The last time Louis Tomlinson graced the Teen Choice Awards stage, he was accompanied by his then-bandmates of One Direction to perform their high-energy hit “Best Song Ever” in 2013. Four years later, Tomlinson is returning to the awards show to perform, but this time, his co-performer is Bebe Rexha.
The pair will be performing their new collaboration, “Back to You,” which already has more than 50 million Spotify streams since its July 21 release. Although the track has only been out for a few weeks, this marks Tomlinson and Rexha’s second televised performance of “Back to You,” as they first took it to The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon on Aug. 4 — which Tomlinson admits he was actually more nervous for than the TCAs.
“To a certain degree, it makes it easier with having an audience there. It’s better to have more faces and more atmosphere, definitely,” he tells Billboard just after wrapping rehearsals. “I was a little nervous for Jimmy Fallon, but I was happy with the performance so I feel like I’m in a good place. I think this will probably be a better performance for both of us.”
Tomlinson is excited for fans to see the visual content he’s prepared for this performance, and with Bebe sounding “amazing, obviously,” in rehearsals, he feels they’ll be taking it to another level from their Fallon appearance. It’s clear that Tomlinson is proud of his latest release, so Billboard wanted to hear a little more about the success of the single and what else the singer has coming ahead of his big TCA solo debut. Check out our interview below.
How has it been working with Bebe and celebrating “Back to You” with her?
She’s a great girl, really fun. It’s been a good reintroduction for me back into the industry, so it’s made me feel good. And that way I don’t stay married to a specific genre, I don’t stay pop straight down the line, with the Steve [Aoki] collaboration [2016’s “Just Hold On”] and now Bebe.
What has the response been like to the single, and how did it compare to your expectations?
When you start with a band, you’ve got a fan base, and you want to make sure they like it — that’s the real goal. But the reaction has been broad and really great, and I’m really happy with that. I’ve said it a million times, but the fans are just consistently incredible.
You recently did an interview with The Guardian where you opened up about feeling like you were the forgettable one in 1D. Has “Back to You” changed your feelings about that?
When I was talking about that, I was talking about how I felt at a specific time in the band, I don’t necessarily feel like that now. But that’s what kind of drove me to want to be a big songwriter with the band, to gain an identity of sorts. I just feel like I’m getting stronger and more confident with each single, and I’m definitely still learning as a songwriter and an artist on my own as well. It’s exciting for me, and to have the support of the fans is always amazing — I definitely feel like they’ve got my back.
That must give you some great confidence going into your next releases.
Yeah, and I think my next single will sound the most like me lyrically. I suppose I’m constantly looking at the results of the [current] single, but for me I am really excited to release that one because it feels the more like me lyrically. I think we do have the next single, it’s just working out when the best time to release that is and that’s depending on how this single goes.
What can you tell fans about the music you have coming? Is an album on the way?
I’ll probably do one, maybe two more singles and then the album. But the album in general is just very honest and conversational. In the early sessions I’ve had, a lot of songwriters love to write about fairytales and situations that just don’t really feel like the bands that I grew up listening to. They speak very matter-of-fact and honest, and I think that’s cool and that’s interesting. Although the fans know loads about me, they’ll definitely learn a bit more after the album.