Markus Feehily empathises with Zayn Malik's wish to lead a normal life.

The former Westlife singer understand why the 22-year-old singer has quit One Direction because it is such a ''weird'', all-consuming lifestyle.

He said: ''I think this is something the One Direction lads can relate to. When you are in a boy band even on your days off, you still might get that call from the record label. It's weird, you live in a bubble and you are never truly off. You are never away from it.''

And Markus admits his first days away from the band - who disbanded in 2012 - allowed him the chance to think for himself and make his own plans for the first time in years.

He added to BANG Showbiz: ''For me at the end of Westlife I was a bit confused. I needed to come away from all of this and find out what I am able to do by myself and what kind of person I am. I needed to be in my own head ... instead my life was scheduled by someone for 14 years in a record label. I wanted to find out what would I do if nobody told me what to do.

''That is very much what the last few years had been about.''

Markus is now launching a solo career and is pleased he has done it alone, rather than relying on the help of Westlife's manager Louis Walsh and record company boss Simon Cowell.

He said: ''Even musically I could've used all of my contacts and called up Louis and Simon and said is there any chance you can put me in touch with so and so, I want to write a song with them. But I stepped completely away from all of that. I know it sounds cliché but I wanted to find out who I was, without anyone else. What was I capable of all by myself?''

Markus' new single 'Love Is A Drug' is out on April 19 and his solo LP is due for release later this year.