Meet Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson - together they are One Direction. It's hard to believe that just two years ago these five boys hadn't even met each other. But with the help of the biggest television show in the UK, The X Factor, their millions of loyal fans and some killer songs, One Direction have just seen their debut album go to number one in 15 countries around the world. They have become a global phenomenon. And this is their incredible story...
Turn back the clock to July 2010 and auditions for the UK's X Factor were underway. Five young boys from various parts of the UK and Ireland had entered the competition with nothing else but a passion for singing and raw talent. Their names were Niall (from Westmeath, Ireland), Zayn (from Bradford), Liam (from Wolverhampton), Harry (from Cheshire) and Louis (from Doncaster) and they had all entered as solo artists. Arriving to their individual auditions, they were given the task of impressing the judges. And they did. But just not quite how they imagined.
It was during the Bootcamp round of the competition that Simon Cowell, Nicole Scherzinger and Louis Walsh had to give the boys the bad news that they hadn't made it through as solo artists. They were devastated, but they were offered a suggestion. The judges wanted them to form a group; to learn to sing as a five-piece rather than individuals. The boys jumped at the chance and One Direction was born.
Zayn says, "I didn't think I would ever want to be in a group. But when I was there and it was happening, and I knew the lads a bit, there was no way I was going to say 'no'. We've all got quite different sounding voices and our own individual style, so we can play up to that and play to each of our strengths."
Louis adds with sincerity, "To start off with it was difficult because we all had our egos and we wanted to get ourselves across in the group. It was tough. Now, we're literally like five best friends."
Fast forward four months and the boys were impressing an average of 16 million viewers with their performances each weekend. They sang world-famous tracks like Kim Wilde's Kids In America, Kelly Clarkson's My Life Would Suck Without You and Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars -- they confidence rocketed and the country kept on voting for them to stay in the competition. It was clear the UK were falling in love with the band.
In the final, the boys were given the opportunity to perform with multi-million-selling artist Robbie Williams. He backed their bid to win and wished the awe-struck boys the best.
On 12 December 2010, One Direction were crowned the third place winners of The X Factor 2010 - and although they hadn't come first, it was clear they had already attracted a huge fan base. In the run up to their win, hundreds of girls would wait outside the TV studios in London just to get a glimpse of their favourite new group and they were already receiving sack-loads of fan mail. There was no way this new group could be ignored.
The boys, however, kept their feet on the ground. They hadn't won the series and didn't know if they could find the support to keep making music -- although by now, disbanding was not an option, they had come so far and were great friends.
Louis explains, "We came from nothing, and had no experience as a group at all. By the time we came to the end of the show, we were a completely different group. We worked so hard, and achieved so much. We also became really close mates -- we're just all so grateful that we got along so well from the start."
It was just after Christmas that the boys got a call from Simon Cowell, who asked them to attend a meeting at Syco Records head offices in London to discuss their future. On that day, he delivered to them some good news - he would sign them to Syco, they had a record deal!
Harry says: "Simon Cowell was telling you your life was about to change! It was weird. I feel incredibly lucky to have the life I do."
The group immediately went on tour, playing two months of shows on the X Factor Live Tour. They travelled across the UK and Ireland meeting fans as they went, playing to thousands of people every night. In that time, they even managed to put together a book about their experiences so far -- Forever Young -- it even made the best-sellers lists. These five boys were certainly not afraid to work for their success.
And it was after the tour and the book publication that One Direction made it into the studio to work on their first album. It was already Spring and they could not wait to start recording.
It turned out, there were quite a few big producers and writers who wanted the chance to work with One Direction -- and it was only when they hit the studio, did they realise just how 'big' these names were!
The began writing with the likes of Rami Yacoub (Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and Bon Jovi) and legendary producers such as Steve Mac (who has worked with JLS, Leona Lewis and Westlife). Even Red One (Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Sean Kingston) also became involved.
Niall humbly explains, "These guys are amazing. Basically, name one of the biggest hits of the past ten years, and the guys we worked with will be behind them. To even meet them was incredible. To work with them was even better!"
The group put together an album of thirteen tracks, which they later named Up All Night. And by Autumn 2011, it was ready for release.
"I want people to listen to it and say, 'Wow, is that One Direction?'. It's not too cheesy - I think it's the kind of album that guys will like as well as girls," Louis revealed at the time.
One Direction's debut single, What Makes You Beautiful (Rami Yacoub, Carl Falk, Savan Kotecha), was released on 11 September 2011 in the UK -- but remarkably, it was breaking records before it even went on sale. It became the biggest pre-order in Sony's single history and went in at number one in the UK and Irish charts as soon as it was on iTunes. The boys cemented their success by selling a staggering 153,000 in their first week of release, with the fun California-shot video providing the perfect backdrop to one of the summer's biggest tracks.
Zayn says, "To think we've sold the most number of pre-orders when you know some of the artists who have released records through Sony is incredible! We can't believe it. It's the most amazing thing."
In December, the boys headed off on the sold out Up All Night tour which saw them play over 60 dates across the UK and Ireland.
"The best thing about being in 1D is that you get to travel around with four of your best friends," notes Harry. "We're having real fun, doing what we love to do. It's brilliant and I never want it to change."
February 2012 saw the boys win their first BRIT Award for Best Single at the famous award ceremony in London. And with their successes growing, it was time to take the 1D family abroad.
While the UK applauded the boys success, the news came that they had been offered a record deal in America -- they were to sign to Columbia Records. The deal was made and in February 2012, Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry and Louis went out to America to promote their debut single. They began a gruelling tour of the States, visiting radio stations and fans wherever they could and playing on world-renowned TV shows like The Today Show and Saturday Night Live. And their hard work paid off --'What Makes You Beautiful' debuted at No.28 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the highest entry for a British group's debut single since the Spice Girls 'Wannabe' in 1997.
As One Direction continued on their travels, so the 1D Mania grew and the phenomenon gathered meteoric pace. Fans would line the streets outside studios, hotels and malls, hoping to meet their idols. In March 2012, the news came that Up All Night had entered the US Billboard 200 chart at number one -- making music history as the first UK group to debut at No.1 with the debut album. The boys had done it, they'd officially cracked America!
It wasn't just America either -- Up All Night had gone to number one in 15 different countries across the world including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Sweden and Mexico. The group celebrated this astounding achievement by announcing they would play a headline show at the incredible Madison Square Garden in New York in December -- a venue that has played host to the likes of Michael Jackson, Elton John, The Foo Fighters, Madonna and The Rolling Stones.
"We actually can't believe we got a number one album in America," Harry laughs. "We're just teenage boys, how did that happen? And now we get to play some of the most incredible venues in the world. We're so lucky."
April saw One Direction pick up two Nickelodeon Kids' Choice awards in LA, where they performed on stage alongside the likes of Katy Perry and Justin Bieber and in front of the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. Their success was unprecedented and they now even had a celebrity following with the likes of Joe Jonas, Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift speaking out about how much they adored these five boys from over the pond.
"That was one of the most surreal days ever," Liam revealed at the time. "Will Smith, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Michelle Obama - wow what it going on with my life!"
In celebration, they took their Up All Night tour to Australia and New Zealand. And it was from there that they announced that they will be going on an arena tour around North America this summer and then again in 2013 as part of their World Tour
Contemplating their whirlwind rise to fame and their amazing success, Liam smiles, "It's amazing to think back to when we were first put together - and to the point we are at now. Things have moved so quickly, it's got all of us in a massive state of shock. It's so surreal to think of everything - like wining the BRIT, doing our first UK tour, having our first number one. I can't believe all of this has happened to us five lucky guys. We love our fans and owe all our success entirely to them -- we want them to know that."
"And not only have I had a lot of fun making music and working in the music industry but I've made the four best mates and four brothers that I'd always wanted. I couldn't ask to work with four nicer guys and I'm very proud to be in One Direction."