One Direction star Liam Payne has thrown his support behind his former bandmate Zayn Malik following news of his solo record deal, insisting he is "dead excited" to hear his pal's new material.
Malik walked away from the boyband's world tour in March (15) and subsequently quit the group, declaring he wanted to live a more normal life away from the spotlight.
However, he bounced back last week (ends02Aug15) with the announcement of a solo deal with RCA Records, and his former bandmate Payne admits he is happy to hear the big news.
Payne tells Britain's Magic FM, "I haven't spoken to him recently and he's off doing his own thing and taking his time... It is a difficult thing to leave the band... But his heart wasn't in it and you have to go with your heart and say I can't do this anymore and there is something out there that I do want to do that is different... and that's fine...
"I'm dead excited to hear some of his stuff, I did a lot of work with him in the studio when he was in the band. We used to stay up late and do rap stuff which is quite interesting... Cos I like to produce rap beats and stuff. He's got a great voice and he's a very talented young man and we wish him all the best of luck."
When announcing his new record deal, Malik sent a tweet which suggested he was keen to move on from One Direction and start making "real music", but Payne is convinced the star did not mean it as a snide jab at his former bandmates.
He adds, "I don't think he meant it that way... At least I hope he didn't mean it that way... And the way that he congratulated us on the (new) single I think covers it."
The full interview airs in the U.K. on Saturday (08Aug15).