ZAYN Malik has spoken of his decision to leave One Direction after being signed off with stress for the first time, saying that while it is "crazy and wild and a bit mad", he's "never felt more in control" of his own life.
In an exclusive interview with The Sun conducted six hours after news of his departure from the world's biggest boyband broke, the 20-year-old singer indicated not only that the door has been left open for him to return to the band in the future, but also that he didn't intend to bow out of the limelight completely in the meantime.
In fact, we could be set to hear material from Malik as a solo artist sooner rather than later. He is currently in a West London studio working on new music with producer Naughty Boy, who masterminded Sam Smith's award-winning debut.
Malik also discussed rumours that a rift had formed between the band, his engagement to Perrie Edwards (who fans have since branded the 'Yoko Ono' of 1D), and whether he thinks One Direction will be able to continue without him.
Here are the best quotes.
On finally coming to the decision to throw in the towel…
"It is crazy and wild and a bit mad.
"But at the same time I've never felt more in control in my life.
"And I feel like I'm doing what's right - right by myself and right by the boys, so I feel good."
On knowing he wanted out for a quite some time…
"You know, I did try to do something that I wasn't happy doing for a while, for the sake of maybe other people's happiness.
"And that was mainly the fans. And I only ever tried to do it for the fans, and it was only ever for them."
On feeling like he's let his fans down…
"That's the main thing that I don't want to happen.
"It's not that I've turned my back on them or anything, it's just that I just can't do that anymore because it's not real to me."
On those rumours of a long-standing rift between the band…
"They couldn't be more wrong, to be honest."
On whether he thinks the band will stay together…
"They still want to do it for a while, so they're going to carry on doing what they want to do.
"And I think they're going to do ok for a while, do you know what I mean?
"I think they're going to be cool."
On confirming he is still engaged to Perrie Edwards…
"Yeah, she's always supportive. She's always good, man."
On his acrimony-free departure being easier than when Geri Halliwell left the Spice Girls or Robbie Williams left Take That…
"My band has been really supportive. They've been really cool about it. And they understand that, you know, it's not real to me anymore."
On whether he'd ever consider returning to the band…
"I don't think I can really answer that really. I don't know."