By Amanda Wicks

Zayn Malik hasn’t exactly been quiet about voicing his distaste for One Direction and what felt to him like a creatively stifling experience. He’s shared all sorts of opinions about why he felt it was time to move away from the group that launched him, and today (July 28) he’s opening up once again about his decision to go solo.

Related: Zayn Malik Collaborates with Snakehips for New Single ‘Cruel’

“At that time in my life I felt I had done everything I could do there and I just needed to change it up,” he told Teen Vogue. The move didn’t feel like a risk, because, for Malik, there was nothing to lose. “It didn’t feel brave,” he admitted.

Still, it was a risk to leave one of pop music’s most beloved groups. If Malik had any concerns about what success would look like after he went solo, he now knows it was worth it. “I’m still taking it all in,” he said. “I’ve found so much out about myself—mostly how in love with music I still was. The album is a build up of six years and never being able to express what I wanted to say. I had something to get off my chest.”

Besides dropping Mind of Mine and kicking off a relatively successful solo career, Malik’s wardrobe has benefited from the change, too. He said, “Since leaving One Direction, I’ve been given the freedom to be able to wear whatever I want and that’s made it more interesting.”

Since Malik left the group, One Direction has gone on hiatus with its individual members pursuing other creative projects. That’s led to rumors that Harry Styles will be going solo rather than returning to his mates whenever their break is over.

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