Liam Payne chats on a Zoom call - pic from his Instagram.
Mental health has been taken far more seriously in the last few years, especially among men. With terrifying statistics emerging that suicide was the number one cause of death in adult men in the UK, it's clear that something needed to be done.
The notion of 'toxic masculinity' is a complex one. The expectation to NOT talk about your feelings, that showing them means weakness or that generally 'manning up' is the best course of action have all contributed to a systemic and alarming culture where men's mental health as suffered immeasurably.
Then the pandemic happened. Other than the disease itself, mental health is now in crisis. From worries about finances, work, family, health and even the state of the world itself, there has never been a time when something that was already in crisis automatically got a lot worse.
No matter where you are in the world, whether you were locked down alone or with family or not at all, we have all been affected deeply by the global pandemic with mental healthcare seemingly taking a back seat.
Someone who has been though more than his fair share of mental anguish is Liam Payne. Becoming globally famous when you are a young is notoriously difficult, no matter what it's for and how successful or rich you become.
Young Liam Payne One Direction
11 years ago. A baby faced One Direction from left to right Niall Horan, Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Milk as they pose at a very.co.uk fashion show in London, UK. This image was taken right at the very start of their fame journey on 24th November 2010. Image Getty. The boys wearing head to toe what is no doubt Very products including check shirts, double looped scarfs, cardigans and knitted jackets.
Liam has opened up on Steven Barlow's Diary of a CEO podcast and we've helpfully transcribed the WHOLE thing for you. It's lengthy but you get such candour from Payne that it makes for highly informative and emotional reading about topics that many of us will be able to recognise and empathise.
Liam Payne opens up on the Diary of a CEO podcast
Steven: There are very few people, maybe just the five of them on planet Earth, that have gone through what my next guest has gone through over the last decade. Very, very few people on planet earth that can tell you the stories he can tell you and talk to you about the lessons he's learned. Liam Payne is a miraculous, inspiring, complex, very honest, very vulnerable, very open book. Today, he's going to tell you about things that he probably shouldn't say, and topics that he probably shouldn't talk about. But just imagine, imagine being catapulted into stardom at 14 years old and becoming what many consider to be the modern-day Beatles. He toured the world with one direction. They had their ups, their downs, their mental health crises, their scandals, their relationships, and everything in between, you know, if I was 16 years old, and you asked me what I wanted to be, if I could dream up my life, I'd probably say a professional football player, or being in a boy band, and traveling the world seems like a life that we'd all give everything to have. But what you're going to hear today is very different. And it might just change your mind. It certainly changed mine. So, without further ado, I'm Steven Barlow. And this is the Diary of a CEO. I have nobody's listening. But if you are, then please keep this to yourself.
Steven: Liam, crazy, crazy year, society, all of us have happened with this whole lockdown situation, a place wanted to start is just to ask how it's been for you.
Liam: It has been interesting, I feel like I got the lockdown, the first depressive part of lockdown a lot later than everybody else, because our work went through the roof. And basically, it was interesting, because I had to learn styling, makeup, hair, all these things that I wouldn't usually do when I'm with my team. And I lost everyone because you couldn't have anyone close contact. So, I just had me and a camera guy that was staying with me. So, every job was like, I mean, we even had one day where we set up our own green screen. And we set the green screen from 1pm until 10 and then record it till five o'clock in the morning. So, it was like a whole day. So, we were busier than ever. And then we started doing these online shows, which went really great with a company called Beeps, which is good. And then I stopped working, which I thought was going to be really good for me because I was tired. And it was actually the worst thing in the world for me.
Steven: When you say you stopped working, describe your day at that point.
Liam: I mean, I was just finding myself on the sofa for the whole day. Because watching random Netflix scene everything on Netflix.
Steven: On your own.
Liam: No, my partner's there.
Liam: Yeah, it was a wild and it was dark, because you can't really go anywhere, you don't really know what you're doing. And I felt like my career was kind of in a funny place at that point is on how I was agreeable with at that time as well. If that makes sense.
Payne pulls of the red camo look (Pic: Getty)
Steven: Are you the type of person that needs to be kept busy?
Liam: I think so. I think I've had a crash course this last year in learning to have my own time. Because I mean, imagine from about the age of 1617, we're Daisha every day, when you don't have a day she say what the hell do I do? And then the other part of it's like, you don't really learn what you enjoy from that point, either. So it was that that was quite difficult in lockdown because you have so much time to yourself. And then it was like I saw something the other day about “toxic productivity”. Did you see this?
Steven: Yes I have.
Liam: Obviously, they got a new ism for everything. But it actually made sense to me. If I'm not doing something that's, that's productive. I feel like I'm going backwards. So that I've trying to force moves, and I suppose that was one of the things I think I learned most about myself. I don't have to be doing something every day to feel good about myself.
Steven: Where does that come from? Do you think that need to feel like you're moving forward? Or it feels like backward motion?
Liam: I have no idea. I think I'm just quite driven in that sense.
Another blast from the past. Taken in November 2010, London, X-Factor finalists (L-R) Wagner Carrilho, Liam Payne from One Direction and Matt Cardle during the Very.co.uk Christmas Catwalk Show held at Victoria House on November 24 in London, England. (Photo by JAB Promotions/WireImage)
Steven: Have you always been like that since before? One Direction?
Liam: You know, I think we just always worked like I started. I was first on TV at 14. So, I was young, it was an audience of experts I think that one was like 20 million people wild. That's like 14 years old. So, from then on, my life's just been like doing the same thing over and over and over again Up till this point. So, I don't know at times you fall out of love with it. And I think that trying to find you know, and also, you're not under any impression this isn't going to stop at some point. Like a lifespan for average pops- I've been out lived most lifespans with that sort of thing, which has been amazing. Really, really cool. And I think part of that is probably from starting so young. But you know, it's going to end at some point. So, you always want to find something else that you're good at. So, it's kind of a safety cushion. This is what investing has been my godsend in that because I started that really young as well and trying to think about how I would do this or how I would do that. Asking like, you know, like our old managers and people like that. What they I invest in stuff like that, which kind of makes me feel safer.
Steven: And that comes from a place like mild paranoia that this one might go someday? Right? Or...
Liam: 100%, like Doomsday prophecy you know.
Steven: Do you worry a lot generally?
Liam: I think I did up until the last few months. I mean, having a lot of time, I think a lot of people had this same sort of thing. Alcohol was just really it was going earlier and earlier. Yeah, easier and easier to go to. And for me, I don't know, I think there's a slight little bit of social anxiety as well in it that, you know, it was already hard sometimes to go out places for the thought that you might like, papped or whatever, you know, there's always that extra level of stress. So, for me, I've always been quite withdrawn.
Steven: So, talking about lockdown. So, you go through that sort of depressive period, I think we all went through that. And I think, for me, what I kept thinking about is like, if you just go with the lockdown, you're like, someone like me would just probably like, hang around better on my laptop, what I had to do was like, proactively, Steve, get up and do something today, go put your shoes on motherfucker.
Liam: I mean, but then the thing I found about that was sometimes you ain't Superman, and you're going to have a bad day. And my thing is, if I don't set out what am aiming to do that day, then I become more depressed. If that makes sense.
But it's just like, I think that the main thing for me, I mean, I've always called it like a small victories thing. And that's why I love the gym. Because if I've at least been to the gym that day, then I've done something. But then I started to like, branch out more that was call a family member, you know, spend some time with my son, make sure I get facetiming because it was the first point of view, we couldn't see each other and it was the longest time not seeing my son in a long time, which was difficult, but then it was like, as long as I've done one of those things in the day, then it's a matter of I didn't do anything else. And it's like, what I found more than anything, and this with alcohol with other stuff. It's like boundaries, there were no boundaries. So, you know, if you're on zoom, you can quite easily hide that you might be a little bit tipsy at the point you shouldn't be. So, it was like creating your own boundaries, creating your own routines. And that's where I think everybody struggled the most without routine. I noticed you had a dog here.
Liam: Which at the moment, that's one of my things I'm definitely going to get a dog because I need routine. I need it.
Steven: So, you start you start drinking more and more during the lockdown, you realize you're aware.
Liam: I put on so much weight, I was eating badly. I kind of described describing it as a bulking period. It was a dirty bulk not intentional. I'm doing it for a movie role.
Liam: Yeah, that's the best new excuse if anyone asked you put weight yes, for a role. You know, coming out 2022. Yeah. And I put a lot of weight on and what got me I did one performance on TV. It was with the bachelors actually. And I was disappointing myself. But like, I was always a pretty sporty kid and kept moving. And like, I didn't look how I want to look, you know what I mean? Nothing wrong with that. But just in your own self, you know how you feel about it. And obviously, they say the I can't put on 10 pounds. I definitely did. And I saw myself for the first time when I was like, oh my god, like I've completely let myself go in this. And it was fine. I kind of needed it. And actually, it's been the best outcome for me because I feel so much more secure in myself now. And I feel like, I know where I'm at again, which is good.
Liam has always been able to rock a pair of vintage bins
Steven: Have you struggled to maintain consistency with the gym? I know I have. If you look at the last 5 years.
Liam: I did, I mean, training partners is the best one for that you know, and each of you put in a session together and thrown in different moves because you're doing something that's a bit different. You know, I mean, we recently my training partner, I got to like a point where we're like, a stalemate with the stuff that we're doing. So, then we started like branching out to different gyms and they have different kit. I'm fairly good with keeping myself on the go with it. I mean, like I said, the only problem for me was just alcohol, you can't train and drink and anything you can't do all at once. You're going to be a rock star, or you're going to be a star in the gym that's your choice.
Steven: And do you think you've gotten a bit of a look sort of addicted personality in that regard, where you'll get into something and just go all the way?
Liam: I mean, as an as an addict, I want to say no, no, definitely do. Yeah, 100% I think but there's a lot worse things to be addicted to than looking after yourself. So yeah.
Steven: What's been the upside for you a lot of people listening to this, especially coming out of lockdown now there's a lot of people that weren't able to go to the gyms because they were close. And now that you know, some people just need that little bit of a push to understand what the value is of the gym. And what's the value of the gym been in your life? I think you're going twice today.
Liam: The first one as the first one is more of like a wake up. Let's call it a vinyasa; like a yoga type. The first day I went to the gym in lockdown, I went and looked at the gym because I was like if I go in there and start moving around and throwing stuff and whatever else, then I'm not going to want to go the next day and then you have to slowly build it up. Don't go in and think you need to do 45 minutes because they're reading in a magazine that they said this. There's no quick route. For me it's three you need three months for any significant change that you have. And then it's like started 20 minutes, 15 minutes, just go and fill it out and then you're and after a while the exercise is you're like, oh my god, I only have five more minutes in here. I need another five minutes. And guess what you can have them. So, then it's study like we've got, we're up to, you know, an hour, an hour and 10 minutes now. So, it's like from starting at 15-20 minutes. But for me, it's just like I say, it's been able to get into bed at night and have that small victory to know at least I did this and it was for me, it wasn't for anybody else. I think that's important.
Steven: And you're not doing it to try and get six- I mean, everyone's doing it low key trying to get six pack, but you're doing it because it's a lifestyle decision for you.
Liam: Yeah, I mean, I recently started to do jujitsu and it's for me, I want to be able to do what a lot of these guys are doing. Like the funny thing jujitsu is super humbling because you just get thrown around like, like a tiger eaten a gazelle or something. I mean, it's wild. So, it's like as soon as that happens, and I was always quite a small dude, I've never been like a big guy. And even when I did my underwear commercial, I was still like, a, I think I was 75 kilos, which is super light.
Steven: Super light.
Liam: So, when I'm in the gym, people are like, throw me over here. And I'm like, I'm going that way. Today I'm and then I'm over here. And it's like, so I put I didn't want to put some weight on- I put too much weight on at one point, I was like, I went off a little bit. It's more for the fitness side and the jujitsu side that I'm training now.
Payne clearly looks good in ANY colour
Steven: I wanted to ask you some advice. I've been announced as a dragon on Dragon's Den.
Liam: And how do you feel about oh, by the way?
Steven: It's pretty cool. It's cool.
Liam: But you’re a dragon like some kids want to grow up being a dragon. You are one.
Steven: Yeah, I watched it when I was 12. So, it came out when I was 12. I used to watch it. And I've never missed an episode. I said to the team I’ll pretend I was a dragon sit there. Pause the TV, give my verdict at 13 years old. All this stuff. The bit I wanted to ask your advice on is when it was announced you know, I had my little moment. 15 seconds where like all of the press talk about you. Your Twitter blows up lots of attention. What advice would you give to me about dealing with this kind of noise? Because you I mean, there's not many people on planet earth that have dealt with noise like that.
Liam: I think don't it's a really fine line between getting too wrapped up in what's going on. And not being wrapped up enough in it if you know what I mean, really, I think I think you know the things that hurt you the most because you know they're honest. So, when someone says something new, like if they hurt you, then you purchase a lot, then you know there's some truth in it because it hurt you. If it's ridiculous, you just go Oh, that was funny. As if they said that. You know what I mean?
Liam: So, I think there's a fine line to tread with it. And I mean, I've gone through areas where I was just like a little clapback attitude driven youth.
Steven: You responded.
Liam: As soon as someone would say something I'm like, right? Well, then, let's go at you. And then I was a bit mean and nasty at points and a bit bad. But that when you were a teen growing up in it, and people are like, basically bullying you and they get paid for it. It's like, that's a bit outrageous. I'm going to have my say, who's got the biggest mountain, you know what I mean? But then it's like, someone said to me all the time, it's like, you know, if someone says something about me, in the press in this country, and then I say something about them, it ends up on the news. And then they've made America, I didn't get anywhere. So, it's like, don't bring people up to your level if you don't think you unless you absolutely have to. And one thing I would say, don't lose your phone doing this, notes. If someone pisses you off, write a note about it as if you were writing them a letter and then let it go. Just don't send it. And then it gets all your what you would tweet out. But you don't say it. That was the best thing I ever did. That was the best thing I ever did.
Steven: So, pop up in your notes, then.
Liam: I just remembered why.
Steven: Can you imagine? Fucking hell. No, it's crazy. Because you read stuff. And I was saying to you before we start filming, like I've got a baby apparently, a wife and then-
Liam: You don't know it?
Steven: Well. Yeah. And I just thought, you know, it's crazy that there's not a high regard for truth in it.
Liam: You know what I was actually on the way into this. I wanted to speak about this because obviously there's a lot in the world a moment about freedom of speech and the press freedom of speech. I agree with, right, we don't need to dictate laws. My only problem is, and my biggest problem around Corona was the fact that the media were allowed to twist our thinking about Corona as much as they wanted to. And they're still doing it now. But the fear mongering isn't helping anyone. You know, and these people aren't sat there. I know, I've just written a great article, my boss is going to promote me. Oh, yeah. But you just decrease the value of the pound. So, your wages that you think are worth more and are worth less.
Steven: Well, it's a struggling industry, right?
Liam: I just don't get it. I'm like, if it's a medical thing, and it's the world that is in trouble. Maybe there should have to be something in place that says this is true, or not that they have to put a disclaimer and say you should take advice from your local government. Bullshit. We all read you for advice and you are offering us a disservice by telling us non-truths about stuff.
Steven: They should be regulated.
Liam: Yeah, I get that as a hairdresser account me for people going, “Oh my god, I can't believe what that Liam Payne's done this week. What's he done now?” You know, I get that. But for Corona, yeah, we don't need to be going. “Oh, yeah. Have you read the thing about this new variant that's come from over the border? Yeah. Can't leave it.” Like someone from America only the other night? Like, “Are you going to be able to come here?” And I'm like, “No, ain't no chance. But we don't none of us know. We're all confused, because we're being spouted fear, which I just think terrible.
Steven: Social media doesn’t help either because there are screenshots knocking around WhatsApp groups saying all sorts of...
Liam: Yeah, I mean, that as much as this technology advancing on us, it's like, the slower... I mean, it's almost like the coins thing at the moment with bitcoins, like there's some coins, they're actually seriously there to do a job and then there's like the fucking Elon Musk coin which is nothing but just disrespect to Elon Musk.
Steven: It's worth like 5 billion that's actually nuts. You said earlier, you made a comment, you said that your partner at the time and referring to knock down? Does that mean you are?
Liam: I am indeed.
Steven: You're single?
Steven: Me and you both.
Liam: Where are we going? No, I'm saying to myself, I feel like, I feel like more than anything at this point, I'm more disappointed in myself for the keep on hurting people. That annoys me, I've just been not been very good at relationships. And I know what my pattern of things is, with relationships, I feel at this point. I'm just not very good at them. So, I just need to like work on myself before I put myself onto somebody else, and I feel that's what you know, that's why I got to my last relationship, I just wasn't given a very good version of me anymore that I didn't appreciate and I didn't like being. And I can honestly say that. I feel better out of it. I didn't feel good for doing what, what I did, but it had to happen. I mean it is the corniest way of saying it was best for both of us, whatever, cool story. But it just feels like that.
Steven: Very self-aware for you to know that you.
Liam: Oh, yeah, no, I know, it's a problem. So, I need to sort myself out enough, I already feel good. So, it's going to be more concentrated, you know, and I hope she's happy.
Liam shows off his multitude of arm tatts
Steven: What is it, you've discovered about yourself in relationships that you're trying to work on?
Liam: You know what I mean, one of our old managers went to therapy from being a manager of One Direction. So, you can imagine how that feels. Like, the rest of us definitely need some. And for me, most part, I was really regressing from therapy, because everyone was pushing me into it, which is the worst thing you can do. Like, it's almost like becoming sober, for instance, you have to want to be sober, to start with, not people taking your toys away, and you're going “Oh, my God”. So, it kind of felt like that. Whereas this time, I kind of threw myself into it, even though I didn't want didn't really want to inside, I threw myself into it and made my own choices. And I think for me, my life has been so controlled to a point, day sheets, security guards, you know, anything, and it's all everybody else is dictating puppet master crap overtop of your life, then you just get to a point where you have to take some control back yourself. And until I started to do that with my life, then I was living for everybody else. And I'm a complete people pleaser anyway. So, it was like nothing in my life was about serving myself, which then that just put me in a bad place, and finding enjoyment from other stuff that I don't need.
Steven: I've always considered therapy for a bunch of reasons.
Liam: And the thing is, is still such like a taboo kind of phrase. I get it, I do get it. I was I mean; I was on the phone to Louis from I've been talking about it today. And it's like, there was one moment last week. And I mean, my managers, my best friend had been saying to me for a long time, “You'll have that one awakening in the middle of it when you're thinking about stuff”. And I mean, I hate words like awakening, and I hate this, like Hollywood perception of like, reflective work. What the fuck is that? You know what I mean? But I get it. But at the same point, I'm like, I don't know you keep it for you. But it's like I had this one moment that I found that I was like, Oh my God, that's just a lot, so many truths about me. And it was so insignificant for something to happen when I was younger. And it was so to me, it was like a family joke. But now I'm like, oh my God, I've been living my whole life as that character and yeah, wild-wild, you'll love it.
Liam: Really scary.
Steven: You don't know what you're going to find it like opening a book.
Liam: No, that's it. It's wild. But I'm so glad that I, one went through what I went through this year. And to the you know, I think this year is forced something out of all of us. And for me, it forced me to really look at my life and go "What the F are you doing, like, grow up?” And that was a point. I'm still trying to work on that.
Steven: You regressed from therapy.
Liam: Yeah, I always turned away from it. I was always I don't need therapy. I’ll sort myself out. You know, your own worst enemy at that point.
Steven: I'm really keen to understand what makes you a difficult you know, specifically what makes you a difficult person to date. I’m difficult to date.
Liam: Put a few people in it.
Steven: Coming on down ex-girlfriend from behind the curtain.
Liam: That would be a weird room.
Steven: Can you imagine that drops down in there?
Liam: Oh my god.
Steven: I dated him for three weeks.
Liam: I'd be out.
Steven: What would be the consistent theme as to why you're difficult to date?
Liam: I think my problem I got to be on my own sometimes.
Liam: Yeah, I struggle to be on my own. And I think I dive in and out of relationships too quickly. And I've not had spent enough time on my own to really learn about myself if that make sense. I honestly just need a minute; I need to check myself.
Steven: But I'm really, I'm really keen. So, you want to spend some time on your own to kind of understand yourself, because in a relationship context, you find that you kind of you're in, you're out a little bit too much as you're saying?
Liam: Yeah, and I don't know, I think the biggest problem we have, I'm probably perfectionist, terrible, terrible, terrible. So, when it comes down to relationships, I'm always trying to at the start as we all do, you put out a complete false character.
Liam: Like I might as well go in a costume. Like a person he's not there. He's there personally absent from the room. It's like they tag team on the way in. And it's you for this bit. Yeah, I'll join in later on. And I just Yeah, I just need to stop doing that. And then kind of like, one, encompass in someone else's life with your crap. Rather than like, just doing your thing and laying out your store from day one. That's my biggest problem. And I feel for myself, I don't lay out my store. I'm like, willing to bend to someone else's store. And then I'm annoyed at why they don't like why like.
Liam: So, then I'm like, okay, but if I just laid out the stall early on, and like, yeah, I get up at 5am and go for a run. What are we going to do with that? So, he's either in or is not, you know what I mean? It's not compromise, because some things you'll be like, okay, that annoys you. Fine. But yeah, for me, I don't do that I lay out a completely different thing.
Steven: I've really debated that. I'm going to, personally, especially recently, because the girl I was into, is very into everything that I'm not into, like a like, she's into, like, horoscopes and like...
Liam: Why do we do that?
Steven: I don't know. So, I'm very, like, fucking looking at horoscopes being like, no, yeah, because you're trying to make...
Liam: Spiritual people scare me.
Steven: But at the start of relationship, you become more like them, they become more like you. And then as a couple of weeks months pass, you just regress to actually-
Liam: Almost like, I feel like I hide resentments from people sometimes. And I'm like, something annoys me. And I'm like, Oh, no, no, it's fine. But inside thinking, Jesus Christ, I wish she didn't do that. And then it's like, then over time, I'm like, every little thing starts creeping in. And I did this in my job really badly. Because I would bend to my job and let my job overtake things that I didn't like doing. Steve [inaudible 22:24] videos for stuff. Rather than going no, until one day I just was like, I hate everything. And now it's almost gone back the other way. Now, I've had this little reset that, like I'm starting to call people in to do what I want to do, rather than bending to everybody else's stuff, you know, and this, you'll probably experience the same, unless you're pulled every which way. You know, and it's always about impressing whoever's behind the lens. Yeah. Whoever's in the audience. So, I find I feel conversations with crap that I'm saying, that doesn't really help me because I'll go home thinking, why the hell did I say that?
Liam: Now I'm that guy. Oh, my God. And then and then it's like, but I was saying it because I thought it would entertain the other person. It wasn't about me. Stupid.
Steven: It's really fascinating that you're so self-aware of all these forces at play, because it feels like you've spent a long time really analyzing and looking at your behavior.
Liam: I think that can have its benefits, and it can have its problems as well. I think I'm like over critical points, but you know, you can't win everything.
Steven: Being a perfectionist.
Liam: Yep. It's an issue.
Steven: Yeah. Talk to you about what that means, specifically in your life. And in work in relationships...
Steven: Steve is his manager that sat behind the camera. I feel like we should put up a chat.
Liam: You what I love about this my fans think that like Steve's like doing something to me is they always like a Liberty for him. He always looks for Steve, not because I like him or like, harming me as a person. But then there's like a hashtag liberty for Leo. Like they think I'm like, like prison child.
Steven: There's going to be all these other people who were just listening on the audio and thinking you're calling my name. Steve?
Where your head at? Liam opens up. (Pic - Getty)
Liam: One thing I really got into lockdown was art and drawing.
Steven: Oh, interesting.
Liam: Something I'd done since I was younger. And the point was, find something to do that doesn't make you money was the whole point of the exercise was okay, cool drawing. And I said to the person who gave me the advice at the time, "Like a guarantee this turns into something to hold for later on in the conversation”. So, I started drawing. But then what I found was I was so bad at starting the task blank sheet of paper and all that, because I was so worried about what might come out that I was like, I'd sit down like if something is not quite right like it can ruin my day in a drawing. And if something goes wrong, and it's not quite right, I'm like, oh my god. Like I hate it. That's the kind of thing.
Steven: And how did that go drawing?
Liam: Okay, I mean, the thing is, once I got started and got on some stuff, but then it was like, sometimes in that respect, then I was drinking to draw pictures because I was so in my own freaking way. And it's the same writing songs as well. You can do the same thing with everything. You can trade out all that crap. Then it's like, that's why, you know, people might smoke a bit or do whatever they want to make a track. It's all about getting out your own way. And I feel like now I feel much more. Like I know who I am. And I know what I want to do. So, I don't need to be in my own way. I'm going to go, you know, if I don't need these additives, they only make me worse anyway.
Steven: In the long run, right?
Liam: Oh, God, yeah.
Steven: Today, it might help. But tomorrow, it's going to get problems. Are still drinking?
Steven: You've been sober?
Liam: I’ve been sober just over a month now, I think.
Steven: My business partner here, when we started the business, became an alcoholic about three, four years in because it was just too tough. And then he had like, severe suicidal ideation, he actually didn't tell me at the time. And this is why when I was reading about your story, I could relate to so much of it because I didn't say what I was going through to him. He didn't say it to me. And then it was like, after we'd sold the business that he was like, “I used to stand on the train platforms and think about jumping in front of the train.”
Liam: That’s terrible.
Steven: He never told me and I didn't know what alcoholism or re mental health was at the time. But I'd get on stairs 3am in the morning, and I'd open up the laundry room, and he's in there with a bottle of wine at 3am The lights are off, and he's just drinking it sat on the clothes. I’m like “Get off my fucking clothes.” I’m joking. I was like, “What the hell is going on?” I read similar sort of story or narratives in your story where, you know, you were having moments of that kind of like ideation, you were having moments of suicidal ideation.
Liam: Yeah, I mean, there's, there's some stuff that I've definitely like, never, never spoken about to do with it was really, really, really severe. And it was a problem. And it was only until I saw myself after that I was alright, I need to fix myself. There are a few pictures of me on a boat, and I'm all bloated, and I call it pills and booze face. And I was like this, like my face is just like 10 times more than it is now. And I just didn't like myself very much, then I made a change. And the same thing happened this year with that sort of thing as well. But the problem we had in the band, and I don't blame anybody for this, I don't want to seem like I'm whining or moan “Oh my God, look at my life”, whatever. But it feels to me like when we were in the band, the best way to secure us because of how big it got was just lock us in our rooms. And of course, was in the room, minibar. So, a certain point, I thought, well, I'm going to have a party for one. And that just seemed to carry on throughout many years of my life. And then you look back how long you've been drinking. So, for like Jesus Christ, that's a long time, even for someone who's you know, as young as I was, that was wild, but it was like the only way you could get frustration out in the day or being like trapped. And, you know, I spoke about to somebody about this. And in child development, you know, as a team, the one thing you need is freedom to make choices and freedom to do stuff. And it was the one thing that although we could do anything we wanted, it seemed from the outside that we were always locked in a room at night. And then it will be car hotel room stage - sing - locked. So, it was like they pulled the dust cloth off. Let us out for a minute. And then he's like back underneath. And I'm like, good.
Steven: It is so crazy. Because you're right, the public will think the absolute opposite. We think, Wonder action, those guys have got total freedom, all the money and they can do anything. Everyone's you know, in their nine to five jobs, just thinking I'd love to have that level of freedom that Liam Payne has to do anything, but you can't do anything. It’s the opposite?
Liam: No, I mean it because we were young. I mean, I actually wanted to meet you about this as well. So obviously, you've reached stratospheric heights at young age is like, I didn't know I was the boss until a long until like, a few months ago. I still don’t feel like I am now like, I'm such a child. And everyone I work with is...
Steven: Double your age.
Liam: Older than me and wiser than me. And I'm like, What the hell am I doing here with these people? So, it's like, you know, when we were 17, I thought the security guard was like, in charge of me. Like I was like, "Can we leave the room”. No, okay, then not to worry. I'll just stay here. That's what it was like. So, I didn't know what the hell I was doing. You know what I mean? It's like, and no one, there's no guidebook, they don't give you a little DVD on the way and saying “Here, you're a pop star you got to do.” So, I'm like, in the room, like, what are we allowed to leave and then eventually, that becomes like an angry person. And I was because there were points where it was toxic. And it was difficult. Don't get me wrong, we had the best time ever we did. But there were moments where through, you know, I mean, there's a big movement on at the moment and people overworking and like, you don't realize you have a choice at that point. But in those shows, sometimes they don't give you the choice because you want the dream, but you have to realize there is a sacrifice for that. You know, rather than a just and like I say I never want to come on these things and whine about stuff like I made my own choices in life. You know, being an alcoholic doing whatever else. Hello at my choice. So, you know, it doesn't have to be whiny, but it's just like there was a sacrifice and I know what I did sacrifice to be here. You know.
Steven: Everything what I've come to learn everything in life all the good shit comes with a cost.
Steven: and I've learned just from my own experience, like my success is very different from yours. We got very different paths, but came with a clear cost because you can't go from being 18-year-old kid that's like making Chicago town pizzas to feed himself to being to building a company worth 300 million within six, seven years.
Liam: What a great sentence that was.
Steven: I was a fucking lose like loner, but I was in my room for summers upon summers on my own for just, you know, because my parents weren't talking to me, they said, “Don't call us and to get back to university”. Years wasn't speaking to my family, no friends, because I couldn't even afford to see him. That was the cost for me. And what that made is someone who, again, isn't very social. On the weekends, I spend 99% of my time alone.
Steven: So, people are like, “Oh, my God, let it be”. I'm like, well, and then and then I have the same thing you have, which is my brain is always has 1000 tabs open, and I can't just go in sit on a sun lounger and tan, tan what is my brain going to do then?
Liam: Sitting in the bathtub is one of my worse ones as well. But that's it. You're right. And you know what? Like, think about someone as simple as someone who like plays guitar. Yeah, the amount of time you have to be alone with an instrument you miss out on a couple of other things that happened in life.
Liam: And that's what it's like. Exactly. And that is for us is for us as teams growing up. You know, I think people like I said, I started at 40.
Steven: That's nuts.
Liam: I was in my school. I remember very clearly the moment that that that X Factor like moment happened when I was when I was younger. And I was playing football on a field and we had an all girls school right next door to us. I'm just playing football. Like as a normal day. I've had a few like people like shout me out in the street where it's like, cool. I'm, you know, 14 years old. The whole school from the other school is on the fence.
Steven: You're joking.
Liam: I’m banned from that field for life.
Steven: At first, how does it feel?
Liam: It was wild.
Steven: Good wild?
Liam: Yeah, it was it was amazing. I went from like zero to like...
Steven: G.o.a.t. King of the school.
Suits you Liam (Pic: Getty)
Liam: I wasn't world famous when I was 14, but I was famous within my world. So it's like, well, I didn't leave all the Hamptons, and everybody in Wolverhampton knew who the hell I was. So, I couldn't go anywhere. So, you know, and at that point, I can't afford a security guard. I'm not special enough to have any of these, like, additives. I'm still on the 7948 you know, my little Christian school. And then what happened over time is, and I, you know, people, people, they do what they do, but there was, there was one significant moment for me, where I knew that I lost it. And I wasn't going to go back on X factor to be in the band, which would have been wild by the way, I would not have been here right now. But there was a moment I was in a McDonald's with like a new girlfriend at the time. And it had been two years since the show. And I noticed my shows decreased in number, decreased in capacity, and decreased in wages. So, I was like, down and out at this point, I've had fame and lost it. And I'm like, nearly 16 years old. So that's difficult to deal with anyway, at that age. And then I'm in McDonald's, because everyone still knows who I am. I'm sat there and I literally remember but take a bite at this nice juicy burger. Someone on the stairs goes, “X Factor reject”. And the whole restaurant looks at me, right. I'm 15 years old. And it was just horrible.
Steven: What a scumbag thing to say.
Liam: I know but there was like that's the thing. It's like it was almost like a shout out to say are you think you're special. But you're still here in the most Wolverhampton...
Steven: I guess you've got understand where that comes from, from that person. What's going on in their life?
Liam: Someone said something to me today. “It's not what you do. It's what's happened to you”, which I thought was quite like that.
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Steven: So, tell me what happens from there. So, I don't want to go too much into because I know you get asked this stuff all the time. So, we don't want to go over old tracks. But that was your first sort of experience with fame. You then kind of you feel it declining. Ice Cube says some stuff to you in the McDonalds. Life carries on. And then yeah, on the point because I really want to get to this. I know you're working on this NFT project. Yeah. And it's based around this feeling of being...
Liam: It’s based around the idea that it was like a I want to call it a syndrome. I don't know what it was. Someone told me something about fame, you leave fame, the age you entered it. So, for me that was 14, right? So, I'm screwed. Like I'm the 14-year-old forever child. So that was always a big fear of mine that I have to grow properly. Now from what one direction gave me I grew massively in some respects to the point that you I mean, you'll have experiences when you have conversations about business deals. Now I'm the director of a company. I was a director of a half a billion-dollar industry at 22. And I'm like, What the hell does that mean? All it meant was it to sign in 10 times more forms than anybody. Wild right? So, but then in other things, like if I'm trying to pay car insurance, I'm useless so that you don't grow in other aspects of your life because you have other people do crap for you like picking up my post. I'm the worst person in the world, I just forget about it.
Steven: That must mislead you open to be taken advantage of, right? Because they know that there's some things you don't know like you're taking your security person.
Liam: Yeah, that's it. You're deluded in your growth of whatever. But this is where the NFT idea kind of came from. And it first started is this, this little drawing idea. And now I wanted to make my own character because I was like, I'm really good at drawing, but we have printers and I don’t need to be a printer. So, then I was like, I need to make something. So, I made this like, ethereal creature I wanted to 3d print and stick in a like crystal glass box. And the idea is that he's depressed that he's like a wasp in a beer glass type thing.
Liam: Magical creature can't get out sort of thing. So, then we kind of came up with this prayer returnest idea around fame. And what does that lead to? And for me, the way it speaks to me, and the way that art speaks to me is that I was afraid of the idea of losing. You know, having keeping the child with me, I was trying to like, he was like a monkey on my back trying to get rid of him. Whereas for now, the idea for me is more based around, you know, how do I enjoy that? Because what I love when I see my son is that he can be whatever he wants in that moment, you know, I'll be over the house. And he's like, “You're a bad guy. I'm a good guy”. And I'm like, that's great. And then the next day, he's one of them, girls from Frozen. Now I'm doing this, it's magic powers today. And I'm like, wow, like, we lose that. And then that's a lot of my problem. When I'm sitting doing a task or whatever the belief system in me has been trodden on through life that much that now I forgotten about that. They have the ability to do whatever the hell they want. So why would you ever want to lose the child within you in that sense?
Steven: Wow. And that's coming out as an NFT soon.
Liam: Coming out as an NFT in like two weeks, I think it's quite scary. It's wild, because I just made it one day in lockdown and then sent to my manager. And we enjoyed the pieces it was but then it just kind of grew into this thing. At the same time that NFT's were growing as a thing. I mean, have you how many people ask you what NFT's are, by the way?
Steven: So, many of them, a lot of people. Like I'll get DMS all the time. And you know, I'll try and describe what it is. But I think if you say something with enough conviction, people just believe it anyway. So, I'm like, you know, broccoli? No, I'll just say anything.
Steven: I know what it is. I've studied it. I'm working on a few projects at the moment with NFT's. But um, I'm just, you know, with all these emerging technologies, and whenever something's new, I'm kind of like, probably a little bit like you and Christian, I know you're very, very entrepreneurial, and investing a lot. Now. I just want to be in there like a sponge. So, I want like, a flag in there just so I can learn some. Yeah.
Liam: Well, I mean, I think that's a common misconception about this sort of thing as well, is that you always come up with the idea that's coming to you rather than like you say, being that sponge in the middle of the room. If you're not part of the million-dollar conversation, you were never part of our conversation.
Liam: It's like be in the moment. Like, rather than trying to make decisions, or you just have to learn about that stuff. And you don't have to know everything. You just have to know someone that does know something. As you get older, I think the wildest thing is that people, those phrases that they used to say to you as a kid, like when I had my child, my mom saying to me “Oh, like you grown up so quickly, like thinking you're miss it or not.” You're a kid you're like, yeah, I'm six, like, chill out. But then as you get older, you're like watching and I watched my son grow. I'm like, oh my god. Yeah, he's telling me off now.
Steven: They grew up so fast. My niece, I mean, I've got a child of my own, according to the Daily Mail, but you know, just like this. Where did you get those legs from?
Liam: I've been teaching mind to swim. I mean, we had a really good conversation today. And it's like, it's a whole new learning experience. Once again, there's no handbook. And you're just like out there on your own. I still feel like a child in so many ways as you've learned from my NSC.
Liam: I'm watching him in like I played him a trailer movie trailer was this simple. I played in Australia for a thing and we watched it. We both live like that. Let's stick that on. It was just Disney's Ray Ender Dragon thing was about you. You and your new one found friends.
Liam: And so, we sat there and then I turn the film on and the first shot of the film was from the trailer is going, “Why are you playing this again?” “No, no, no, it was we watched the trailer.” “Why is it on the TV again?” And it kept like bits kept flashing on, oh my god, this is not something I'm like, okay, let me. How do I explain it? I was like, “You know, like, if we like have a plate of food, and like I feed you a little bit and then you go, ‘oh’, you don't want it and then I take it away. Or if I feed someone you go, ‘Oh, yeah’, I give you the whole thing. I was like that's like this.” And then he's going “Yeah, but why are we watching it again?”
Steven: Do you get scared as a dad about doing the wrong thing or the right because you say there's no handbook. So, you like if you feed him this or if you say this, he's going to start saying a C word at school. I do.
Liam: When he did swear once I was happy, I wasn't around for it because I couldn't be blamed. And there's a way to root out or find out whose swear word is? Because it wasn't a combination I would use.
Steven: Oh, really?
Liam: I knew it wasn't me.
Liam: Who was it.
Steven: We weren't going to that. I didn't normally leave back. But there was something you said which I get my mind. All that's really intriguing is you said that you weren't going to reapply for the X Factor potentially. Where do you think you'd be? And I'm asking various iterations of this questions. Where do you think you'd be in your life now, if you haven't applied for the X Factor?
Liam: You want the business plan? That's what you really want to hear.
Liam auditions to be the new James Bond (not really) (Pic: Getty)
Liam: I’ll lay it out for you. This is my plan B system.
Steven: I think I’m going to invest.
Liam: We have a strange child. So, I got a job. The same time this is really wild work experience week at school, my dad worked at a factory and I was always obsessed. I was like, this is adult Lego. And he built aeroplanes. I was like, this is amazing. I'm going to do that. So I went, and I built airplanes. And they had like, a little collection for me. And I did like, 400 quid, and I was like, “What did you get paid for your work experience?” I was like, “Nothing. I got, like, 500 quid.” But in the middle of my work experience, I went on X factor. So, it's almost like I was trailing my two lives.
Liam: I was like, I was that sliding doors, film, whatever. It's called Butterfly Effects.
Steven: Oh, yes.
Liam: Yeah. So, my thing was, I got a job and secured one there for an apprenticeship, which was like, 22,000 a year or something. And then I was right, I know my sister paid 60-pound board at the house. So, if I just like bought at my parents' house, it's 60 pound in fees, then I can save the other money enough to buy my first house and then rent out.
Steven: Alright, so you had a plan.
Liam: Collect the rent, buy another one, and then move into that one. And then it was almost like a conveyor belt system.
Steven: Nice. You had it all planned out. I
Liam: I had it ready to go. And then X Factor room. I mean, you say your favorite TV program was Dragon's Den. I watched Helped my House is Lalling Down and location, location, location, stuff like that when I was a kid, I was obsessed. Yeah. And then manager does loads of properties.
Steven: You into property?
Liam: I love property.
Liam: I wasn't very good at it at the start, but I'm getting better.
Steven: You need to teach me some stuff. Because I have zero properties. I'm renting this place. I was going to say to you, I'm with them. When you do a show, like X Factor, what a lot of the sort of people that come out the other end of the shows often say, especially what I mean, very few have had the success that you've had, right. But I can imagine, and I think I might have read this somewhere before maybe from Little Mix is you feel somewhere in you that you still have something to prove.
Steven: Talk to me about that.
Liam: I mean...
Steven: Because your success was is just stratospheric. It's like in a league of its own.
Liam: It's wild.
Steven: So, to hear that you miss that you feel like you still have something to prove is surprising.
Liam: I think there's a problem that us as people, we all want something that we feel like we made. But the older I get, the more things I'm like, privy to, you don't really make anything on your own ever. Like I think there's just about Ed Shear and he writes on his own. He doesn't write music on his own. So, say, for one that feels a little bit like that, because you were in the band. And I suppose for each of us as members, we wanted to see what we could do. And I you know, I'm really happy with my success as well. Well, I don't know is how much of this idea was mine to go with is to be in the music career. You know, you worry about like the life that you might have missed over or I was going to do this whatever. I always quite liked the idea of the army as a kid or something I definitely wanted to do.
Steven: I say yes.
Liam: I love the idea of the army. And boxing's another one I mean, I've been fortunate to have got a bunch of fun stuff. But yeah, I think you always feel like you have something to prove. And I think the end of the day, you're just you're already really proving it to yourself, because no one else really cares. Everyone else just looks at you as what it is. And it's not that you want to beat your brand because no one will beat our One Direction. Not one of us in our lifetimes. In another lifetime. Somebody might grab something, I mean, BTS had a really good going really, really well. But we were like the new wave of The Beatles, and even still people didn't say we beat the Beatles. You know what I mean?
Steven: You're in a different era.
Liam: Exactly. And that's what that's what happened with our fame as well. We were just that of this era. So, same with Justin Bieber, right? Who the hell is beaten that room? Come on.
Steven: They won't. Someone will be different.
Liam: Exactly, exactly. So, it's just I think in the end, it's your only like, fighting against yourself. I sound like Rocky Balboa now.
Steven: I'm really intrigued by that, because you also have these five, so you have five band members, they all go off and do their own solo careers. And you do you compete against each other? Do you try and stare at each other's lanes? Are you thinking about oh my god, I don't want to be seen as doing you know what this person is doing?
Liam: I think we did compete with each other at a point. But I think it's all fairly laid out as it is now. And we've all had our success in completely different areas. And also, musically, we didn't really go down the same route. I think Harry's an amazing you know, I mean, first album, the one song off, which is really well and then his second album, he found himself and that is your awakening in his eyes. That's when it really clicks. I don't feel like I've had that moment within me yet. I've written some songs recently I'm really proud of and happy with But I don't feel like I've had that moment yet Strip That Down, came out and we did a billion streams and I could have never have asked for that in a million years. But when I was making Strip That Down, I was a box of frogs. I was nuts. Wild, I didn't know what the hell was going on. Also, I didn't know what the what the you know, the hot potato I just landed on Mayo is just a billion streams. It's like, it literally is like hot potato, a woman. It's here. The next one is gone. So, you know, I'm excited to see what the next six months of this brings. You know, I'm excited to see we have some really cool song in the pipeline, which is really exciting.
Liam: It is really exciting. And the song, one of the first ones I've actually written myself with some of the people I wrote by myself, but it's, yeah, the first one I really like... And I think I got so used to carting around other people's songs and not embedding myself creatively in what I do, because I was scared to find out who I was. So, it's almost like that's the thing when you're selling yourself, you have to know what the hell you're selling. And I'm you know, I'm sure most people wake up every day going, “I don’t know what the fuck is going on.”
Steven: You have to fail to find that out, right?
Liam: Yeah 100%.
Steven: Because you're going to have to try some shit and experiment.
Liam: Oh, my God. And it's like, so say, like, your like, geeky kind of growing phase between, say, 16 to 21. And if you're lucky, might last a bit longer. I did that in front of everyone. And there's some terrible outfits. There are some terrible haircuts,
Steven: You know, and that's there.
Liam: It’s there forever. I've gotten away with a few haircuts.
Steven: You've had some great ones. The short haircut, I think not a lot people can pull of. I got a melon head thing at the back. So, I can't, I can't do that people think I'm an alien. But now you've had some good haircuts. I've got to be honest. When I read something about Strip That Down. You said that you were almost scared of the success just as much as scared of the failure.
Liam: Ah, man, I mean, no one trains you for the moment it goes, right, right.
Steven: So, you leave one direction, you've got your big sort of debut single coming. And you're scared of the success?
Liam: I was really worried, because I know what that can bring to you.
Steven: What can I bring?
Liam: Well, one of the one days that stood out for me in the last few years where I did a whole day's promo in New York. And on the nighttime, I was on an Andy Cohen show or something. And they had a drinking game. And someone asked me a question about one of my ex-girlfriends, and I did not want to divulge when the hell went down. And it was a drinking game. So, I was like, they were like, “We can fill it with water”. But maybe I was like, “No, if I'm playing, I'm playing for real.” So, I'm like, I'm making tequila.
Steven: Oh, gosh.
Liam: I know. And I'm wasted. I get home at half past one bear in mind, I started at like, I want to say eight o'clock in the morning, I was then asleep. And I woke up at half past three, for vocal training to be in Central Park at seven for grooming at 5am in Central Park for seven o'clock. Bear in mind, I went to bed at half past one. So, I know what it can bring in that crap will send you insane. I don't remember some days I was here that will send you round the bend. But it's the you if you want it, if you want it, it's out there for you. You can go ahead and take it but it's like you have to be a workhorse to want to, to do this. And I think a lot of artists would say that coming out of it. But I don't think it's you know, it's unfortunate the demand in our industry and also the demand of how quickly people receive information now, you know, our 30 second time like goldfish timespan that we've gotten now. I mean, I definitely have that I’m the worst.
Steven: And it went really, really fucking well like in America.
Liam: And then he was like, the one problem we had was, it was like having a baby, that thing was nine months to get the number one in America. So, it took nine months to work the record just to get the number one. So, if you can imagine singing the same song every day for nine months, and having like one or two songs to back it up with. It was like pretty. Like, I'm sure somewhere that must be like put down as a method of torture.
Liam: This is the job, man. And it's like listen, the first few shows of anything are amazing. And then after a while, it's like, you'll find bits that will like great on you and whatever else. But you know, I've been so lucky to have the career that I've had. And, you know, there's hope for more of that. So that's why I think at this point, but it's learning how to deal and channel that.
Steven: And that What's your relationship like with the rest of the boys? I'm sure you get asked this all the time.
Liam: Great with, most of them. I think everyone's settling into themselves at this point. I know I am for sure. I did a lovely phone call from Harry the other day who was checking in on me. And it’s almost like some people got sixth sense for you. Right? You're going through something so he would check in. He's a lovely, lovely boy, I love him to pieces. And then Louie, I speak to a lot. And we've always had a really, really close connection. And the funny thing for us, and I've said this a lot, but we hate each other at the start. But it's almost the people that you grow closest to, you know, and I'll say it because he brought it up quite recently but you know the whole thing that I talked about the reunion. For me I'd rather be talked about it sooner rather than later because it's tough touring that that that sort of record and I enjoy tours what I enjoyed it for but there's parts of it that really fucked me up man. In a sense, I'll be honest with you, but none of us talk about it's like it's taboo subjects like oh, we can't get back together “What you mean? Oh my god like us in the same room. The fuck is that about?”
Ain't no-one can smise quite like Liam Payne
Steven: What fucked you up about touring?
Liam: My dad said it from day one lonely hotel rooms, man getting locked in that room is not fun when you've been exposed. I mean, I've come off gigs before I did a gig in in Dubai. I was really worried no one was going to show up. It was one of my first solo gigs by myself. And I suppose I'm Uber self-critical. I'm always I don't know what the hell is going on. So, I get to this park. And the capacity for the park is like you've never seen; I'm looking at like a park. I'm like, the hell, I'm thinking we're getting paid a lot of money to be here. This is going to be really embarrassing if nobody shows up. And I don't know anybody in Dubai. I can't even call 10 friends to be here. So, I'm like at dinner. I'm not eating my food and whatever else. And I get back to the gig and as people chime in, “Oh Liam!” There is people here oh my god, I can chill. I get out there. And I'm like, a wash with the sea of people. And I know it's the sound systems hella quiet behind me it didn’t make any sense, I get through the gig and you autopilot the hell out of it. When I got offstage, they like oh, you broke a record, you got on a list with Michael Jackson was 110,000 people. I'm like, and I was like, I shit. You know, I got back to my hotel room and I was sat in my room on a chair like this. And I was about to go to the Maldives with Sheryl and Bear, I'm like, I don't think I can go to the Maldives right now. I can't move off this chair.
Steven: How did you feel in that chair?
Liam: I'm shocked. Why like for to go from like, I don't know who's going to be here. To then I looked on the thing. And it's like Oasis, Robbie Williams always amazed at you know, AC-DC or these outdoor gigs, amazing outdoor gigs. And then just me and Michael Jackson. And he's been there like three or four times he's, you know, he is the list. But I was on the same list. And like, what the...
Steven: Can't be easy. Go back to that hotel room.
Liam: Like it's almost like, you know, like in that in a movie where they throw grenade it goes. And then everyone's like... that’s what it feels like oh my god, like... yeah.
Steven: Because I've done 9015 and 15,000 in Sao Paulo mean, I did a talk with Obama. That's me. Name dropping.
Liam: Oh, wow.
Steven: They're not chanting. They're all very quiet. I mean, they clap at the end.
Liam: How did they make you feel? You just feel like...
Steven: I can completely relate because I was thinking last year I lived in New York City, but I was I was speaking around the world 50 weeks of the year. So, I was home for weeks. And yeah, I go back to the hotel room. Sometimes, you know, I haven't eaten because of the adrenaline. And it's very lonely. And you like we're YouTube and room service.
Liam: What do you do now?
Steven: Yeah, but 110,000 people screaming your name and you're performing.
Liam: I had the prince or the king or something to Dubai dancing to Strip That Down.
Steven: Wow got to get that on tape.
Liam: It's kind of convenient Strip That Down. But he was dancing. You know.
Steven: We're talking about the touring here. The touring part really messed you up. So, the hotel rooms, return of one D.
Liam: I saw like I think of people being like Angry X factor this last few weeks. And I wanted to say something about it. But I didn’t really know what to say on my terms. Because I feel like, there's obviously going to be some people in there who are bitter. And you sign up for the show, you don't really know what the hell you're getting yourself into. But I would agree and we've actually gone out of our way as a team to make this possible for me. And I think a record label just bought into the idea of what we've made. And I was the guinea pig, right? So, pick the craziest person in the room starting with us. A good place to start. And we made this thing to like, care for people in the industry, because we don't have unions. We don't have people to look after us. And I was a kid. You know, I was a child when this happened to me. And I'm very fortunate to still be here today to be able to tell the story, but for most people, they feel abused or, or something in some sense. So, I just think that there needs to be a self-care system within these shows. Because if they're going to move people through these shows and use them to make television, they can't just like let them off afterwards. And I could never watch X Factor because I was always heartbroken because I've been the guy who made it really far and then got let go and it ruined me when I was 14. I was crap at school depressed like low, it ruined me at one point. But I've also then been the guy who I think my dad actually came out and said it in the thing we were filming once he was like, “You've been told no more than any winning X Factor contestant or like any successful X-Factor contestant.” I'm like, “Thanks, Dad great to know.”
Steven: What an unusual experience.
Steven: If you were to tour again, would you do it differently? Would you have...?
Liam: I don't actually even know how I would tour again. I really want to and like I want to I always said throughout this solo career, I'd let my songbook speak to me. And I don't think my songbook has necessarily spoke to me enough to get me off my ass to go somewhere yet. I only became a solo artist because I had Stripped That Down. I wasn't going to do it. I was going to leave it alone.
Steven: You use it.
Liam: Yep, that was going to leave it hell alone. I was like I survived once. Thank you very much. But now I'm back in.
Liam: Because the song, I knew it was right, it felt right with the song. Whereas I haven't had that initially this year, the song that we have, I feel really right about. So, I would rather let the music do the talking than me come out and...
Steven: Try to force it.
Liam: I mean, it's such a fast-moving industry these days, he's one of the biggest races in the world, right. If we had a start line, how many musicians there are trying to make it right now. And who's going to outwork the other one, we need a very big track. So, it's just kind of got to that place, that we don't need any more useless music in the world in my eyes, it needs to mean something.
Steven: You said something, you know, in a previous answer that you've said online, which is that you're lucky to be here, one of the most moving things I've ever seen, which honestly, disturbed me and stayed with me my entire life was that VG documentary, and the way that his management were pushing him and he had social anxiety, and oh, God, it just haunts me.
Liam: You know, what were those things? I mean, I've spoken to managers who have lost people and different I know, I've definitely put strain on a lot of people in my life and you see me like a different person. I don't like talking about it. You know, I think it's just as hard for the team around you at points as it is for you. Because we didn't all know how the hell we got here. Everyone's kind of looking around. Like, we don't really know how the hell we got here. So, at work, where's the next move, and there's always someone who will pull you through, I've been very, very fortunate now with the people that I had to pull me through my bits. And it's, you know, this care system is so important, right. We music is the lifeblood of a lot of our things is the background to our movie scenes when we're sat in the back of the car looking out the window. But when we don't want to look after the thing that's kind of feeding us that much, you know what I mean? I think for artists in the sense that they do need that, I feel that it doesn't need to get lost in translation in other things. It genuinely needs to be a care system. But then everyone's over therapy these days. And that sense anyway, but it's like, if you want it, it should be available.
Stars in his eyes - Liam smoulders away
Steven: Is there a moment where you look back and say that was the lowest moment for me, that was the pivotal moment?
Liam: For them. I was worried how far my rock bottom was going to be. Where's rock bottom for me, and you would never have seen it. I'm very good at hiding it. No one would have ever seen it. But rock bottom. I mean, I don't even know if I hit it yet. You know what I mean? I feel like, it's like one of those graphs, you see, when it's like, oh, we hit the, big support market support up there. This is the support level, oh, my God, you know, it's the same thing. So, it feels like, I can even make that choice now and pick my last moment as my rock at the bottom, or I can make a new one and make a whole new low. That's my choice.
Steven: You said online that you previously had been masking your emotions and feelings. And this was something that you were trying to get over. said you try to learn to deal with your emotions instead of masking them. How important is that been? This is something I really struggle with. Because I was CEO of a company, 27 years, 26/27 years old, 700 employees...
Liam: That’s wild.
Steven: Fucking wild is it? All around the world, these adults are double my age. And I have to be- right my business partner, he'll tell you, he fell away, right? Alcoholic, put on all this weight, depressive, anxiety, fell away. So, I'm carrying him because we are co-founders were seen as a unit. So, when he's out in the street, he won't mind me saying this, because he's been drinking all day with the team. And he stealing in what bottles of wine off other people's tables, just total strangers. And he's doing things in public, which you get arrested for with parts of his body that I'm not going to talk about. When he's doing those things. I'm getting a phone call, I'm 26. And I have to not only manage him [my business partner], but then I'm having to manage all the impact that's had on all of our employees. And I felt that I could never talk or be vulnerable. You the thing I find so...
Liam: People don't realize it's not just you know, what happened to a VGA is terrible, by the way. And I haven't seen the documentary. I didn't watch. I actually knew someone who knew who worked with him. He wrote with me as well. And he said that what he saw was going on was not good. But for the most part for a lot of these people. There's usually somebody in that is not very good. But everyone else is trying to help and you don't see the effect it's having on them as well. You live and die by the sword. I live and die by my sword. That's it. But the person who's behind trying to pick up the shield to help me they haven't even got the fucking sword; they just dive in into battle for you. And that's the difference. You know, what I mean? Is that people miss out on that bit. So, I'd never just on that person, you know what I mean? A lot of my stuff, you know, if I hadn't had to help I had I know where the hell I'd be right now. So, that's a credit to you in a sense.
Steven: It's super tough. The bit that I really respect you for though is you're very open about it. You talk about it, you talk about going to therapy, you talk about your lows, you talk about being unsure if you would even be here. And that's going to do a lot of good for a lot of people.
Liam: I hope so. The worst bit for me is I think it seems so much as a tool these days to hide behind the points. For me, it's never about that situation. I'm just telling you as what it is. And it's that's the bit where I think like I say, I don't want any of this to get lost in translation. I am not 1% moaning about my life. I love my life at the minute. My life's great. It's had its ups and downs, but it's, you know, yeah, I think I'd rather talk about it. And it's therapeutic for me. And it's been a really good chat by the way. This is cool chat. I like this chat a lot. There's been some shit ones.
Steven: I can imagine. Because I'm genuinely asking you questions that I give a fuck about. Yeah.
Liam: That’s the point. And I'm telling you, the thing is, if it matters to me not trying to hide some sort of bullshit thing, you know? Like I say, I think there's many people who have this effect on therapy and all those things in sobriety. And I ain’t saying everyone oh, by the way, should go sober. Ain't telling them to go vegan or whatever. I saying this is what I did. And it worked pretty okay for me so far. So, yeah.
Steven: You're making or made a movie, you wrote a movie, right?
Liam: I've been working on something for a while, and me and Krishna spoke about a few weeks ago, and it's funny that it's based around AA but I had a really weird AA experience the first time that I went to...
Steven: What’s AA for anybody that doesn't know?
Liam: Alcoholics Anonymous. My first experience was with Russell Brand, which have you seen Get into The Greek or any of those other movies, I went to his house and I love Russell.
Steven: There's something about that sentence that I can't get over, “my first experience was with Russell Brand”.
Steven: Sounds like the deep end.
Liam: I’m in his house and I've only seen him on the movies and as a comic and I you know, my Bookie Walkie I love that stuff. And like so I know a lot of things about him, but I'm really shy person. When I first moved, I'm like, oh my god, like, so he makes me coffee. And we sit talking about our experiences. And I've never seen someone look at me the way he looked at me like find you a man who looks at you like Russell Brand looks at you. And he's listening to your stories because he like looks into your soul. I was like, I was born again. And then we went to this meeting, it was an all-male meeting. And there was everything in the meeting from prison guards to ex-soldiers to ex-cons to post men to been meant to everything and then me and also brand. So, I'm like, this is the weirdest room I've ever been in my life. We're like, some old like community, like church room or whatever. And then he's taking the chair in the room. So, my first experience with AA was the best experience ever. If it was like he would just doing stand-up.
Steven: He was doing stand-up in an AA meeting?
Liam: You know, it's like they have one who chairs the meeting and the idea is that if they say like, oh, can you talk about relationships that was affected by alcohol, then he'll tell the story of his alcoholism or, or, you know, narcotics thing. And then you're linking from his experience to go, “Oh, my God, I'm the same as you”. And that's how it works. And I'm not going to give the whole script away, because I'll tell you the whole film.
Liam: But I kind of came up with this film that I haven't spoken to Russ about it, which is the first thing I have to do because it was from him that this obviously, I'm in a movie right now like, and I'm one of the characters and I'm sat here going, I don't know what the hell I'm doing here. But apparently, I'm alcoholic, and I've got a problem. Oh my God. What's going on? The walls are closing in.
Steven: Will Pharell walks in.
Liam: Exactly, The Wolf of Wall Street was in the corner over there. It was wild. I'm excited about it. And I think it's really funny. I showed it one of my friends. And realizes she left a lot of it. So we'll see.
You can't beat a good tie pin...
Steven: What else is what else is going on in your life in terms of like business and investing and projects and stuff like that? when you think about the direction of travel that you want to take over the next 10 years Which direction do you want to focus on and go in? you're investing tons you've got your own businesses now. Everyone's going to say the same thing to you every time you have an interview. going to say, “When is the reunion?"
Liam: I mean, I've had wild my business learning curve. From the day I first got my like, first check. And I went to the manager. I'm like, “What do you invest your money in?” Because he had the biggest garden in London. I was like, he's a good place to start. He had the biggest home garden, which you don't think he does anymore? Steve, do you? Okay, apparently doesn't anymore. Apparently did when I was younger, he did. So, I'm like, trying to ask him like, what to invest in. He's like, all about gold and whatever else then you learn about safe haven currencies and all these other things. Then I started to branch out a little bit more a little bit more. Then I went onto properties, which was always the one I wanted to do. And then when I was 19, I nearly bought a fighting agency, which was fun.
Steven: A fighting agency?
Liam: Bama. I got bought into by Bama when I was 19. So, I roll up to this in what like my like Burberry coat thinking I'm an absolute bad man because I'm about to buy like, England UFC.
Steven: Oh, okay, okay, fine.
Liam: Right. So, I go to this arena in Manchester, I'm looking past it's not great. Everything else. We're looking at all the stuff. And you're a kid. So, I'm a kid. And I mean, I remember being front row with a fight. And some guy behind me obviously doesn't like the band very much like, “Sit down, shut up!” Whatever else. But every fighter then after got out the ring and shook my hand. And I just kept looking down and thinking you still got something to say. The guy was scary clown must just moved that the guy's nose off like he's my friend isn't myself.
Liam: I was like, Yeah, exactly. And then, and then I went met everybody afterwards, and I got into his company. But unfortunately, the deal wasn't great. I put it through one of my investors that I have. And then it's like, people try to catch you out. And this was always my biggest problem. Very fortunate to live in some lovely places. And every time someone would show up at my door to do something, and the job would cost 500 pounds, they would try and charge me 50,000 because the house was big. And I'm like learning early on like, and but don't get me wrong. I've spent some money on some stuff I shouldn't have spent money out.
Steven: You and me both.
Liam: Yeah, I mean, I'm not going to go into detail too much. I lost some money. Like, my thing I always say to people is like, I will tell you where I lost as much as I tell you where I win.
Steven: You're going to make mistakes.
Liam: 100%. Like, my point is, I'm going to do better than whatever my last mistake was. And that's the point. If I trust myself enough, it won't matter in the long run.
Steven: When you think about money, though, you know, you didn't come from money. When you start, I read that your dad had tons of debts and stuff like that. And so, your relationship with money will be very, very different as you've gone over the last decade, and then a lot of other people because to you, it's probably something that you thought was you built up more when you're younger, right?
Liam: Yeah. And I think as a kid growing, and especially if you like rap music is what it becomes different thing.
Liam: Rap music made me spend a hell of a lot of money. I would say, yeah, I mean, I have one of my friends over recently, and my family, my dad made decisions in our house of what was going on and stuff. And he did them for the right reasons. So, I stand by that. And he doesn't need to feel any pain in that whatsoever. Because he wanted us to go on a holiday and go to America and he would bury himself. And he was so stressed. He said at one point in his life, he woke up and he couldn't remember his own name. Because he was so far in debt, he was only covering the interest, which I can't imagine how that feels. I mean, it probably feels exact same, I feel some days with the other side of it, which is wild, and we won't get into that. But at one point in my life, I mean, my friend a professional poker player now, but he was quite a rich kid at school because he was like playing poker since he was like 13. So, when we would go down to get breakfast, I couldn't afford it. And he buys me like 20 peas worth of toast. I couldn't afford it.
Liam: Which is wild.
Steven: So, then when you get money.
Liam: I didn't know my family were poor, but they were fucking you know, we were we were not in a good place.
Steven: So how did that impact your relationship with money when you finally got it? Were you a splurger?
Liam: On points. Yes, on certain stuff. I would but not a more of a worrier than I was a splurger. I was like, because of where I lived and where I was from, I really could disappear. So, I was always really cautious about protecting what I have, and only spending what I earn.
Steven: Money and happiness. Talk to me about the link. A lot of people...
Liam: There isn't one. Yeah, it's a myth. So, I think money, I think the way to think about money, I mean, there's a beautiful thing I had as a kid. And when we used to go to church, the woman got a five pound note out. And she said, “Have you ever read a five-pound note?” And I was like, “No, I haven't.” I was like five and no. And she's like, if you read it, it says, “I promise to pay the bearer of this note five pounds of money, his promises”, which I thought was great if you develop on that, and conversations I've had with people money is his care and the ability to relax on certain things. Life's going to kick you in that. Not sometimes you're going to need something to help those around you. So, it's never so much been for me about spending money on me. And sometimes I have to remind myself to shop because I'm terrible. And I'm one of those people who like will go on a shop, fill a basket and then just not do the rest of it. I leave it there and I'm like, oh yeah, I feel like I bought something now that's good. At least I did something fun with what I'm working my ass off for. But I'm not like that. So, it's like, in terms of with things, my family and different things that have happened like my dad's debt for all those sorts of different reasons. I'd rather have it on hand and if something God forbid, happens to any of us, you know, my family are the last people to ever asked me for anything. And I'm the first one to go, “This is why we do what we do, you know.”
Erm where have you been hiding those big biceps Liam?! (Pic - Getty)
Steven: You have a son, a beautiful child. He tells you that he's going to apply for X Factor someday.
Liam: This is a tricky one. This is a tricky one. I think his mom's hoping he's going to become some like yoga person. His mom's very chill these days.
Steven: He says, “I'm getting Instagram and I'm going to get to do X Factor. What would you say to him?”
Liam: I mean, he's got the best advice from the parents around him for the long run, I guess. But I don't know, I think he's not going to obviously be protected his identity to start off with. And that's not being pretentious or anything other than the fact that I want to give him a chance to be bear first, before we ask to be Oh, your mom and dad are so and so. So, you know. And I made my choice to be where I was at 1415. So, I think he can make his own choice then to we'll have a good discussion about it a long discussion, because I know what effects that can have as well. But I would never stop him doing something he wanted to do. I'd let him know the risks. And I tell him what was going to happen. You know, and better that than, you know, my parents didn't really ever experience any of the things I've experienced before I got this. They had no idea what I was signing up for. Would they change it? Probably not. But they would change some things that happened in between across the way I bet 100%.
Steven: He says he's going to do the show. You give him the disclaimer and the warning. What would you rather he did? If you could as a dad, you could be that authoritarian and say who's he if he could choose? Would it be talking your footsteps?
Liam: Something he enjoys doing every day. And I mean, that's I say that lightly. Because I think everything that you do depends on what kind of person you are becomes annoying, but the point is, no matter what job you do, it's really got to do that again. You know, my dad, I used my dad's job was the best job ever. I build an airplane out of Lego, like I said, my dad's like, “Do not end up in that buddy factory. That's the last thing you want to do.”
Steven: Would you want him to follow in your footsteps, though?
Liam: No, I don't think he’d do it better than I did.
Liam: I don't know. I think sometimes you can get lost in the connection part of this game. And I think that's always been a difficult thing for me to connect with people because I put so many barriers up before you get to actually what's going on, that you you know, was like hurdling away.
Steven: Why do you think those barriers are up?
Liam: Protection. I think it's protecting people from what's you know, if you turn up in the disguise every time then you can always blame it on the disguise the moment, you're not wearing one you got nothing to blame it on.
Steven: What is it that your manager over there, Steven would know about you, they probably made...
Liam: That’s not a box you want to go in.
Steven: In terms of like rain or boxing. In terms of like what you know what someone who knows you very well would say about you that we wouldn't expect just from what we see online, because you talk a lot about this wearing this mask and being you wearing a disguise even in your relationships, I'm really trying to understand because we've been here maybe now for two hours, whatever. And as time goes on, and on and on, you get to know someone a bit better. You know, and like my barrier goes down a bit, yours goes down a bit, we get more comfortable. And I'm like, who is that person behind that, that people don't know?
Liam: Because I don't know. I mean, I think in certain part for me having to translate it for music is difficult. And I am opinionated to an extent sometimes it can get me in trouble with some shit. And I hate that that really does annoy me because it's like, everyone's entitled to whatever they want to say about something right? You can disagree or whatever.
Liam: But I think for me, I hide behind humor a lot. I make everything I can funny, then that will leave it to not be as...
Liam: Okay. Interesting. I really want to get an idea of when you look towards the future professionally. What are the what is the positioning that Liam Payne is hoping for? Yeah, I guess you know, from what you described for Bear, you just want to be doing things you enjoy?
Liam: Yeah, I think so. And I think that's, you know, there's been there's been a slower up to that point. And it's just doing things for the right reasons. I mean, we're in a beautiful age right now, you are your own press, which is actually great for eyes. If we learn to do it the right way. This whole thing I used to hate was going on and off, talk shows gone on and off and doing this and doing everything else that seemed to be for everybody else. And it was promoting your record, but then the record bites, and you get nothing out of it. And it's like everybody else got their five minutes, but the record just didn't do what he wanted. So, it's like, you know, I want to experiment with the way I promo my records to make sure that the record is taken before I go halfway around the worlds going, “Oh, look listen to this great song” and then no one has it. Right. Well, you know what I mean, but it's like, almost, you know, I think the music industry and listen up people, I think the music industry is in a place where people need to throw out the old, the old, you know, marketing format for these things. And it's almost like when you see companies that try and do TikToks. Don't do it like that, because we can see right through what you're doing. You've made a tick tock and how we're supposed to that but it's not funny. It's the same for the music industry. It's like there's a new way that people are premiering things now. You know, Billy Eilish came from a bedroom and did this until the end, it worked out really well. But it wasn't the same format that you used back in 2010.
I mean, the way the industry changed while I've been in it, it's been wild and I've only been in it for an over a decade now, but it's insane. But I just think record labels and sometimes people spend budget on stuff that they don't need to do. You have your format you have your fan base, grow it organically, properly, not through, you know, I don't know the way we're doing things at the moment, but sometimes it's just like, I don't know what the hell we're doing this.
Steven: social media, your relationship with It has been my industry for the last decade. Good thing, bad thing. What's your relationship with at the moment?
Liam: I think it's good. I think it's a difficult thing to manage. I love the idea of what Tick Tock does work for me. I don't want to get sucked into my phone with like, watching stuff constantly. And you're doing you need to be on your night learning stuff. And you know, it's funny video, whatever else. But if you're for you page is just like funny dogs. And yes, then you're in a What the hell's going on? You know, that's what that's what it does to me. Oh, my God, really? So, I don't know. It's I've seen a lot of different technology come in and go out of my industry from the time from Twitter and that, you know, I honestly think there's a strong case for saying that we owe a little bit of our success to the way Twitter was because worldwide trends weren't a thing before one direction, before One Direction were next better. Whereas on that night, we could trend everywhere. And then people would go, “Oh my god, what's this, though?” You know, magically Oh, the biggest band on Xbox was the same time Twitter came out doesn't need Perfect Storm stuff, you know? So, I think it's great. I think we have a funny way. Like I say with the coins. That you know, the markets just had the weirdest few months of people making Hoe coin Hoe coin plus Hoe coin extra Hoe coin isn't there's 90 of them. And I'm hearing all of my friends going “Oh, did you buy Doggy Dodos 21?” “No, no, I bought Star Porn you know, me I like what the hell are we doing? We're talking in code.” You know, and it's like that, but rather than the technology that works ripple Ethereum, you know, things that have real world application, rather than coins that are heavy one, I made a coin that's about you know, tripods or cameras,
Steven: This tends to happen at this. I think, these like exponential bubbles, you get...
Liam: It weeds out the crap and weeds out the crowd. That really happened to me that markets took a big dip because they're trying to weed out some of the stupid stuff. And because it's an unregulated thing it's like, but I find that that's with the same with social media, we need to weed out the bad stuff and focus on the good.
We can still see its you Liam, despite the disguise! (Pic - Getty)
Steven: There's a lot of debate at the moment because of the racism that some footballers have experienced. Marcus Rashford did a big post the other day, that, uh, you know, how do we how do we stop people putting monkey emojis or any kinds of like abuse on? You know, because what happened, I think is happening from a psychological standpoint is they see Liam Payne, they think he is up there on that mountain that is not a human being. If I throw a rock, and I hit, I might get a little bit of attention from him. So, they pick up a rock-
Liam: That’s why I said at the start about bringing people up to your level in a way, but it's not so much for them that they could they can get away from not saying something about that, you know what I mean, they have to speak about it. And it's difficult. And we are going through a really fast-moving era with everything in the moment. I mean, you wish there was an algorithm that would just beat that, right, but they will find some way of spelling it differently. And it'll just, you know...
Steven: I think they verify everybody's idea. I think that'd kill 99% of it.
Liam: Yeah, I would I actually thought of a thing for this for voting. Because voting for me was always a really difficult thing. We all have our iPhones; we have our thumbprint that goes on. Why can't we verify via thumbprint to get cards and that how your record.
Liam: There was that great Black Mirror episode where that woman's going through life trying to get these likes, and she's like, desperately. You see that?
Liam: “Please, I need to be in this neighborhood. But I know I was a five star this morning.” Horrible crap on the way down and I'm sorry. But that's what life will eventually be policed by I imagine in a way.
Steven: Speaking of Black Mirror, I guess this is a strange tangent. But um, I when I had Johann Hari on the podcast last week, one of the key themes here is that all this technology and social media has like taken the meaning out of our lives, because like dating now happens on these screens. People order their food by like, tap that tap and it shows up at the door. Even now with COVID when are working from screens, we used to have an office or you know, offices we could get now it's all screens. And it feels like the world is getting more and more socially uncertain.
Liam: What's amazing is we were also worried about technology pushing us away from each other when COVID hit right. You know, it was the only thing that saved us. Thank God, you know, when COVID did hit, which I thought said a lot more about technology's good sides and it did about the bad sides. I mean, it's up to you how you use your platform in the end and what you let it do to you. Like I say I enjoy TikTok but I watch a few videos and I watch things that people send me I don't really have a for you page. I don't really go through it constantly. Because there's you know, it's difficult with kids o screens my life. I have one and I watch him. And I'm like, I really want to like, you know, we go I make him go out and do stuff and sometimes we fall out big. We have riots about- yeah, it's not sometimes it's not good. But he's learning with it, you know, and it's that it's like he's saying, for all of us, we are the guinea pig generation for these things we're learning, you know, were the first, you know, civilization to be affected by an algorithm.
Steven: And to be connected by birth.
Liam: What about the people who first experienced hay fever? They figured out their way around that. I mean, it's like, for me, it seems like we will figure out the right things of it, but it's weeding out the bad sides of it and what it does, like I think if your TikTok screen is advice and videos about learning stuff, or like stuff that you're actually really interested in, you enjoy, not just random, funny crap, because that's what You've Been Framed was right. You want to find yourself watching You've Been Framed all day,
Steven: Really, because that's what you're doing. Or even worse on Instagram, Keeping Up with the Kardashians. “Oh, look, she's amazing. She's 10 out of 10 now and she's rich. Oh, her life's perfect. And look at my life site here and my boxer shorts in this Pot Noodle? With my cellulite.”
Liam: Yeah. But that's such an illusion.
Steven: Because, of course, it's an illusion. It's an illusion designed to destroy your self-esteem, isn't it?
Liam: And it's like, Yeah, but I also think there's, I think there's a fine line between these things, and accepting and accepting everybody and all this stuff is a given. But I don't think that in the process of that we want to lose the thing to settle for ourselves. You know, there was a big debate about me on Loose Women at one point, which I was alright, with. It was okay. I understood what they were saying. But I worked really hard for what I did in my underwear commercial, you know? And it was, it did overtake my life in certain respects. Yeah, for sure it did. But it was actually an aim of mine is one of the only things I've ever aim for was to try and do an underwear commercial. So, I remember I went to my meeting with the company I was working with, and they were like, “No, no, we don't want to do that with you”. And I was “No, trust me, just trust me.” And they gave me faith and they put their trust in me, I went and train my ass off, and I got myself where I wanted to be. But then it was like, people worried about people's self-esteem, looking at the picture and whatever else, I get that, but I quite enjoyed the idea of looking at someone and being like, wow, he's, that's cool, man. Like, I'm going to go out and get that one.
Steven: An underwear commercial.
Liam: I just thought I could do it. I thought I could. I wanted to challenge myself in the gym to it was, you know, these days, it's hard to be strictly about looking the gym shoe. They're not function, which that was the bit I battled with myself a little bit, but it's like, yeah, I think you know, you want to go out and get it, go out and get it. It's it. But I don't think we should, like I say in accepting everybody, let's not lose the idea of striving for something as well, though, because it's so hard to say. I'm perfect. Was that an advert I saw somewhere the other day and I thought we really narcissistic, do we have to call all ourselves perfect for everyone to be okay with each other. Like, and like I might get in trouble for saying some of this stuff. But it's just like my thought is like, I want to teach the next generation to strive for things as much as I wanted them to feel confident in themselves. But it's almost like being a parent, right? You're going to mess them up somehow. Like, if we start saying we're perfect. I guarantee next year, we're like, well, that's not worked out. Well. So, let's rewrite the plan on that one, you know, and it's, I just think everyone's you know, give each other a break and just go do what you like.
Steven: Have you have you figured, because it's taken me some time to try and understand what it is that actually makes me happy. Once upon a time when I wasn't ready.
Liam: This is a big one.
Steven: I started I was going to end on this big question. But I used to think it was like, oh, I'll get a Lamborghini, and then I'll be happy. That's why my book is called “Happy, Sexy Millionaire” because I thought that I wrote in the first page of my diary, 18. I wrote Range Rovers I bear in mind, I didn't have a driving license I was stealing Chicago 10 pizzas at the time, Range Rover Sport will be my first car, I'll make a million before I'm 25 I'll get a really hot girlfriend. And I'll work on my body image. What I meant is I'll get a six pack. I didn't want to write that. I thought that is the goal of life. I get those things. Ranger was my first I made a million for SP five. And I'm like, where is the confetti? And if that's not it, then what the fuck is life about?
Liam: I mean, what happens when you wake up and every day is a dream. I mean, I don't mess you up. I often have looked for the moment in life where I bang my head and I might be in some sort of coma. This dream that I've invented for myself like I was that messed up at some point, when I was like, I'm sure this is a simulation goes. I must have made this wall. Because I can't be here because of where I was yesterday. Yeah, so it was you know, there's those wild things that if you let them creep in, they will feel bad.
Someone says to me to be quite interesting every day, “Our view of what we hunt for as humans has changed. We don't hunt for food anymore. We hunt for success.” There's always at the target went from animals and corn and food to friggin Lamborghinis and that sort of stuff. But that's what we strive for. Now I'd like even split like you were saying earlier about your You're so glad he was here because that supplements your foods and you're that driven by your drive that you forget you're going to eat sometimes and I was the same at work. Oh my god, I'm terrible. Like I'm known for skipping lunch breaks and working through the day to get home quicker, because I can go without hours must run through but think about that. You've gone past your basic survival instinct to.
Steven: Writing against your health for like...
Liam: Coins. Yeah, exactly. I might miss this thing. That I'm exactly the same is something I think that we struggle in this respects and it's like...
Liam: I don't know anything about what makes me happy at this point, I really don't really know I very, I...
Liam: I've found a couple of things that I think I'm interested in. But like, the thing is, once you start making money on these scales and things that happen, it only becomes the drive that's interesting to you. If it's going to fast forward, you somehow and that's about that toxic thing that was funny enough, we've come full circle, but that's it's the same sort of thing. And I think it's a big problem for me. Because if it's not guy thinking, why am I... and that's why drawing for me was the biggest one at the time. Because I was like, this is what children do. Why should I do this? And then funny that I drew from them that was about being the child was that weird how things go full circle in that in that respect. But yeah, it's, I often struggle to get on with something if I don't think it's forwarding me in life somehow, rather than just enjoying the moment or going out and watching the sunset.
One of my one of my biggest things that made me happy while I was training was for am get up in the dark. And it sounds like I am some sort of psychopath and I was, but you're like, go into the park, run for a little bit, and then stand on the thing and watch the sunrise was the best thing. And you know why? It's fucking free. You can stand and watch a sunrise and go Wow, thanks for another day sort of thing. And that sounds really woo SAR and like really far out spiritual. But I didn't. For me, it wasn't like that I just enjoyed seeing how beautiful this man was. And I was the only person in Hyde Park running at 4am every single day, and it was the some of the best time I've had in life.
Liam is a fan of a bit of bling (Pic- Getty)
Steven: They've done studies kind of linking to what you're saying there, where if they give someone again, I wrote about this a little bit. But if they give someone a game that they enjoy, people will do it, and have high motivation to do it. If you then pay the same person to do the same game, their motivation will decrease.
Liam: I have a big problem with this.
Steven: So, you can love doing something. And then the minute the reward starts to become extrinsic, which is external, which is money, your motivation decreases. And this is why it's very, very important. Even for me with this podcast, I started it because I love doing it love meeting people. When it starts becoming a commercial thing, it moves into being a job. And then the science says my motivation will decrease. So, it's interesting, because you talked about your drawing, you started drawing because it was and then it becomes this and it becomes an NFT and it becomes a business.
Liam: And then it's hard to do.
Steven: And then you're like, oh my god, I don't want to do the same on here again.
Liam: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly.
Steven: You said, you've not figured out what makes you happy.
Liam: Definitely not yet now, ask me in a few years.
Steven: I think. I mean, so what's my conclusive point then for what makes me happy? professionally, it's super clear for me now, having a niza keyword. So, a worthwhile challenge that I'm doing with people that I love. And I've come I've come up with that based on a ton of things, some of the things that you've said, fit perfectly into it.
Liam: I love it.
Steven: When you look at Tyson Fury when he's not in the gym, depressed when you look at gold, Olympians, whether they win or lose at the Olympics, they get depression, because that they've reached the mountaintop and there's nothing else to strive for. And so, when I was going through my notes, I'm thinking the day that someone offered me 50 odd million to buy my business was one of the worst days of my life in Gary Vaynerchuk. I know you're doing some stuff with him. He says the same thing. When I spoke to him on the podcast, he was like, “The day when I buy the New York Jets will be the worst day of my life. Because like, I hope it happens on my deathbed. Because not having something to strive for...”
Liam: And this has been a big struggle of mine.
Steven: For me, you lose orientation. Yeah. When you're training for the Olympics, we're going this way, this is our purpose in life. When the Olympics is over, you ain't got no fucking direction.
Liam: You know, I mean, look at this and talk about direction, my that whole thing for me, and that mountain for me was one day. And music after that, like I said, you're never going to keep up with what we did. We sold so many records. And we did some we broke so many records. We did so many things. You know, I mean, we were in stadiums every day. 94,000 people every day, like I was in like, I used to break into Wembley Stadium, and the nighttime because it was fun, and I was smashed. And I thought these people aren't going to recognize me because I've broken into every major Stadium in America. Honestly, people used to chase us on these like, police like little squad bikes be like, “Hey, sir, you're not supposed to be in here.: And we'd run because it's like a game attack. I swear to God was just one time we opened up a door and found a Zamboni. You know, the thing that we accidentally emptied that, like two ton of water on the floor. I might have to pay for that now I’ve said it.
Yeah, so once you reach that height, I suppose one of the reasons I struggled the most out of it is because you're never really going to reach that height again. And then it's almost like Limbo, and also not knowing whether or not we're going to come back. Are we going to come back? Everyone's asking. I don't know that. It was like pressure to come back. It's almost like your parents going, “When's baby two coming? Oh my God. Now we’re going to have another one.” You know what I mean? So that's wild to me and having to deal with that at a young age. And it was I was always going to mess it up somewhere. is what I would say about myself, because that's like, he says, the worst day ever.
You know, the day the band ended, I was like, thank Lord for that. And I know a lot of people are going to be mad at me for saying that, but I needed to stop or it would kill me. And I was like saying the Lord and then after that, trying to like, funnel your way back into society, but like, Hey, guys, I'm still here. Turning up at Tesco's in a Lamborghini, like an idiot, you know, I'm like, What the fuck am I doing? And for a lot of it, yeah, I agree with a lot of that, that that statement, it's, you need to have something to strive for. And I feel like I'm finding that a little bit more now. And learning to relax.
Steven: Yeah, you've talked a lot about this.
Liam: Learning to relax learning to just be, you know, a lot of people go be part of the moment and be in the moment. And like, I'm like, this is bullshit. But it's true. If you can just sit, you know, and enjoy something for what it is for five minutes.
Steven: You tried meditation.
Liam: My ex Cheryl is very big on meditation. She sent me one the other day, and I got told off for not doing it again. Meditation gets me in trouble these days. No, I need to- I did a couple of things in meditation when my own personal training that were quite good, but my mind so busy. I can't shut it up. Like the moment I'm trying to not think about something like, oh, yeah, but what about if we just did this next weekend? I know you'll be exactly the same as both.
Steven: I’m trying so fucking hard with this meditation thing.
Liam: Let's meditate together.
Steven: Every morning. I'm like, “Steve, close the tabs.” And every morning I'm sat there on the fucking floor of my shower. Because it's like, it's like, looks like it's from Thailand. And the water is pouring and like Mike just don't think about anything. And then I'm like, I'm planning on that schedule in my head. I'm like Liam's coming for the podcast and on what should I speak to him about and then, you know...
Liam: You do the two sentences thing where you like, think of like, what you can hear what you can smell?
Steven: I've tried all of them. I tried this one with beads where you like, hold the beads and move them through your hand.
Liam: Simulation yeah.
You don't need sleeves when you have arms like Liam's (pic - Getty)
Liam: I like to two senses one's not bad which is good in the shower as well. If you like Close your eyes, then pick two senses, which you can choose like feel.
Steven: Oh, interesting. I’ve not tried that.
Liam: So, your mind can only do two senses at once. So, once you shut some of them off, that's technically meditation, because you're in the moment. But I still don't feel like I've had that. You know, I'm not a monk at this point. I wish I was.
Steven: I think it's important though.
Liam: I get it. I do understand it. But I also think...
Steven: Imagine if you could get your mind just to be in the present moment fully, and just be...
Liam: If I could’ve done that school, I'd have been top of the class, but my mind's going, oh, yeah, what we're going to do.
Steven: I'm going to I'm not going to give up. So, I'm going to keep trying every morning naked on my bathroom floor.
Liam: That's it.
Steven: Worthwhile challenge with people you love. So worthwhile, you define it yourself, right? challenge means it can't be easy, because then your motivation won't be high, and then surrounded by people you love. For me, that is where I've figured out my happiness lives. And so, upon leaving my company that I'd founded for 10 years now I'm like, learning to DJ doing a big theatrical play at the Albert Hall, which we've directed and produced. I'm just trying to learn how to everything biotech right.
Liam: That’s what I’m saying.
Steven: And that's what I was thinking with you from what you were saying, you know, you're never going to talk about mountain, so what is the mountain?
Liam: I mean, we've done so many random, you know, the trip to Namibia without was one of the things and we just we did see the world first of a canyons in Namibia, which was really crazy. And wild and I thought I might die on national television. But that is okay. What else do we do I do in this NFT things was really interested. In doing the online shows because we were one of the first people to really like pioneer with a company for that thing. You know, my team were massive, massive behind that. But it was almost like making a TV show every week with new songs and songs that I hadn't sang since whatever songs I'd never heard before. And I just would turn up and do it. And it did really, really, really well. And I love that. I don't know, I've had I think I've had many, many, many jobs. I've got like a laundry list to the point where when the census came, I didn't know what the hell to write. I didn't want to write perform it because I think it just sounds like such a badge off job of life. It doesn't it doesn't in capital, anything that I actually do. I mean, we design clothes for Hugo underwear, modeling validated loads of stuff.
Steven: Do you think maybe you just need a really big fucking scary, terrifying goal that you really care about?
Liam: Well, I mean, someone did ask me to go and do Everest at one point. And I was like, I don't know. I might die on that one.
Steven: It does make you a little bit like right now we've got something to aim for like getting in the gym.
Liam: Yeah, I mean, not in a way. I'm already there's something I'm cooking up in my brain. I'm not going talk about here just in case it doesn’t come off. But I'm cooking something up at the moment. It's very gym orientated. I'm definitely going to give it a big, big go. Some things piss me off.
No horsing about! A day at the races is a quentessentially English tradition (pic - Getty)
Liam: And I thought I just had to do it. One thing I say about success and about these things, if I'm honest about happiness, I think it's learning to have respect for yourself. I mean, there's a lot of things people say about don't base yourself on others and never look at other people in that way, which I actually think you need to throw out the window. Because there's when I was like, it's almost weird. I learned from my character design. When I was designing characters, I didn't start from nowhere. And how I learned to design characters was like, how do you make a dragon if you've never seen one, you know, a dragon and they won. So, they mix it with- exactly this is funny. So, they mixed it with a lion mixed with a snake mixed with a crocodile mixed with a dinosaur, because they're the ones that we have. So, they based them off of stuff. So, I like to look at people who are my heroes, and I think what is it that I love about them that I don't think I possess yet. And then that's how you know you can respect yourself. And I think that's the most important thing for me is get up in the morning, I respect myself ago. Go to bed at nighttime, I respect myself, I'm happy like certain things about my life, even this moment I want to change. But it's like Christian Bale, for example, I love his acting, go to. I mean some things he's done were like really unhealthy when he did the Machinist and stuff like that. But I like that drive. And I like the fact that he like buries himself into a role and stuff. And I've never learned that quite yet. That might be one of the things I want to...
Liam: Exactly. If it's almost Yeah, it's like taking people's stuff, but you molding it into your own character. We were talking today about avatars, which is obviously a huge market at the moment. People spend so much time on their avatars on their games when they start something, but in life, you are your avatar into everyone. And it's like if you're making your avatar and you've got to go and do 10 free kicks to own the next Ronaldo boots, you're like, oh, I'll get in there and do them. The moment someone asked you to do something in life to learn something new, like I don't want to do it. But it's like, that's why I try to think how we explain that to kids. But that's the most basic analogy I can come up with, you know.
Steven: Children's book.
Liam: Children's book, I had an idea for one actually, but we didn't finish it. That's a lot of the real things in my life. Look at him he’s smiled at me.
Steven: Well, and we've talked about so much today, and so much so much inspiration. And you know, a lot of the questions I ask are based on- it’s amazing, amazing conversation. And I really, really respect and appreciate your willingness to be open and honest about all these things, because you're helping so many people you don't even realize it.
Liam: I do hope so.
Steven: You know, and I think you're just a tremendously inspirational guy. You're, you know, an incredible entrepreneur, which I don't think people have fully appreciated yet because you've not sort of disclosed all of the investments and businesses, you're involved in but I think that's certainly coming I think we might have a bit of a European Ashton Kutcher on our hands if I say so myself. But yeah, thank you man honestly, you know you've been through what is a unique just tremendously unique experience over the last decade. Nobody can understand it other than probably the boys you did it with. You know there's ups there's downs but this is life right and you sharing it, has brought tremendous value for me so I know it will definitely bring huge value for audiences. So, I want to say thank you.
Liam: No, mate I think this has been one of the best chats I've ever had.
Steven: Thank you.
Liam: I'm excited to see what you bring to the table on Dragon's Den. I can't wait to watch it.
Steven: I’m buzzing. I'm buzzing. Maybe you can come in with some of your ideas.
Liam: I’ll come and pitch something.
Steven: You should be [inaudible 1:37:28]
Liam: ...to spies. Come on and be like, I’ll deck the shit out of you. I’m like right, I've got this idea for swimming pools on Ruse.
Steven: Would you ever be a dragon?
Liam: I think I'd be a terrible dragon. I don't know I feel bad for people and I want to know... I’ll take it.
Steven: Thank you, brother.
Liam: Appreciate it. Thank you.