The crooner was just spotted arriving at a studio in London, only hours after revealing his decision to leave the band.
But it appears that Malik had been thinking about his future—without the band—for quite some time.
Rolling Stone released a previously unpublished 2012 interview with the pop star where he hints at being uncomfortable with level of success and life in the spotlight.
"This isn't what I thought I was going to be doing. I just went for the experience. I never went with a master plan, thinking, 'I want to be famous.' I literally went for an experience thing on the show and just hoped that…I guess I just got lucky," he told the magazine.
Malik explained that if things didn't turn out the way they did, he'd "probably be at [college] right now, studying English, because I wanted to be an English major. I have a massive thing for English; I just loved words."
Perhaps the most poignant part of the interview was when he was asked if he would stay in the music business if he decided to quit the band in five years' time.
"I don't know. I think I'd love to be involved with it still, because obviously, we'll be working in the industry for an extended amount of time and you get used to it. Even if it wasn't as public or out there as what we do now, if it was just something even in the background, working as a studio songwriter, production, that would always be a cool thing to do."
Malik added that he was still not used to all of the attention he receives from the diehard Directioners.
"It's really strange, and it's hard to put into words, but it's almost like you know it's happening and you know you should believe it, but you almost don't."