It’s been eight years since Zayn Malik left One Direction in March 2015 after five years in the iconic boy band, shocking Directioners. In the time since, the “Pillowtalk” singer has spoken out briefly about what led to his decision to leave the band, telling Beats 1 Radio on Apple Music (via NME) in 2016, “I think I always wanted to go, from like the first year, really. I never really wanted to be there, like in the band.”
Nearly 10 years can add perspective, however, and, in 2023, Malik feels a lot more nostalgic about his years in One Direction. In a July 12 “Call Her Daddy” interview, Malik spoke the most candidly yet about his years in 1D and his thoughts on the band now.
First, Malik revealed that he always felt like he was miscast as the “mysterious” band member. “They just said, ‘Oh yeah, you can be the mysterious one.’ That wasn’t necessarily my personality, I’m just chill,” Malik told podcast host Alex Cooper. “I think it’s just a marketing scheme, you know. You got the Teletubbies, you got Spice Girls, you got whatever. It’s just a marketing scheme. So, I get it, but I don’t think you can define an entire person to one personality trait. We’re a little bit more complex than that.”
Malik also admitted that toward the end of his run in 1D, the members — which also included Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Niall Horan, and Louis Tomlinson — had grown “sick of each other” after spending every day together for five years.
For this reason, Malik said that he was eager to be the first member to leave the band and kick off his solo career. “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,” Malik recounted. “I was like, ‘I’m going to jump the gun here for the first time.’ I’m passive but when it comes to my music and my business, I’m serious about it and I’m competitive. I wanted to be the first to go and do my own thing.”
Despite how things ended with One Direction, Malik said he looks back on his years with the band much more fondly than he did back in 2015. “We were close, we done crazy things with each other that nobody else in the world will ever understand or have them experiences that we’ve shared with each other,” Malik explained. “I look back on it now in a much fonder light than I would’ve as I’ve just left. There were great experiences. I had great times with them but we just ran our course.”