Born in Mullingar, County Westmeath, Republic of Ireland, Niall James Horan grew up singing and playing guitar. His talent was evident from a young age, with his aunt confusing Horan's singing with the radio during a car trip. Given his clean-cut good looks and musical ability, he was referred to as the "Irish Justin Bieber" around his hometown. Determined to make it as a singer, he auditioned as a solo act for "The X Factor" (ITV, 2004-) in 2010, performing "So Sick." Sent for additional training at the show's musical boot camp by the judges, Horan's rendition of "Champagne Supernova" was deemed not strong enough for him to make the cut as a solo singer.Happily, this opened other professional doors for Horan, who was teamed with fellow contestants Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson to form One Direction. As a boy band, they placed third on "The X Factor" and ascended to international superstardom with the 2011 release of their debut single, "What Makes You Beautiful." Hitting number one on the U.K. singles chart and breaking sales records, the song paved the way for a follow-up hit, "Gotta Be You," and their global smash debut album, Up All Night. Continuing their meteoric rise, the band notched a sold-out U.K. tour and won three 4Music Awards (Best Group, Breakthrough and Video), a Brit Award (Best British Single for "What Makes You Beautiful") and two U.K. Kids' Choice Awards (Favorite U.K. Newcomer and Favorite Band). Their European success led to their American breakthrough, with their album hitting No. 1 and One Direction replicating their European success in the States with a flood of endorsements, publicity appearances and television performances. They were featured as the musical guest (and appeared in a skit) on the Sofia Vergara-hosted episode of "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975-), booked a guest spot on "iCarly" (Nickelodeon, 2007-2012), and embarked upon a 2012 world tour. Unlike the previous wave of boy bands, One Direction eschewed matching clothing and tightly choreographed dancing, radiating instead a seemingly less manufactured, less polished image. Although much of One Direction's appeal came from their unified front of playful energy, each member stood out in his own way. Horan's charm came from his soft heart and endearing quirks, including being afraid of birds and lacking relationship experience. Following the band's split, Horan released his first solo album, Flicker, in 2017.