manchester or somewhere and me, John, and Julian couldn’t remember the whole song we’d just written, which was quite good,” he jokes.
MY GO-TO KARAOKE JAM: “Angels” by Robbie Williams and “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra
“Angels” by Robbie Williams is Payne’s go-to karaoke song, one which he used to perform “a lot” when he was younger, as well as “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra: “What a jam.”
THE SONGS I’D LOVE TO COVER: John Mayer, Ed Sheeran, “Hotline Bling” by Drake
Payne says that he “always” thinks about which songs he’d like to cover. “Like, if I were back on X Factor, what would I sing? I like a lot of John Mayer stuff — that would be somewhere I’d definitely visit. A lot of Ed Sheeran songs would be quite cool, too. I’d also like … you know how Drake has sing-songy rap songs? I’d like to do a mad emotional version, like a real laidback cover of one of those.”
Asked to name one in particular, Payne goes with, “‘Hotline Bling.” “I was doing that dance onstage the other day which was quite fun, but I don’t know if people knew what I was doing. I think they just thought I was weird.”