Back in December, a month before Louis Tomlinson’s debut album Walls was released, I had the honor to attend one of his album release parties in Atlanta, Georgia.
I expected my year to go differently: to travel across the country to attend several Louis shows. Little did I know sitting in the local bar in Atlanta it would be the last time I would see the musician who changed my life for the foreseeable future.
Even though nine months have passed, I can still say it was one of the greatest days of my life.
The three-hour drive to Georgia felt like five, but once the Atlanta skyline appeared over the Interstate, my mind filled with anticipation and excitement knowing I would hug Louis in near hours and hear Walls for the first time. Being in a bar with Louis just hanging out with only a few selected fans seemed unfathomable. We checked into our downtown hotel, which was paid for by Sony, and got ready with only a few hours to spare.
Once the Uber dropped us off at the bar, reality hit me. I would be in close proximity inside with the artist who shaped and saved my life — and I just wanted to remember it forever. I wanted to stay frozen in this moment. As we waited outside, the radio host, Adam Bomb, handed us papers to write our questions on. He reminded us to keep the questions respectful and music-centered if we wanted them to be considered. My question was, “I know songwriting is the major part of the album process for you. Can you talk a little bit about your songwriting process?” It wasn’t asked, but one of Bomb’s questions was about his writing process.
Fifteen long minutes waiting outside in the cold, and we were inside. The radio station confiscated our phones at the door to protect Louis’s unreleased music. A couple of tables surrounded a high chair, where Louis would sit for the interview.
My friends and I sat at a table straight across from the chair with a clear view of Louis. Adam Bomb sat in the chair next to Louis’s, and he flipped through the cue cards for preparation of the exclusive event.
“Please welcome to the room, Louis Tomlinson!”
Louis, dressed in a black sweater, jeans, and the usual sneaker, walked out from a curtain in the corner of the room. Smiley and waving, he admired the small room of fans who cheered and shouted for his entrance.
He sat in his chair, inches from where my friends and I sat, smiling occasionally at our table. Adam asked Louis a couple questions about the album (I can’t even recall what because I sat there in silent awe admiring him). It was the happiest I ever felt. It was an out-of-body experience where I wanted to pinch myself to wake up. I just couldn’t believe this was real.
As Louis exited the room, Adam talked to the crowd about how special and exclusive it is for us to hear songs from an unreleased album. He reminded us to be respectful and to enjoy Louis’s hard work.
The first track played. “Too Young.”
The audio was extremely quiet, and Louis shouted from behind the curtain, “Oi! Turn it up!” We all laughed, and Bomb turned up the volume letting the poetic words be heard. The room was silent with everyone intensely listening to the love song. I sat with my jaw open, and tears immediately filled my eyes. I couldn’t believe Louis wrote something so poetic and purposeful. Immediately, I knew this album would be better than anyone expected.
Louis’s photographer, along with the radio station’s, captured fans’ reactions and even recorded and photographed my friends and me from across the room. I felt so humiliated that my tears and freak-out with my friends were being documented, but one of the workers later told us our reactions made the room fun and she could tell how much he meant to us.
Later, a photo of me and my friends was plastered on Louis’s and the radio’s social media.
— Louis Tomlinson (@Louis_Tomlinson) December 6, 2019
We listened to “Perfect Now” and “Walls” and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Louis peaking around the curtain wanting to see our reactions to his years of hard work. He signaled to his security guard to give us tissues and he came to our table and handed us napkins for our tears.
After we listened to the songs, Louis sat back down for the interview. He said it was a beautiful thing to see a reaction like that from fans after working so hard as a solo artist. It was evident he loved being in a room with fans, we mean so much to him and we make him extremely comfortable.
He talked about the tour and how he wanted to keep it authentic and intimate for the fans. Bomb asked about his Live Life Love show in Nashville days prior, which I attended, and when we clapped he laughed and said, “Yeah, yeah, you were there.” I couldn’t believe he remembered us from the meet-and-greet just days ago.
Bomb followed up with his joke and asked if he sees fans freak out on the front row, and then he pointed at us and said, “You’ve been front row, I know you have,” smiling and laughing at our shocked faces.
Bomb asked a couple of fan questions. Louis talked about his writing process, tour, and Walls. The interview was kept professional and exciting, which I appreciated.
After the interview, Bomb invited everyone to the front for a group selfie. Things became extremely intense when Louis was almost mobbed by fans who shoved chairs down to run up to him. Rylee, a fan Louis donated money to make her home accessible, was blocked by fans from coming to the front to be seen. At this exact moment, I knew I spent ten years of my life supporting the right person. He firmly asked the girls to move so Rylee could come to the front, and when they didn’t, he walked to the back and moved a chair out of her way so she was able to be seen in the photo. I wanted to sob when I saw him go out of his way for someone who has spent most of her life looked over. He truly has a heart of gold.
After the selfie, we lined up for the meet and greet with him. His smile was so contagious and he greeted every fan with a warm hug. He signed Donny jerseys and drew tattoos for fans, and as the line inched closer, my eyes filled with tears and my heart raced. Before I knew it, my friend was hugging Louis and he looked me up and down, arms wide open for a hug greeted with a huge smile. We talked briefly, I hugged him again, and I walked off. It’s hard to put into words, but his positive energy is contagious and hugging him feels like home. He’s such a special soul.
After I met him, they made us leave the bar, and my friends and I waited to wave him bye as he left. I wanted to have a tattoo drawn by him, but my anxious mind forgot. Maybe one day, though. My friends and I hung outside for a while and the radio team interviewed us for their social media.
To be in the room for such a special moment to share with an artist you’ve looked up to is truly the greatest feeling ever. I never want to forget how happy and excited I was during those thirty minutes. Leaving the party, I wanted to be able to listen to the songs over and over — but I couldn’t for another month. Being one of only a handful of people who heard Walls before its release was so special yet so tough at the same time. It was hard to keep everything to myself and not leak spoilers, but I knew I had to do it for Louis. I wrote down lyrics and everything I could remember from the album to cherish until Walls was released.
My closest friends were able to join me on this once in a lifetime journey, and here’s what they had to say about the experience.
What was your favorite moment from the party?
Caitlin: My favorite moment was telling him that I would see him four times on tour. His response was, “Thank you, love,” and he looked so happy when I told him that.
Bri: My favorite moment from the listening party is whenever we took the group picture with Louis! He realized this little girl named Rylee wasn’t anywhere near and went out of his way to go help her get into the picture. He ended up putting her in the front with him and that just warmed my heart to the max.
Makayley: My favorite moment from the party was definitely hugging him and watching him interact with Rylee, but I also loved listening to the songs with everyone and the excitement of it all.
How did you react when you found out you won?
Caitlin: It was super last minute when I found out I was able to go. I was super excited because I have always wanted to attend a listening party.
Bri: When I found out I won passes to the listening party, my mind went everywhere! I was crying, shaking, screaming, and panicking. I was the last winner, the last hour. It was CRAZY!
Makayley: I had a panic attack in math class and um thirty minutes later (oops)
What was your favorite song from the three we heard?
Caitlin: My favorite song was “Perfect Now.” Something about it put me in the feels.
Bri: My favorite song out of the three we listened to has to be “Perfect Now.” The lyrics spoke to my soul. Especially the lyric that said, “Keep your head up, love.” Just due to the fact, I’ve gone through some difficult times in life and just hearing that sent me into orbit. I was crying a lot at first but then went into a place of peace and happiness.
Makayley: “Walls” definitely.
What was your initial reaction from the songs?
Caitlin: I was really impressed with the lyrics. Being able to listen to those songs for the first time was super special. I thought the sound was definitely in his lane.
Bri: I could not just have one reaction to the songs we heard. I was happy, sad, surprised, a random emotion you can’t even describe.
Makayley: I was just really proud knowing how hard he had worked on it and how far he’s come.
Did Louis answer your question? What was his response
Caitlin: Louis did answer my question about which song off the album are you most excited to play on tour to which he responded, “Probably ‘Kill My Mind.’”
Bri: No, Louis did NOT answer my question but I was happy with the ones that did get answered.
Do you wish they did anything differently about the party?
Caitlin: I wish they would have allowed us more time to talk and spend with him. the meet and greet was rushed I think. but overall it was a fun experience.
Bri: Absolutely not. It was fine as it was. So close together, we all understood each other, etc.. It was amazing!
Makayley: No, I liked the way it was very chilled out and in the setting, it was (my only problem was with the accessibility of it).
What was meeting Louis like for you?
Caitlin: Super special. it was so nice to get to say hi to him and just tell him how much I love him and couldn’t wait to see his tour.
Bri: Meeting Louis was anxiety-filled. It was my first time ever meeting one of the people I look up to. Overall, it was an amazing experience. Louis was the sweetest and most genuine person ever!
Makayley: Meeting Louis was definitely a monumental moment as for all he had helped Rylee and myself with. But, hugging him definitely got me through a rough patch, and the feeling that the hug gave me still helps me to this day.