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Zayn Malik on leaving One Direction: ‘we got sick of each other’

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

By Tomás Mier

Zayn Malik (Picture: Alamy)

Zayn 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.”

Malik also opened 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.