“People Need To Know I Didn’t Jump On The Bandwagon” – Zayn Malik Talks About Country-Inspired Album ‘Room Under The Stairs’

Zayn Malik country music
Zayn Malik

Here we go…

Former One Direction band member Zayn Malik is releasing a heavily country-inspired album this Friday, titled Room Under the Stairs. Of course, One Direction was one of the best-selling boy bands of all time, though Zayn left in 2015 (yes I had to Google that) to pursue a solo career.

I was never really into their music, but I do remember that he had the “bad boy” reputation and always kind of did his own thing, though he’s been out of the public eye for a while now and shares a daughter with super model GiGi Hadid.

And with the growing list of pop artists wanting in on the country genre, Zayn joins the lines of Beyoncé, Post Malone and soon, Lana Del Ray, as Top 40 singers trying to “go country,” so to speak.

And while I don’t think this will be the 2024 version of the Red Headed Stranger album by any means, obviously, Malik did work with the great Dave Cobb to produce this album, which he refers to as “country-inspired.”

Getting Cobb to sign on in and of itself is quite impressive, as he famously works with Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, John Prine and the list goes on. Of all the country endeavors we’ve seen by pop artists so far this year, none have scored a producer as prolific and respected within country circles as Cobb.

In an extensive interview with Nylon Magazine, the pop star says he was initially inspired after listening to some Chris Stapleton out on his farm in Pennsylvania one evening:

“I was pretty much on my farm having a glass of whiskey and listening to a bit of Stapleton by the fire with my dog, playing guitar. I’m proud of it. I think it shows a certain level of intellect, to be a bit ahead of the curve.”

Zayn says this album has been in the works since early 2023, though of course, it’s going to be viewed as part of a larger trend by the general public because country is so much at the forefront of pop culture right now.

He credits the rise in country’s popularity in the mainstream to a desire by people in general for more depth in music and the lyrics, which is of course a country music specialty. Well, usually… Additionally, Malik is adamant that he “didn’t jump on the bandwagon” with the country idea and angle:

“People need to know I didn’t jump on the bandwagon. People are in search of a little bit more depth from the lyrics. In the Top 40 charts, a lot of mainstream music feels a bit wishy-washy. The songs are f***ing fire. You know what I mean? They’re catchy. They’re playing on the radio and they do their job, but people are looking for a little bit more.”

Zayn also mentioned that he got really into Willie Nelson, and others of similar legendary status, because of their incredible storytelling… and of course, that’s typically a great place to start:

“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.’”

He’s definitely right about that… what a way to put it, too. It’s just interesting that as soon as a pop singer starts maturing and feeling like they need some depth in their music, they call it a country project. It’s not. But with the full support of the aforementioned Dave Cobb, it could be an interesting project nonetheless.

After listening to the two previously-released singles “What I Am” and “Alienated,” the sound is not exactly country in the traditional sense (shocking, I know), but more along the lines of stripped-back and simple pop music that’s more well-written than what’s on Top 40 radio.

Cobb says he was “blown away” by the authenticity and originality Zayn brought to the music:

“It’s a really beautiful thing to see an artist come to a point in their career where they’re like, ‘You know what? I’m just going to be me. I’m going to do everything I want to do. I was just blown away because he was forging his own path.

There’s nothing copycat about it. There’s all kinds of influences, but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly where anything was coming from. I thought he was just making his own lane.”

Zayn wrote 12 of the 15 songs completely on his own, is due out everywhere this Friday, May 17th.

“Alienated”

“What I Am”

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