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Former One Direction band member Zayn Malik is set to release his heavily country-inspired album, Room Under the Stairs, this Friday. While he departed from One Direction in 2015 to pursue a solo career, his musical journey has taken a turn towards the country genre.

Despite his former boy band roots, Zayn has always had a rebellious streak, carving his own path in the industry. Now, after some time out of the limelight and becoming a father to a daughter with supermodel Gigi Hadid, he’s ready to make his mark with a new sound.

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Joining a growing list of pop artists exploring country music, Zayn follows in the footsteps of Beyoncé, Post Malone, and soon, Lana Del Ray. However, he’s keen to emphasize that his venture into country isn’t just jumping on a trend. Speaking to Nylon Magazine, he stated, “People need to know I didn’t jump on the bandwagon.”

“People need to know I didn’t jump on the bandwagon.” – Zayn

Zayn attributes his inspiration for the album to a night on his farm in Pennsylvania, listening to Chris Stapleton by the fire with his dog. Reflecting on his creative process, he remarked, “I’m proud of it. I think it shows a certain level of intellect, to be a bit ahead of the curve.”

Working with acclaimed producer Dave Cobb, known for his collaborations with artists like Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson, Zayn’s project gains further credibility within the country music scene. Cobb’s involvement signifies a departure from typical pop collaborations and showcases Zayn’s commitment to authenticity.

The album, which Zayn reveals has been in the works since early 2023, is part of a broader trend in which country music has gained popularity in mainstream culture. Zayn sees this as a response to a desire for more meaningful lyrics and depth in music. He observes, “People are in search of a little bit more depth from the lyrics.”

Studying the works of legends like Willie Nelson, Zayn found inspiration in their storytelling abilities. He admired artists like Chris Stapleton for their authenticity and refusal to conform to pop clichés. “He’s telling you a real grown man’s story. And I respected the f*** out of it,” Zayn commented.

“I could really hear their lyrics and their pain and their growth and the life lessons. I didn’t feel like there was a Chris Stapleton song that comes on and he sounds like a f***boy, right?

He doesn’t do it! He’s not out here saying, ‘B***hes in the club! We’re drinking Bacardi!’ Or whatever these young kids use now. He’s not like that. He’s got class, right? He’s telling you a real grown man’s story. And I respected the f*** out of it. I was like, ‘This is cool. It’s something I can do.’” – Zayn

While the sound of the album may not adhere strictly to traditional country music, singles like “What I Am” and “Alienated” offer a stripped-back, well-written alternative to mainstream pop. Cobb, impressed by Zayn’s authenticity and originality, praised the artist for forging his own path.

Room Under the Stairs features 15 tracks, with Zayn credited for writing 12 of them entirely on his own. With its release scheduled for this Friday, May 17th, fans eagerly anticipate Zayn Malik’s latest musical evolution.

Check out some songs from the album below: