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Zayn Malik Opens Up (a Bit) About Leaving One Direction

2 minute read

In a new interview with Dazed, Zayn Malik — former boy band member and current R&B heartthrob — opens up just a little bit about his departure from the mega-popular group and his flourishing independent music career.

The 23-year-old Brit is riding high on the success of his first solo album, Mind of Mine, which debuted at #1 on US and UK charts. But his stardom hasn’t come without controversy: there have been the racial slurs leveled at him on account of his religious and ethnic background; he’s had to cancel concert appearances due to anxiety; and, of course, he still deals with backlash from his decision to break free of the boy band.

On that point, at least, Malik has a message for his fans. “Yeah… Sorry about that,” he relays to Dazed.

But it looks like Malik isn’t getting too cut up about having moved on. It helps to have fans in high places, and apparently even Taylor Swift is on board with his solo career.

“At [girlfriend] Gigi [Hadid]‘s house we briefly spoke and she told me she really enjoyed the album. It was nice to get some feedback. She said she thought I was cool and I kind of blushed a bit and didn’t know how to take it,” he says.

Malik, who grew up speaking both English and Urdu (his father is of Pakistani heritage), also gives some background into the genre-bending Urdu-language song he put on his album.

“It’s a religious style of music that’s like a deep meditation prayer where you just sit and sing the same melody over and over – it’s meant to get you into a trance state… my dad used to listen a lot to that style of music. So that influenced me from an early age,” he told Dazed. “I just mixed my Urdu speaking with lyrics I was writing down in English and that’s what I came up with.”

It’s certainly not something he could have done within the confines of One Direction’s music.

“I’m free at last,” he says in the interview.

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Write to Raisa Bruner at raisa.bruner@time.com