“Nah,” Malik told Billboard when asked if he’d heard the whole collection. “I’ll be honest. I thought the first single was quite cool. I heard the second single and … yeah, I didn’t buy the album.”
Since departing the group in March 2015, Malik has attempted to stay in touch with former bandmates Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and Louis Tomlinson, but claims his calls have gone unreturned.
“I had every intention of remaining friends with everybody, but I guess certain phone numbers have changed and I haven’t received calls from a lot of people,” Malik continued. “I’ve reached out to a few of them and not got a reply. Certain people have pride issues, but it’s stuff you overcome in time.”
Still, Malik has kept busy working on music for his debut solo album, due out this spring. The 22-year-old recorded in the woods in Angeles Forest with producer James “Malay” Ho, who called the effort a “s—in’-in-the-woods-type thing.” Back in Bel Air, California, where Malik relocated in September 2015, the former boy band member holes up in his basement to “record maybe seven songs a night.”
RCA chairman/CEO Peter Edge told Billboard, Malik’s forthcoming set “doesn’t feel like choreographed pop,” and Malik also loves his new material. “I’m enjoying what I’m doing,” he said. “I’m not censoring myself anymore.”
For more from Malik’s cover story, head to Billboard.