One Direction’s Songwriter Warned The Band That They Would “Hate” Their Music
"You're 17 or 18 years old, you're not supposed to like the music that a boy band does."
When One Direction started out in 2010, they had some serious industry power behind them. After their stint on the The X Factor, the band signed to Simon Cowell’s Syco Records and were quickly shoved into the studio with a team of writers, who set about creating their first album Up All Night.
Savan Kotecha was one of those writers, and his involvement with the band began early on when he was working as a vocal producer and songwriter on The X Factor. It’s not often you hear from songwriters like Kotecha, but in a new podcast called And The Writer Is… he spoke at length about his time with One Direction.
Kotecha offered a lot of insights into the band’s opinion of their early music — hinting that 1D weren’t exactly fans of those first few singles, and revealing that some members of the group were resistant to the musical direction producers were taking.
“In the very beginning, they were a manufactured boy band. That’s what it was,” Kotecha says. “They weren’t all like hustling musicians trying to make it, they were on a TV show.”
“I was open about that [to them]: ‘You are going to hate the music that you do in the beginning. You’re 17 or 18 year old boys, you’re not supposed to like the music that a boy band does. Historically, that’s just not how it’s going to go. And that’s what happened, but it blew up’.”
Kotecha was with them through Up All Night and their second album Take Me Home, before some 1D members started to push back on the control Kotecha and the other producers had over the band’s output.
“I think by album three, they — not all of them, but there was one or two, one especially — that was bitter about that fact [that they were a boy band]. And this particular one — he was not the talented one, he wasn’t the singer, he wasn’t the star… he started having something against me and [the other writers] and against that process.”
“Maybe we could have been more inviting on the creative process on album two, and not been so authoritative… Like, I came from ‘these are kids from a show and I’ll tell you guys what to do,’ because in the beginning that’s what I had to do. For me it was then hard to see them in any other way, and they needed people to see them in a different way… I was wrong to think that way, because some of them have particularly grown into really knowing what they’re doing.”
According to Kotecha, Harry Styles was the member who showed the most songwriting potential.
“With Harry it was really interesting, because from album two you really saw that he was a fucking good writer”
“With Harry it was really interesting, because from album two you really saw that he was a fucking good writer. We did a song together for the third album — the only thing we did for the third album — called ‘Happily’, which I’m really proud of and I think he is as well… he was really great at bringing ideas.”
Kotecha began working with Ariana Grande after his split from the band — you’ll find his credits on tracks like ‘Problem’, ‘Focus’ and ‘One Last Time’ — which led him into working on the globe-conquering hit ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ with The Weeknd. While he says he’s open to working with the members of 1D on their solo material, he says it’s unlikely to happen.
“If any of those boys reached out to me and wanted help, I would do it in a heartbeat… but I don’t think they want to go to me. I understand why they wouldn’t think of me, because they only know me as the guy that did their early stuff, which is not the stuff that they’re proud of.”
Golan’s full interview with Kotecha clocks in at around an 90 minutes, and it’s a must-listen for anyone interested in what goes on behind the scenes in pop music. You can hear it in full here.