AS a cheeky teenager in One Direction, Louis Tomlinson conquered the world – performing in stadiums around the globe and amassing a multimillion-pound fortune along the way.
But while he achieved pop superstardom, few 28-year-olds have suffered more trauma in their relatively short lives than the Doncaster-born singer.
In the four years since the group’s “hiatus”, Louis has faced unimaginable tragedy with the passing of both his sister Felicite aged 18, last year and his mum Johannah in 2016, before choreographing an impressive comeback with a debut solo album, Walls.
His personal journey back to full strength has been nothing short of remarkable — with the singer forced to deal with loss of his younger sibling and his mum in the full glare of publicity.
In an exclusive interview with The Sun, Louis explains: “Initially, when the news broke (about Felicite) last year, I was bitter about the fact that everybody was talking about it.
“Loads of people were speculating online about what might have happened. I was just told that it was the reality of the situation, which it is, and I had to accept it.
“So that’s the negative side to it, but a positive side to it and something I wasn’t prepared to feel was the love from my fans.
“I wasn’t ready to feel like that, but I really needed it at the time.
“What was difficult was people speculating about details straight away, discussing online what might have happened when nobody really knew, and talking about my family. But actually when I looked further almost all of it was kind, and I felt loved.”
Just over two years before Felicite’s death from an accidental drug overdose, Louis’ mum Johannah tragically passed away, aged 43, following a long battle with leukaemia. It is a loss that continues to shape his life.
But he tells how, over time, he has come to learn from the experience — and now hopes to support others through his own experiences.
He adds: “I’m still getting asked about my mum now, but I’ve grown to understand it I suppose, and I feel like I can maybe help others.
“When I wrote a song called Two Of Us, I had fans talking to me about a loss they’d had, and they listened to the song and told me I’d helped them in some way. That makes it all worthwhile.
“Despite how difficult it can be to deal with these things when people are watching, if I have the possibility to help even one person, that’s massive.”
Today, Louis is calm, reflective and down-to-earth when we meet in a low-key west London pub — despite him having sold more than 50million records globally with One Direction.
Louis talks with a broad Doncaster accent, and laughs as he reflects on his career, which began when he found fame with 1D at the age of 18.
He admits he has “f***ed things up” plenty of times in the past but hopes to have learnt from his mistakes.
His new single, Walls, recounts his experiences of love and loss. It is a clearly autobiographical reflection on his life over the last decade, which has seen him fall in love with his childhood sweetheart, Eleanor Calder, before splitting in 2015, and reconciling two years ago.
In the years in between he fathered his first child, a son, with a US stylist but the pair soon separated and his romance with model Eleanor is now so strong marriage rumours have begun to swirl, although he’s quick to insist they are premature.
He explains: “Yeh I saw some of that. It isn’t true, but the luxury with Eleanor is I’ve known her since before our first single What Makes You Beautiful, so she’s felt the whole growth of everything.
“As I’ve got to understand it, she has too, and I have the benefit with her that we’ve seen it for what it is.”
So is marriage a possibility? He adds: “One day, yeah, I’d imagine so. If you’re asking me if I’m going to marry her? Yes, I think so! And more kids, I’d say so.”
His lyrics reflect on the ups and downs of his time in the spotlight, as he explains: “It’s about overcoming some of your problems and learning from your mistakes.
“It’s looking back at a certain time of my life and I’m sure there’s lots of people who can relate to that idea of being alone and waking up, being used to having someone there, then they’re not.
“It’s a bit of, “Oh no, I’ve f***ed it up, yeah. But I’ve understood that now and I’ve come back stronger.
“You learn from your mistakes, and the song is about owning them, putting your hands up and saying ‘I know what I did was wrong, but I understand it a bit better now’”.
While in One Direction, Louis earned himself a reputation, alongside some of his other bandmates, as a party boy.
Today he’s learnt to control himself, but jokes that he can “still put a few beers away”. He’s keen to expand his mind now after missing out university when he found fame with One Direction on The X Factor.
He says: “I’ve been very lucky but one experience that I know I would have loved is university, mobbing out and meeting new people.
“Someday it will happen. I’d study psychology. And I’ve just started reading again, I just picked up this Beatles book, so I’m trying to educate myself a bit more.
“I just thought I’d pick up a few books, because I realised that I don’t read at all — and for a songwriter that’s pretty criminal.”
With a huge bank balance and global fame, there’s appears to be little to achieve. For Louis, fame has come first — but now he’s determined to prove himself as an artist in his own right, even if he is never able to achieve the enormous record sales One Direction enjoyed.
The album has been almost four years in the making. He scrapped a huge quantity of material and started over after he realised his first efforts had failed to fulfil his own ambitions.
He adds: “I’ve never been driven by money, but I’ve got a point to prove to myself. I think I was frustrated before, because I was in a few writing sessions where no matter what I said at the start of the session, the concept at the end was always something different. But after a while I decided to scrap all of that, and own this myself.
“I struggled with it for the first couple of years. I was trying to work out exactly what my sound was.
“I didn’t have the luxury every other developing artist has of making mistakes in the background until you land on that one you get excited about and that’s why it took me a second go to get it right.”
However successful his solo efforts may prove to be, alongside those of 1D bandmates Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Niall Horan and Zayn Malik, the question of a prospective reunion will always loom large for Louis — who remains in contact with his former bandmates but admits they are very different people.
He adds: “I used to feel more pressure about matching up to anything any of the others do, but the reality is we have different skill sets and different fans.
“Harry’s a star, there’s no two ways about it. I’m much more reserved. If I carry myself in a slightly different way, I might be able to get a different market but it’s all about staying true to you and that’s what we’re all doing.
“I spoke to Liam a couple of days ago but haven’t spoken to Niall in a couple of months. Me and Harry don’t speak quite as much but he sent me a text about the single and I sent him one about his, and there’s a mutual respect there, definitely.”
- Louis debut solo album, Walls, is released January 31. His single, also titled Walls, is out now.
Simon made me kick booze
AFTER enjoying a wild lifestyle in One Direction, Louis has toned down his partying – and credits a stern talking to from Simon Cowell for helping him turn things around.
Looking back on his early fame, at just 18 years of age, he now admits he let himself down by overdoing the booze – which risked his career.
He explains: “The hardest thing when I first got into the band was the initial under standing of what it would entail.
“Because when I got in the band I had just been enjoying the best year of my life. I was at sixth form, drinking, going to house parties and I’d just passed my driving test, so it was a really exciting time of my life. Then I auditioned for The X Factor and suddenly, boom, I’m not living at home any more and that took a while for me to understand.
“At one of the earlier gigs in One Direction, really early on before we had any singles out, I got drunk before it and I got a massive b******ing from Simon, saying I shouldn’t be doing gigs leathered.
“It was just one of the moments I needed. I felt quite defiant at first because I was 18 and I felt like any 18-year-old does – I was going to do whatever I wanted.
“But suddenly people expected more from me and initially being a role model and under- standing all that was the hardest thing to get my head around.”
View more information: https://www.the-sun.com/entertainment/307256/louis-tomlinson-vows-to-marry-eleanor-calder-after-fing-things-up-before/