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Zayn Malik on Leaving One Direction: ‘We Got Sick of Each Other’

Singer discussed his time in One Direction, fatherhood, and trying to rescue his pet chicken in his first major interview in six years

Zayn One Direction

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for NARAS

Zayn Malik is back. Ahead of the release of his comeback single “Love Like This” on July 21, the former One Direction star sat down with Call Her Daddy‘s Alex Cooper to talk about his time in the band, fatherhood, and how he’s “been in writing mode” recently.

In the interview, Malik addressed leaving the band, and the moment he knew it was time to go. “I think I’ve known for a minute,” he told Cooper. “Look, I don’t want to go into too much detail, but there was a lot of politics going on, certain people were doing certain things, certain people didn’t want to sign contracts, so I knew something was happening.”

He continued, “There was obviously underlying issues, like within our friendships, too. We’ve been together every day for five years, and we got sick of each other, if I’m being completely honest. So we were close.” Malik added that today, he can look back at the memories and experiences they shared in a “much fonder light.”

According to Malik, he didn’t even tell his own mother he was planning on leaving the band. Instead, he called to tell her he was coming home and asked if his old bed was still available. “I didn’t really care about what anybody else thought; that’s the type of person I am,” he explained. “I tried to close those opinions off. I’m not really the type of person that defines myself on other people’s opinions.”

Over the past few months, a One Direction reunion, or at least reconciliation, has seemed more plausible than in the eight years since they split. In a recent documentary, Louis Tomlinson went deep on not realizing the band was ending when it did and how that impacted his own confidence as an artist. Niall Horan has been, even if unintentionally, feeding into fan theories about the band reuniting, sharing that they’re always in contact with one another. And when Harry Styles accepted Album of the Year at the Brit Awards, he thanked each band member individually. “I want to thank Niall, Louis, Liam, and Zayn, I wouldn’t be here without you, either,” he said.

Liam Payne also got very candid earlier this week when he revealed that he entered a sobriety treatment program following backlash to comments he made about Malik and One Direction on Logan Paul’s Impaulsive podcast. “My own frustrations with my own career and where I kind of landed, I took shots at everybody else which is wrong. Obviously, I want to apologize for that, in the first instance, because that’s definitely not me,” he shared in the 8-minute video.

He added: “One of the biggest remarks I made was about the One Direction thing … and a lot of self-protection, I suppose, in that moment, more than anything. The rest of the boys really stuck by me when I needed them most, they kinda came to the rescue. Even Zayn, as well, which is why I did send him a little thank you online. It came across really big-headed didn’t it?”

Malik didn’t speak directly about the conflict with Payne, but he did open up about his issues with going on stage, saying he was “still nervous” to perform on his own. (Since leaving One Direction, he has not toured and only performed live three times in 2016.)

“I’m still nervous now cause it’s been a few years [since] I’ve been on stage, but I have this energy too. I feel like I have something to give and I want to get on stage and be there again and feel that,” he said. “That’s one thing I can say, my fan base has always been supportive in that manner.”

“They’re always just like, we’re here, we’ve got you. Like, when you’re ready, we’ve got you,” he added. “We’re gonna come and listen to your tunes. I gotta be super, super thankful for that, and I’m super grateful. I feel that love for sure. I’m ready to prove these people right.”

As for his music, he said he’s working on a new record that’s different from his previous work as a soloist.

“I’m doing a record I don’t think people are really gonna expect. It’s a different sound for me,” he said. “And it’s got some more narrative going on, like real-life experiences and stuff. My daughter’s mentioned in there a couple of times.”

Elsewhere, Malik shared he liked to cook and that he has several pets, including three dogs, three cats, three turtles, and six chickens. “I took my chicken to the vet to get a scan because something was wrong with her and the vet laughed at me and said, ‘People don’t bring chickens here,’” he said. “I took my chicken all the way and cried. And she died in my arms… It is kinda funny seeing me take the chicken to the vet.”

The podcast shared a video preview of the upcoming interview on Tuesday, which sees Zayn get candid about becoming a dad and his time in 1D. “I feel like we were so overexposed in the band that that’s why I took the time that I have to not even necessarily do interviews,” he said in the preview.

“They just said, ‘Oh yeah, you can be the mysterious one.’ That wasn’t necessarily my personality, I’m just chill,” he added about the identity he took on during the group. “I know that a lot of people have high-energy personalities, and it’s just not the way I am.”

The preview also saw him talk about his first child, Khai, which he had with Gigi Hadid in 2020, and how he’s tried his best to become a “good example for her.” “That’s why I’m even doing this interview. I used to get a lot of anxiety around having a conversation like this, and I want her to look at me and be like, ‘Yo, my dad’s doing this!’” he said.

Malik and Hadid separated in 2021 amid a reported family dispute between Malik and Hadid’s mother Yolanda. At the time, Hadid’s mother accused him of grabbing and shoving her “into a dresser, causing mental anguish and physical pain.” He denied the allegations but was put on probation.

Malik has done little to no press in the years since leaving One Direction in 2015 and pursuing his solo career. In 2016, he dropped his debut album Mind of Mine, an R&B record that received critical acclaim, and featured single “Pillowtalk” and “Befour.” The singer later released the album Nobody Is Listening in 2021 and Icarus Falls in 2018.

“I feel, in general, no one is listening at the moment,” he told GQ India in 2021. “With everything going on, and in a world of unnecessarily overexposed opinions, with people yelling at each other to see who makes the most noise, I feel like no one is being heard. People love to talk, but nobody likes to listen.”

The podcast episode also arrives after former Call Her Daddy co-host Sofia Franklyn sat down with Rolling Stone to talk about her split from Cooper and the podcast and how “silenced” she felt during that time. (At the time, Cooper and Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy revealed certain details of how and why the “Call Her Daddy” deal fell apart, placing most of the blame on Franklyn and publicly aligning against her.)

From Rolling Stone US