Years before he was an international sex symbol, Liam Payne was stuck being the One Direction member who received the least screams at concerts — and that, coupled with the general insanity of being in the world’s biggest boy band, certainly took a toll on the singer’s mental health.
In a new profile for The Guardian, the Strip That Down performer reminisced about the darker days of his boybander past, which culminated in the need for alcohol and an unusual “epilepsy drug” that affected his cognitive abilities under certain lights.
Nowadays, the 26-year-old says he’s shamelessly trying to be “a really English Magic Mike.” During his 1D days, however, he says he was known as “Mr. Vanilla” — a role he was cursed with because he was apparently more experienced and more mature than Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, and Louis Tomlinson.
Recalling how he spent his early teens focusing on a potential career in music, he said:
“I’d lived a different lifestyle from 14 to 16. Most kids try alcohol and experiment – I never did any of that because I thought there’s a chance that I might make it.”
One Direction’s management picked up on this, according to Liam, and told the then-16-year-old his “very specific role” in the group was to keep the rest of his bandmates in line.
Remembering one of the band’s first hotel stays, he explained:
“I was like, that’s great, innit – because then everyone in the band thinks I’m a d**k. We’ve got plates being thrown out the window, mattresses being ridden down the stairs, and I’m getting calls from the manager saying: ‘You need to sort it out.'”
This parental role affected how fans viewed him, too. He noted:
“When you’re at the stadium, and if you get the least screams, it’s like: ‘For f**k’s sake.'”
So, a year later, Liam stopped being the group’s diplomat and started to have fun:
“If you can’t beat them, join them… And the more fun we had, the more successful it got.”
But with that fun and success soon came isolation and addiction.
Liam admitted the continuous cycle of adrenaline rushes from performing followed by lonely nights in hotel rooms around the world caused him to turn to alcohol. He said:
“Doing a show to however many thousands of people, then being stuck by yourself in a country where you can’t go out anywhere – what else are you going to do? The minibar is always there.”
At one point, the star also found comfort in an epilepsy drug given to him as a mood stabilizer. The father-of-one told the outlet he had been advised to take the drug to counter the “erratic highs and lows” he was experiencing:
“I just needed a little bit of help to keep me stable, but under certain lights on stage or during interviews, I wouldn’t be able to tell them my name.”
Liam wasn’t the only member who was suffering from the cycle of stage lights and screaming fans. Zayn would eventually exit the group abruptly — without saying “goodbye,” even — at which point, the singer says he was “slowly losing the plot.” He admitted:
“It was a point where every day, you didn’t know whether it was going to be the end. It was so touch and go, at every single show. I was slowly losing the plot.”
After the remaining band members decided to go on an “indefinite hiatus,” Liam spent two years in therapy and took six months off. He said:
“It was difficult at the start, because I didn’t really know anything about myself. It was a bit of a numb feeling.”
Thankfully, Payne has made some big strides in his recovery in the years since, including spending an entire year sober. Now, he’s focusing on his career, amicably co-parenting his son Bear with ex Cheryl, and, of course, maintaining his sex symbol status with nude Hugo Boss photoshoots.
He’s come a long way from Mr. Vanilla, don’t you think??
[Image via WENN]
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