"The number-one thing was I wanted to be honest. I hadn't done that before."

By Hayden Wright

Harry Styles’ self-titled debut solo album drops on May 12, and the former One Directioner snagged the cover of Rolling Stone to announce his next chapter. In the cover story, Styles says his new music marks a sharp departure from the boy band material that made him famous: The new songs come from a truer place.

Related: Harry Styles’ Self-Titled Debut Album Gets a Release Date

“I didn’t want to write ‘stories,'” he said. “I wanted to write my stories, things that happened to me. The number-one thing was I wanted to be honest. I hadn’t done that before.”

Though that may sound like a dig at One Direction’s expense, Styles maintains a diplomatic disposition on the group that made him a star.

“I love the band, and would never rule out anything in the future,” he said. “The band changed my life, gave me everything.”

Harry also waded into the current political climate. Though “Sign of the Times,” his debut single, seems political in nature, Styles says he was going for something even more universally human.

“Most of the stuff that hurts me about what’s going on at the moment is not politics, it’s fundamentals,” Styles says. “Equal rights. For everyone, all races, sexes, everything. … ‘Sign of the Times’ came from ‘This isn’t the first time we’ve been in a hard time, and it’s not going to be the last time.’ The song is written from a point of view as if a mother was giving birth to a child and there’s a complication. The mother is told, ‘The child is fine, but you’re not going to make it.’ The mother has five minutes to tell the child, ‘Go forth and conquer.'”

Boy band haters are wont to dismiss male pop groups as music for teenage girls — a suggestion that Styles gamely shoots down.

“Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music – short for popular, right? – have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy?” he wondered aloud. “That’s not up to you to say. Music is something that’s always changing. There’s no goal posts. Young girls like the Beatles. You gonna tell me they’re not serious? How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future.”

When pressed about his relationship with Taylor Swift, he remembered a date on which they were stalked by paparazzi on a walk.

“Relationships are hard, at any age. And adding in that you don’t really understand exactly how it works when you’re 18, trying to navigate all that stuff didn’t make it easier. I mean, you’re a little bit awkward to begin with. You’re on a date with someone you really like. It should be that simple, right? It was a learning experience for sure. But at the heart of it – I just wanted it to be a normal date.”

And though he and Swift don’t appear to be in touch, Styles knows that “Out of the Woods” and “Style” were reportedly written about him — and they’re inescapable.

“I mean, I don’t know if they’re about me or not…” he said. “But the issue is, she’s so good, they’re bloody everywhere.”

See Harry’s Rolling Stone cover here.

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