Niall Horan’s Irish luck might have been the only thing that got him through his The X Factor audition in 2010, or at least far enough for him to be chosen as one of five members of One Direction. Now, over a decade after the band came in third place and went on to make pop history, the singer is on the other side as a coach on the NBC singing competition The Voice. While downing spicy wings on Hot Ones, Horan admitted that while rejecting young hopefuls is his least favorite part of the job, he wouldn’t have even pressed his button for his own audition.
“I wouldn’t have turned, not for that guy,” Horan said, flashing back to his bright-eyed 16-year-old self who auditioned with “So Sick” by Ne-Yo. “I was right place, right time. No, I don’t think I would have turned for myself, put it that way. I’d turn for me now. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve been around the block a couple of times, which is a lot to be said for someone who’s 29. But I’d turn now — I wouldn’t have turned then. That’s the truth.”
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One of the latest additions to Horan’s team on The Voice auditioned with a song from his former bandmate Harry Styles, but he has two albums worth of material and a third on the way if anyone wanted to pick one of his own songs to try to win him over. Still, he can’t say yes to everyone.
“That’s the part I’ve struggled with because I know what it’s like to be 16 and stood on the stage and looking at some famous dude that’s got your future in his hands,” Horan explained. “The easy part is pressing the red button, spinning the chair, saying how you like someone. But when the chair turns around and you’re not with them, how do you give them that rejection feedback? That’s where I’ve struggled with it, but it’s full circle stuff.”
Powering through a national singing competition requires a knack for perseverance, which Horan proved to have as he made it through wing and wing without crying or having snot pouring from his nose, and he’d seen with other Hot Ones guests. Even as his hands got shaky, he enthusiastically answered questions about his golfing achievements, his bandmates Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne doxing his license plate online, and his good friend Lewis Capaldi embracing his Scottish accent so much that he actually speaks faster when talking to Americans.
He also got into the art of bringing back the pre-chorus on songs like “Heaven,” the lead single from his forthcoming album The Show, out June 9. It’s also the song he suggests to a Hot Ones editor when she requests a replacement song for her 5-year-old, who she named after hearing Payne say Horan’s name during his appearance and who won’t stop asking her to play “What Makes You Beautiful” in the car. It’s another full-circle moment in the books.