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Zayn Malik wants his upcoming album to be ‘raw’

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After years of anticipation, Zayn Malik, the former One Direction heartthrob turned solo artist, is gearing up to release his latest album, Room Under The Stairs. In one of his first interviews in years, Zayn opened up about his creative process, fatherhood, and the profound journey behind his forthcoming record in conversation with L'Officiel.

Speaking from his rural Pennsylvania home, where he has spent the past six years writing and recording independently, he revealed the deeply personal nature of Room Under The Stairs. Unlike his previous works, which often featured polished studio productions, this album offers a “raw and stripped-down acoustic sound, accompanied by confessional lyrics exploring love, parenthood, and existential questioning”.

'Room Under The Stairs'

"When I get time to myself, I spend the majority of my time in the studio—I’ve built, like, a cabin studio," the 31-year-old shared. "That’s kind of how this album was created. It overlapped with working on some stuff that I was going to put on my previous record, Nobody Is Listening. I’m able to do it every day because that’s been how I spend a lot of time here on the farm—just relaxing and spending time with my daughter."

Zayn and his three-year-old daughter, Khai, also share a love for gardening. “I got into it when I moved out here, probably about seven years ago,” he disclosed. “And now I get to share that experience with her because I’ve gotten a bit better at things. My crops are actually edible and usable.” 

The album's title, Room Under The Stairs, holds personal significance for Zayn and takes inspiration from the 1991 horror comedy cult classic, The People Under The Stairs. Fitting the metaphor neatly to reality, the artist divulged that the record was made quite literally under the stairs. He said, “There’s a dark horror movie that I watched when I was growing up called The People Under the Stairs. I probably watched it when I was younger than I should have.” 

“I always thought the idea of being under the stairs had a powerful sentiment to it,” he explained. “I ended up coincidentally recording most of my record in a shoe cupboard under the stairs. So I was like, this is perfect.”

On teaming up with Dave Cobb

Collaborating with Dave Cobb, Zayn found a kindred spirit who understood the intention behind his music and helped bring his vision to life. He contended, “I could tell straight away from speaking to him that obviously he’s a musical genius. He pretty much understood everything, from the intention behind why I was trying to do things to the emotion that needed to be required, and just played it.”

Describing the coworking process as “pretty seamless,” he reflected on working with Cobb, “He did change up a couple of things, and said to me, ‘Oh, do you mind if I put this here and I change the order there?’ He’s way more structurally aware and musically educated than I am. I’m just a kid that came out of school who was kind of guessing and singing karaoke.”

For the PILLOWTALK artist, the intention behind Room Under The Stairs was simple: to produce a sound that is “super-minimalistic and raw as if it’s a conversation with me rather than this glossed-up version of whatever sounds appealing to the public”. Marking a departure from his past overproduced quality, he insisted, “For many reasons, some of my music in the past just felt a bit glossed over, like a little bit too perfect and affected by the computer. Standing behind it as a performance never felt like something I wanted to do.”

Fatherhood and making music

Zayn’s journey into parenthood and his immersion in nature have profoundly iNFLuenced his music, as he aims to create a genuine connection with his audience through authenticity and vulnerability. When asked if his daughter ever accompanies her to the studio recordings, he offered, “It’s past her bedtime. She doesn’t come to the studio, but she’s starting to understand that Baba sings and Baba does music. She asks everybody, whenever there’s a song on the radio, ‘Is my Baba singing?’ But in front of me, she kind of gets shy about it.”

As per the singer, Khai has already shown a remarkable affinity for music, captivating her father with her ability to remember lyrics and chord progressions. "Khai has a lot of natural ability herself already," the Mind of Mine singer beamed. 

"Her retention for language, especially when it’s formatted in a musical sense to her, has been amazing. She remembers every lyric of every song that she likes…I look forward to seeing what she’s going to be capable of doing as she gets older." Raising his daughter amidst the serene landscapes of rural Pennsylvania, he voiced, "I’m just trying to keep her grounded and enjoying the Earth, rather than all the noise that comes with it.” 

With Room Under The Stairs, Zayn invites listeners into a deeply personal and introspective journey, where raw emotion and stripped-down melodies converge to create a powerful musical experience unlike any other. In the singer’s own words, "The truth of it is, in reality, nobody really has a clue what’s going on. We’re all just kind of guessing."

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