For Zayn Malik, there’s more than one direction—in the sense of both his life and the boy band he so famously quit in 2015.
The 30-year-old recently granted his first sit-down interview in six years, a long chat on the podcast Call Her Daddy, released Wednesday. While he discussed his farm life amongst the Pennsylvania Amish and how many chickens he has (six, but he hasn’t named them after being traumatized by a former beloved chicken dying in his arms), he also nodded toward a notorious past event: his 2021 legal trouble following a conflict with now ex-girlfriend Gigi Hadid and her mother, Yolanda Hadid. Gigi and Malik share daughter Khai, born in September 2020. Malik pleaded no contest to four counts of harassment against the mother-daughter duo after an incident in which he allegedly called Yolanda a “fucking Dutch slut” and shoved her into a dresser, among other allegations. The incident is believed to have led to the end of Malik and Gigi’s Relationship.
Host Alex Cooper waited until the end of the interview to broach the topic, recounting how Malik issued a statement and then offered no further comment at the time.
“I just kind of keep to myself,” he said of his limited public comments.
“I knew what the situation was. I knew what happened, and the people involved knew what happened too,” he said. “And that’s all I really cared about. If anybody of a same mind would look at the situation, I believe that you could respect that I just didn’t want to bring attention to anything. I just wasn’t trying to get into a negative back-and-forth with her, any sort of narrative online where my daughter was going to look back and read that and be able to read into it, and it would just be something that—there was no point.”
He called his reaction “amicable [and] respectful.” He continued: “That’s all that needs to be said, you know? I feel like it’s a lot of negativity.”
Malik and Gigi split custody of their daughter 50-50, though he said he is “hands-on with my child every chance I can be. If I could get 60%, I would have it.”
Things are going fine with Gigi, he said: “Coparenting is good. We have a really good relationship for Khai.”
He also discussed his anxiety, citing it as a huge driver behind his break from the spotlight in recent years. Having a young child watching him, however, has caused him to confront these blocks. “I feel like I’ve had to step up as a man, or just as a person, and be this example to her that doesn’t succumb to these feelings,” he said. “That’s why I’m even doing this interview.”
Malik was, of course, also the driving force behind One Direction’s breakup—the classic “at least a year off” that turned into…probably forever. In 2015, Malik announced he was leaving the band, though he says now that the writing was on the wall.
“I think I’d known for a minute,” he said of quitting the band. “Look, I don’t want to go into too much detail, but there was a lot of politics going on. Certain people were doing certain things; certain people didn’t want to sign contracts. So I knew something was happening, so I just got ahead of the curve. If I’m being honest with you, I was like, I’m just going to get out of here. I think this is done.”