"We all just felt it was time to do our own things," says Sykes

By Jeff Nelson
Updated February 21, 2015 07:20 AM
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Credit: Yu Tsai

It’s been a year since British boy band The Wanted split – but one member says it’s not necessarily forever.

“We didn’t break up. We’re taking a break as a band,” Nathan Sykes, 21, tells PEOPLE. “We all just felt it was time to do our own things and then look in the future – with the amazing fan base that we had – to have something to come back to.”

Still, don’t expect a reunion any time soon. “I think it just plans on what everyone is doing at the time,” he says.

As for his “own thing,” Sykes is prepping a solo project this year, with the first single due this spring and an album expected by the end of the year.

“The music is definitely a big departure from what people are used to with The Wanted,” he says. “It’s quite soulful pop.”

And Sykes says he’s nothing but appreciative for his time in the boy band, which spawned hits like “Glad You Came.”

“I have learned so much over those five years. I think I really matured as an artist, as a songwriter and as a performer,” he says. “I’ve got a really fortunate situation having quite a good knowledge of the industry already.”

Skykes wrote on all the tracks of his upcoming release and says he dug deep in the studio – including about his split from ex Ariana Grande.

“I try to draw from personal experiences. I’m not a very good talker, and I can be quite shy at times,” he says. “I always have quite a lot to say, but can never really find a way to say it but try to put it into lyrics. Probably the best way to get to know me as a person is by listening to the songs.”

Despite reports of bad blood between members and One Direction’s pop dominance causing them to call it quits, Sykes says that’s not the case.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for all the artists out there. I think the way that One Direction has just turned into such a phenomenon is admirable for anybody in a boy band,” he says.

But Sykes does concede it’s hard out there for a boy band that isn’t 1D. “They are so successful and are doing so well that I think it would have been a good time to take a break because they are doing so incredibly well.”