It begins, of course, with One Direction—the band that made him a star. Malik announced in March 2015 that he was leaving the X Factor-formed group to pursue a solo career, effectively turning Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson into a quartet. (Several members have since signed their own solo recording contracts, though One Direction has not officially disbanded.) "At that time in my life I felt I had done everything I could do there and I just needed to change it up," Malik tells the magazine (on stands Aug. 3). "It didn't feel brave."
"I just don't have it in me to feel fully secure in anything I do. I always strive towards something better," the 23-year-old continues. "It's why I think sometimes I come across the wrong way, a bit distant. I'm just stressed out trying to control how I'm perceived. I think about things a lot."
Establishing himself as a solo artist proved to be more difficult than Malik ever imagined. "My entire life has changed in the last year. I'm still taking it all in. 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," he explains. "I had something to get off my chest."