Zayn Malik Shares Why He Decided to Leave One Direction in First Interview in Six Years

The musician gives one of his first sit-down interviews in six years.

Zayn Malik is sharing with One Direction fans the real reason he was first to leave the British boy band. In a rare sit-down interview, his first in six years, the 30-year-old singer speaks with Alex Cooper on the Call Her Daddy podcast about his time in the group and what made him exit One Direction when they were at the height of their stardom. 

One Direction, initially composed of Malik, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, was formed in 2010 after finishing third in the U.K. version of The X Factor. Malik left in 2015 at age 22, but the group carried on before eventually all the members went off to do solo projects.

"It was kinda strange…the visual evidence of life changing, like, people being outside of the studio and stuff. Like, when we were in the live shows, we started to get a fan base and an audience, you could see that people were paying interest in us," Malik recalls of the instant fame that came with being in the group. "So yeah, from that point on, like, it was kinda a bit crazy."

Malik admits that he had planned to leave One Direction long before he announced his exit in March 2015. "Yeah, I think I'd known for a minute," he tells Cooper. "...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. So I just got ahead of the curve."

He adds, "If I'm being honest with you, I was like, 'I'm just going to get out of here, I think this is done and I just seen it.' And I completely selfishly wanted to be the first person to go and make my own record if I’m being completely honest with you. I was like, 'I'm going to jump the gun here for the first time.' I'm a passive dude, but when it comes to my music and my business, I'm serious about it and I'm competitive, so I wanted to be the first to go and do my own thing."

One Direction, including Niall Horan, Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne, during the Brit Awards at the O2 Arena in London, England, on Feb. 21, 2012. - Brian Rasic/Getty Images

In 2016, Malik released his Mind of Mine album, and its lead single, "Pillowtalk." He became the first British male artist to debut at number one in both the U.K. and U.S. with his debut single and album.

"Creatively, I just wanted to talk about things that were a bit more real, like authentic to situations I was going through in my life," Malik says of going solo. "Obviously, certain things that we would talk about in the band was always very clean-cut. Like, glazing over the top, not really any depth or stories to what is going on and that was always a big thing for me."

Despite being mega famous, Malik confesses he's not always comfortable onstage. "When I first started performing by myself, I was nervous and I'm still nervous now 'cause it's been a few years [since] I've been onstage," he confides. "But I have this energy too. I feel like I have something to give and I want to get onstage and be there again and feel that. 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.'"

As for his new music, Malik teases, "I'm doing a record [album] I don't think people are really gonna expect. It's a different sound for me, and it's got some more narrative going on, like real-life experiences and stuff."

Malik, who shares 2-year-old Khai with ex Gigi Hadid, adds, "My daughter's mentioned in there a couple of times."