Liam Payne has left his boy (bander) days behind him.
The former One Direction member, 26, recently opened up to MTV News about how he’s “massively changed” since becoming a dad to son Bear Grey in March 2017 — and PEOPLE has an exclusive first look.
Payne was only 23 when he and now-ex-girlfriend Cheryl became first-time parents, and it wasn’t easy to help start a new life while still establishing himself as an adult.
“At first it is the most scary thing in the world, ’cause you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I got to take care of this tiny thing,’ ” the singer says about new fatherhood. “I was so young when I became a dad, as well. So it’s a learning curve the whole time,.”
“You think you’re going to have all the answers right off the bat and you don’t, ’cause you’re still figuring yourself out,” he adds. “You’re not only taking care of yourself and learning about yourself, now, you’re trying to learn this little thing that needs you.”
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Liam Payne Says Ending One Direction Was “Scary” But Continuing the Band “Would Have Killed Me”
Ultimately, the "Stack It Up" crooner is grateful for the chance to grow right alongside his little one: “I think [raising a child] gives you the opportunity to be a better person and you’d be stupid not to take that chance.”
As he prepares to release his debut solo album LP1, Payne is counting a new relationship among the gifts that have resulted from his personal growth. However, his heart had to go through its trials and tribulations before he was able to find happiness.
“With love, I think you don’t really understand it until it gives you that sting. It took a long time with me. Something really hurt me and it kind of made me appreciate love and people a lot more,” he says. “For the longest time, living such an exposed life made dating really hard.”
“And I think it’s just the pressure sometimes that you and that person can put on yourselves,” Payne adds. “I’m kind of at the place in my life now where I just realized it’s not worth sacrificing my happiness because somebody might see something.”
Cheryl Says She’s the “Strict” Parent Compared to Ex Liam Payne: He’s “Much Softer Than Me”
Payne is currently pressure-free with model girlfriend Maya Henry, and he has no qualms about declaring his love on social media.
“Now that I’ve found someone who’s genuinely my best friend as well as my partner, it’s massively changed things for me,” the star tells MTV News. “She’s just so relaxed about everything. Someone who’s completely got your back with everything is just the wildest thing. I don’t think I’ve really experienced that before in someone, so it’s quite a wonder to watch.”
Last month, Payne proved just how done he is with keeping his romantic life under wraps, thanking Henry for “always keeping the biggest smile on my face through all the stress and making me [realize] how perfect my life really is” in the caption of a cuddly Instagram photo. Meanwhile, the model has posted PDA-laden pics of her “kissypoo” on her own Instagram account.
“I don’t have anything to hide — I’m really happy right now,” the singer says of his new, unreserved phase of life.
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