One Direction break will give us chance to see our superstar, say Liam Payne's family
After five years, four number one albums and a slew of hit singles, One Direction will go on an indefinite break from March next year, leaving millions of fans across the world heartbroken.
One final sold out 17-date UK and Irish tour, a new album and a pair of shows in the States and it will all be over, with the quartet vowing to concentrate on solo projects for the foreseeable future.
For Wolverhampton's Liam Payne the next few months mark the last throes of the opening chapter of his musical career.
It is a journey that has taken the 22-year-old from the tiny stage at St Peter's Collegiate School through X Factor and on to sell-out performances at some of the world's biggest venues.
But for his loving family, who are originally from Bushbury, the end of the 1D's rapid propulsion to super-stardom offers a chance to catch up on lost time.
Flash back to 2013 and a poignant scene in the band's hit film One Direction: This Is Us.
His mother Karen is shown in the merchandise tent at 1D's gig in New York's Madison Square Gardens buying a cardboard cut-out of her beloved son.
Tears rolling down her cheeks, she says: "We miss him. He left home my little boy and became the boy in a magazine. If I have this I can still see him every day. When I see him on stage I absolutely burst with pride, but we do miss him so much."
Now two years later and she is looking forward to seeing Liam on a more regular basis. It's something Karen says she has wanted for what seems like an eternity.
Liam's fame, she says, was much easier for him to handle than the rest of the family.
"It happened much too quickly for me," said Karen, aged 54, who works at Shooting Stars Nursery on Compton Road West, Wolverhampton.
"There was X Factor and then everything just seemed to explode.
"It was too much to take in, partly because I never believed it would go as mad as it did."
The 1D story started when Simon Cowell brought Liam – a product of the Pink Production Theatre Company – together with Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson on the seventh series of X Factor in July 2010.
Their first song as a band was a cover of Natalie Imbruglia's Torn and a week later they wowed the judges with Coldplay's Viva La Vita. They went onto claim third place in the show, but their talent had already captured the nations hearts. In December a fresh-faced Liam returned to Wolverhampton with the rest of 1D and Simon Cowell.
It brought the city to a standstill, with more than 4,000 fans turning up for a show in Queen Square.
The following month they penned a two million dollar record deal and the road to super-stardom was paved out ahead of them.
With 1D's popularity soaring at a rapid rate, seeing Liam has become more and more difficult for his loving family.
It has meant clocking up a raft of air miles, with the Payne's often jetting out to wherever 1D are playing a show to catch a few precious hours with him.
This year they flew out to meet him in Brussels in June, California in July and Orlando for a family holiday in August. Liam's father Geoff said the family's time with Liam became sparser – and more precious as a result.
"It's something you expect I suppose, but nothing can really prepare you for those times when he's not around," said Geoff, 54.
"In the first year of 1D we used to measure the time we saw him in days, then it went down to hours the bigger they got.
"In the last year it's been minutes, and each one of those is incredibly precious.
"We've seen more of him outside the country than we have in England.
"For Liam even getting time to himself has been difficult at times."
While 1D's breathtaking rise has been a lot to take in for his family, Geoff admits that Liam always had 'that star quality' from a very early age.
"He has always had something special about him," said Geoff, who has worked for UTC Aerospace Systems in Wolverhampton for 35 years and is now based at the firm's plant on Stafford Road.
"In between the two X Factors' I was frustrated going to work, always thinking: "I've got this popstar here, how on earth do I go about making it happen?"
"He would leave a positive impression on everyone. His talent was tangible. As a family we wanted to keep him focused and once success started to happen for him it was all about turning that into a career.
"Any parent can identify talent in their children and want them to do well, but he was just so self-motivated that he was always going to make a go of it."
And 1D certainly did 'make a go of it'. They were the first band in US Billboard history to have their first four albums debut at number one, with third album Midnight Memories the highest selling album in 2013 despite only being released in November.
Their fifth album, Made in the AM, is set for release on November 13, and is already the subject of a fan campaign to help it reach one million sales in its first week.
Last year Forbes ranked the band collectively as the second highest earning celebrities under 30 years of age, with earnings estimated at 75 million dollars, £49 million. During their five years as a band each member is estimated to have coined in £27m.
They've also managed to land six Guinness World Records, including the record for the most followers on Twitter for a music group – a staggering 23,393,106.
Liam's own account stands just shy of 21 million. But despite the phenomenal success of 1D, Karen says that Liam has never forgotten his roots – a quality in him she admits to being immensely proud of.
This is a lad who when he returns to Wolverhampton enjoys nothing more than to wander around the city centre on a Saturday afternoon – usually hidden under a hood or cap for obvious reasons.
Popping back to his old school St Peter's for a chat with pupils and his former teachers is another of his customs whenever he returns to the city.
He's also been spotted with his parents and sisters, Nicola, 27 and Ruth, 25, enjoying meals at favourite haunts such as Penn Tandoori and the Spread Eagle pub in Gailey.
For years another of Liam's regular spots was Strykers, the bowling alley in Shaw Road that was destroyed by fire in December 2013. He has also been spotted at Cannock's Tumbledown Farm.
He's also pledged his support to the city's new youth zone, The Way. "Going shopping with his friends in the city centre is something he loves," said Karen.
"He really liked going to Strykers when it was open and still misses it now. "He's had all the success but he's still just a normal lad who likes playing Playstation, watching films and making a barbecue for his family and friends."
So far on 1D's current tour Liam's family have been to see him in London and Manchester, but Karen says she expects the trio of Birmingham gigs to be 'a bit special'.
"It will be an emotional one," she said.
Like the other members of 1D, Liam has said he plans to concentrate on releasing his own material as a solo artist next year. Having already remixed tracks for 1D and Cheryl Cole, Geoff said his son is well placed to succeed as an artist in his own right. "I've heard some of his output in the studio and it's quite strong," he said.
"And I'm being diplomatic there. Over the years I've watched him grow as an artist; watched him learn how to write songs.
"He probably wrote 50 per cent of the last two 1D albums and he's already done remixes for other performers.
"I would hope he'll take a breather once 1D is done, but knowing Liam he'll want to get back into it after a few months."
For now 1D leave behind a legacy of a band that rose higher and higher and bowed out at the top.
- For the first review of tonights 1D concert see www.nativemonster.com and see Mondays Express & Star for a special report.
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