"It was about denying the authenticity of who I was and what I enjoyed about music," he tells Complex in a new interview

By Melody Chiu
Updated March 21, 2016 03:25 PM
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Credit: Nabil Elderkin

Between leaving One Direction and coupling up with new girlfriend Gigi Hadid, life is looking pretty different these days for Zayn Malik.

“It was about denying the authenticity of who I was, and what I enjoyed about music, and why I got into it,” Malik, 23, tells Complex in its April/May cover story of leaving the band that made him famous. “It was one of the things that wasn’t going to go away, so I had to go away.”

According to the “Pillowtalk” singer, “certain restrictions” during his time with the guys included not being able to grow a beard or dye his hair.

“That was just because I looked older than the rest of them,” he says. “That’s one of the things that is now quite cool.”

The songs on his upcoming record Mind of Mine (“It’s a very sexual album,” he says of the disc, out Friday) also mean more to him.

“None of the songs that I wrote in One Direction were personal to me,” Malik says. “No one can ever say I was ungrateful, even though it sort of comes across that way when I mention that I was frustrated with the band. With the music that I’m doing now, I get to express myself, and that creative tension is gone.”

And though Hadid stars in his “Pillowtalk” video, the singer-songwriter says he actually tries to keep his relationship out of the spotlight.

“I try to keep the two very separate … as much as I can,” he says. “But there’s only so much you can do. I’m learning to deal with it. It’s just one of those things now, in the background.”