Although the five One Direction guys are all focusing on their own directions for the time being, that doesn’t change the fact that Simon Cowell is the reason for their now-individual success, putting Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Zayn Malik together in a collective group after they all individually tried out for The X Factor UK in 2010. In fact, Cowell has remained part of most of the guys’ lives since they began on their solo endeavors — especially Tomlinson, who recently released his official debut solo single “Back to You” (featuring Bebe Rexha) on July 21.
“Louis and I, you know, we’ve got this very close bond. When we heard about this current record, I remember calling him and going, ‘Louis, this record is special’ — and I could not be happier.” Cowell told Billboard on the America’s Got Talent red carpet, then touching on all the 1D guys’ careers. “Actually, with all the boys, if I’m being honest with you. They’ve worked for this. But yeah, you do feel a little bit like a proud dad when you see all five of them doing well now.”
Cowell also detailed the advice he gave Tomlinson, since he was the last to officially launch his solo career. Though watch was definitely on Tomlinson after Liam Payne released “Strip That Down” in May, Cowell told him to not feel too much pressure because there’s no race (even if it feels that way). Above all, Cowell wanted Tomlinson to remember his strengths in One Direction and “always be true to yourself with the music.”
This wasn’t the first time Cowell opened up about giving Tomlinson advice, as he recently shared a story about a time Tomlinson got a little too crazy before a show and needed a good talking-to. And, of course, we had to ask him to elaborate.
“When somebody goes a little bit crazy, my way of dealing with things is to deal with it straight away, face-to-face,” Cowell explains. “I sat him down and went, ‘Look, we’ve all been there, I’ve been there. You’re in a fantastic place right now.’ … And then we laughed it off, he sent me a very nice text afterwards and from that moment we had this incredible bond.”
While Cowell didn’t weigh in on Tomlinson’s solo album, Billboard recently did recently have the chance to chat with the former One Direction singer himself he said fans can expect to learn a “bit more about him” from what’s coming up. Otherwise, Cowell did chime in about Harry Styles’ “amazing” record, as well as the new boy band he’s launching, PrettyMuch — check out the full interview above.