Story highlights

Zayn Malik says that being in One Direction was "not the real me"

He told the UK's Sun that he feels "like I'm doing what's right"

The band announced Wednesday that Malik was leaving

CNN  — 

Former One Direction member Zayn Malik spoke for the first time since leaving the group this week – and said he’s sorry for the pain he’s caused.

“I feel like I’ve let the fans down, but I can’t do this anymore,” he told the UK’s outlet The Sun. “It’s not that I’ve turned my back on them or anything, it’s just that I just can’t do that anymore, because it’s not the real me.”

He said that he had been feeling uncomfortable in recent months and that his departure was best for everyone concerned.

“I did try to do something that I wasn’t happy doing for a while, for the sake of other people’s happiness,” the 22-year-old said.

But now, he added, “I’ve never felt more in control in my life. And I feel like I’m doing what’s right – right by myself and right by the boys, so I feel good.”

iReport: Fan says ‘We need Zayn’

He’s getting along fine with the other members of the band, he observed.

According to Us magazine, Malik has started working on a solo project.

One Direction, which also included Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan and Liam Payne, will continue as a foursome. The group’s hits include “Best Song Ever.”

The band’s announcement Wednesday that Malik was leaving caused mass disbelief among fans all over the world, with many taking to the Internet to express their sadness and devastation.