This weekend it’s the UK’s biggest event on the entertainment calendar, with the 74th EE British Academy of Film and Television Awards taking place at the Albert Hall with guests and nominees attending virtually for the first time, thanks to Covid-19. And while the awards promise to be as exciting as possible in these unprecedented times, on Sunday night we will also be treated to another exciting world-first in the form of Liam Payne being beamed into houses up and down the country for a special performance ahead of opening the ceremony at the Albert Hall.
Yup, if you’ve ever fancied the former One Direction crooner serenading you at the end of your bed, on Sunday you can make your dreams a reality – or augmented reality – as Liam has joined forces with the EE network to create a 3D avatar hologram of himself that can be beamed through the app ‘The Round’ (available on any mobile device) before he performs at the Albert Hall. Super fans can get to experience the avatar in their homes, or on-the-go, ahead of the performance, if they tune in via the app at 6.45pm, 15 minutes before the real Liam hits the stage.
GLAMOUR caught up with Liam to discuss this sci-fi sounding excitement as well as hear how the past year has treated him. In a wide-ranging chat with the ever-charming Liam, we covered all things from the struggles of lockdown and coping with his mental health to his former bandmates, burgeoning acting career, new music and co-parenting his 4-year old son, Bear, with his ex, Cheryl.
Is the fact that you’re performing at the BAFTAs a sign that your acting career is on the rise?
I’ve done a lot of auditions, a lot of tapes. The thing about acting somebody told me, it’s very much like: are you right for the part and is the part right for you? I think it takes a lot of talent, luck and judgment going into acting to actually get into a job. I mean, hat’s off to anybody who does it because it’s a long process. I seem to get through to like the final five or final three people for every role and then not quite get it. Which is frustrating but, you know, that’s how it goes. I’ve had a fair few auditions and I was lucky enough to get into the final five again for one audition that I got to meet Steven Spielberg [a couple of years ago] on my 25th birthday which was quite amazing. But it’s been fairly slow through the pandemic obviously.
And what about music? Have you been writing anything, or even been in the studio?
I’m going to the studio later on today actually, to record something for the first time in a while. Which is quite weird to be traveling back into London to go into work. I’ve been doing some stuff from home as well, which has been quite interesting. Zoom sessions don’t really work out all that well, it’s very difficult. I’m sure a lot of musicians will agree. So, it’s been kind of hard to work properly during this half of the pandemic. The other first half of the pandemic, I just did these live shows, which was really amazing to play live and do them online, which was kind of strange… It’s been difficult in terms of the creative process for me.
The past year has been challenging for absolutely everyone, no matter their circumstances. How has it affected you on a personal and a professional level?
In the first half of it, I was so busy that I didn’t really notice it as much, except for having to do a lot of stuff myself without crew and learning to do hair and makeup was kind of a weird experience. But then this second half, I stopped working and I had a full, proper month off [and that was] really hard. And it was all a bit dark for me for a little bit and I’m sure many people experienced it. Just not being able to go anywhere, not be able to do anything. It really, really hit home. And I just found myself sat in the same place day in, day out. And I was like, okay, I really do not know what to do with myself.
You’ve bravely spoken about struggling with your mental health in the past, and you say now that you did go into a bit of a dark place recently, how have you coped with that?
I think it’s an ongoing experience. For me, learning to relax has always been quite a hard thing to do because I feel like if I’m not moving forward, then I must be going backwards. And I think that’s something that I’ve always struggled with. So, in a way it’s kind of a blessing in disguise, as this has all kind of taught me to relax a little bit more. And to not be so worried about that, like the world is not going to fall over if I don’t do something today. So, it’s been nice in that respect. But I think for a lot of people it’s difficult, and I definitely took for granted how much I miss my family. I’m used to being away from home, I’m used to being abroad and not seeing very much of them. But I’d always see them at a show or at something once a year. And then now that that’s all been taken away, it’s been a lot to not see my family and realise how much they actually ground me.
So, what have you found helpful or supportive during the past year? Have you turned to anything to get you through these dark times?
Friends that are there for you… [talking to] one of my managers that I’m quite close with. I think a lot of guys struggle to talk about what the hell is going on a lot of the time. And for me and him, actually we’re quite heart on our sleeves sort of people, so we talk a lot about different things. But I think if I didn’t have that, someone to share that with, I think I would have struggled a hell of a lot more.
Like a mental health mate?
I mean, we literally talk about everything. We’re probably too honest with each other! But I think it’s important that everybody has that person. I think the only thing that’s really helped me through that is just learning to work out again and learning to put boundaries in for myself in terms of what food I’m eating. As a pop star, I think you’re always quite weight conscious. My job has always been about having to work out, doing underwear modelling and all that sort of thing, it makes you quite body conscious at times. It was nice to be able to just sit and eat pizza and chocolate, I really enjoyed that. But getting myself back into the habit of working out and then having a cheat day put in place, so that there was more boundaries in line, I think has definitely helped me.
I’m quite fortunate that I don’t put a stack of weight on, although I have gone up rather a lot in size over this time. But I think it was more about routine for me than anything. And I always say, having a small victory before you get into bed at night time. Or life just gets depressing. Whether that small victory is making sure you’ve spoken to a family member, you’ve worked out, or whether you did learn to do something today, just something small. There’s one task that you literally can’t be arsed with, you should get done just on the day, so that you feel good about yourself when you get into bed.
That’s so important. So, do you almost have a checklist before you go to bed?
I think as long as I make the gym and I’ve done that bit and I’ve taken care of my needs, just cooked some nice food. That’s mainly it for me, really. And then I feel good about it. And obviously taking care of my son and seeing Bear as well, that’s been quite a difficult one. I got a lot better at bedtime FaceTime.
How have you found co-parenting Bear during the pandemic?
Fantastic. I mean, Cheryl is literally the best person to co-parent with. No stress involved. It’s very, very relaxed, and we spend a lot of time on FaceTime. And it’s been really lovely, and I’m closer to them than I’ve ever been before, actually, which is really, really nice. But bedtime FaceTime can go really well sometimes. Or I bought him some toys yesterday that I showed them on the FaceTime and it was like I had to go and travel over and hand the toys over the fence!
I struggled with it for a long time. I argued with people. I was aggressive on their points trying to fight my own side. And I think for some people you are talking to a brick wall, you will not win and there’s no point trying. And also, the more you talk about it, the worse it gets. So, I just shut up and put up a lot of the time. I think it’s the Queen that says, “never complain or never explain.” And that’s something I think myself I do live by because it’s just like, with some people it gets worse having the argument and trying to explain yourself. But all of it, it’s like five minutes of your life for somebody who doesn’t know you, it’s just a bit pointless.
You have so much intense public scrutiny on you all the time, how do you navigate keeping something back for yourself, and how have you managed to maintain that sense of privacy over the years?
I think this has been one of my biggest struggles this whole time. Because, I’m very much a heart on the sleeve sort of person. I didn’t actually realize this for a long time, but I often give a little bit too much away…But it’s definitely a difficult one to flick the two people apart. So that you’re on stage, you’re a certain type of person, and at home you’re a certain type of person. That’s always something I’ve really struggled with.
And you’ve been famous since the age of 16. How did you manage growing up in that sort of public glare?
Never did! [laughs] My friend was [recently] talking about how he’s got a teenage son that he was really struggling with at the moment. And I was thinking, “oh my God, imagine how much people would have struggled having five teenagers, rowdy boys in a band. It must’ve been terrible, there’s no getting through to them!” And for a while, it probably was. I think we all go through that awkward teen phase where you’re finding yourself. And most of us, we get to get away with it. And they’re funny family photos for later on; here was your emo phase or whatever you went through! And for us, we never got away with being awkward or annoying at points. It was kind of out there for everyone to see; the awful haircuts and we’re talking terrible clothes, it was all out there.
What has your career taught you about the idea of success and the idea of failure?
I think it’s taught me lots about how you would measure success. I came from a family that weren’t very well off. We didn’t have a lot. My dad was in debt actually when I started. So, success for me always meant a monetary thing to start off with. But then as I got older, I realized I don’t really buy all that much. I don’t really spend a hell of a lot of money. So, it can’t be about a money sort of thing. And it’s more now become more about happiness and experiences. And the one thing I always say about my job, no matter what, and everybody gets annoyed at their job sometimes, it is what it is. But for me, at least I get to put a smile on someone’s face.
Yes, you do! And what has it taught you about failure?
That’s a really good question. It’s taught me I think that perseverance will always prevail in that sense. Because it doesn’t always go exactly to plan. We were really lucky when we came up, we absolutely skyrocketed. And then, it’s been hard to follow that ever since. But you know, measuring a failure as well. What is a failure? And people will look at this and, for us sometimes getting a 100,000,000 streams isn’t quite what we aim for, but it’s still 100,000,000 streams….you have to kind of get a hold of yourself. Everything is about perspective at the end of the day, isn’t it? That was something I struggled with for a long time, because of how well it went [for the band.]
So you had such high expectations for everything?
Yeah. And it’s like, time to give that a break really. And Louis from my band has always been quite great to sit with me and talk with me about stuff. And if I’m feeling a certain way. We’ve been quite good with each other, actually in that respect and helping each other out, which has been nice.
And finally, if you could sit down with the Liam who was starting out in One Direction in 2010, what advice would you have for him?
I think just have more fun and relax a little bit. I think I was a very serious child, one of those man-childs, I was a man in a child’s body pretty early on. And I think I would have avoided that stage, to be honest with you. To enter One Direction as that difficult, because it just meant that I got completely a different job to everybody else.
You were the grown up one?
That was it. And it was boring. I should have just larked around and thrown plates out the window and stuff!
More rock and roll?
Well, I mean at the start, and then later on a bit less rock and roll [laughing.]
Well, thank you so much, Liam. And we look forward to seeing your performance on Sunday at the BAFTAs.
I’ll see you wherever you want me in your house, I guess.
Liam Payne is performing an exclusive EE BAFTA AR real-time music performance, ahead of his 5G-powered opening show at the 2021 EE BAFTA Film Awards. Download ‘The Round’ app to enjoy the live AR experience through your mobile phone, wherever you are, this Sunday 11th April 2021 at 18:45pm BST.