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"I didn't want to exhaust our fan base," he explains."If you're shortsighted, you can think, ' Let's just keep touring,' but we all thought too much of the group than to let that happen.

He's here to do something he hasn't done much of in his young career: an extended one-on-one interview.

Often in the past there was another One D member to vector questions into a charmingly evasive display of band camaraderie.

Today, Styles is a game but careful custodian of his words, sometimes silently consulting the tablecloth before answering.

For many, 2016 was a year of lost musical heroes and a toxic new world order. Styles' car stereo pumps a mix of country and obscure classic rock.

For Styles, it was a search for a new identity that began on that bench overlooking London. "I didn't want to write 'stories,' " he says.

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