"There's one awful gig that always sticks in my mind, I filled in for Lee Ryan doing The Sunshine Festival in Rhyl. It was raining," says Liam Payne. "I played for ten people for £50. That had to be my worst gig — that was the last straw. I was like, ‘I’m not doing this any more dad, I don’t want to’."
Wolverhampton, West Midlands
Three years later, he was walking out on the stage in front of a sold-out Madison Square Gardens crowd. It's just as well he decided to give The X Factor one more try…
Liam was born on 29 August 1993 in Wolverhampton, West Midlands. When he was very young, he was diagnosed with a scarred and dysfunctional kidney and had to take painkilling injections every morning.
Amazingly in 2012, Liam – who is tee-total because of his health problems – was surprised to find that both kidneys were now firing on all cylinders.
"Just been for an ultrasound on my kidney, turns out its fixed from when I was a baby!!" he told fans on Twitter. "So now I have two :) #weirdnewsoftheday".
As a child Liam was picked on, and he turned to boxing as a way of defending himself. "I was, at 12-years-old, fighting the 38-year-old trainer. I broke my nose, had a perforated eardrum and I was always coming home with a bruised, puffy face," he recalled. "But it gave me confidence. I got pretty good over the next couple of years."
In 2008, when he was 14, Liam auditioned for the fifth series of The X Factor. His rendition of Fly Me To The Moon impressed both Cheryl Cole and Louis Walsh, but Simon Cowell was initially unsure, saying there was "something not quite right, there's about 20 per cent missing".
Liam's reply – "Well, give me another audition and I'll show you that 20 percent" – made the judges smile and got him through to the next round. But he was eventually rejected by Simon, who told him to come back in two years time.
He did just that. Having pursued his music career in the meantime – including that disastrous gig in Rhyl – Liam returned for series seven of the show. This time he sang Cry me A River, and received a standing ovation from the audience and Simon.
Again he made it through the initial stages, only to be rejected as a solo act. Liam's dreams of stardom seemed all but over – until guest judge Nicole Scherzinger threw him a lifeline.
Along with four other 'rejects' – Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Malik and Niall Horan – he was invited to form a band, and One Direction was born.
The boys were an instant hit, eventually finishing the show in third place. Immediately afterwards they signed to Simon's Syco record label.
In September 2011, they were ready to unveil their first single, What Makes You Beautiful, which entered the charts at number one.
The following year their first album Up All Night became the UK's fastest-selling debut album and topped the charts in 16 countries, including the States.
Incredibly, One Direction had become the first British group in US chart history to enter at No.1 with a debut album.
Since then they have proved unstoppable – picking up Brit and MTV Music awards, embarking on two huge tours and performing at the London 2012 Olympics.
The boy wonders also released a second studio album, singing for the Queen at the 2012 Royal Variety Performance and headlining a sold-out show at New York's Madison Square Garden.
Despite that 1D remain grounded and level-headed in no small part thanks to Liam, nicknamed 'Daddy Directioner'.
Despite his jet-set A-list lifestyle, he likes nothing more than returning to Wolverhampton to spend time with his family. "Liam like to get back home," his proud dad Geoff has said. "He likes to get back to normality."
Like the other members of the globally successful band, Liam has been the subject of media scrutiny when it comes to his love life.
He is currently thought to be dating back-up dancer Danielle Peazer, after meeting her on The X Factor.