Simon Cowell was reportedly surprised when he learnt that Liam Payne had signed a solo record deal with Capitol Records UK, which is a rival to the media mogul's company Syco Music. The music producer and TV personality opened up about Payne's decision to join a rival label by praising the members of One Direction except the 22-year-old.

"You know what, we're talking to all of [the 1D guys] at the moment," the 56-year-old said during America's Got Talent live show taping on Tuesday (26 July), according to OK! "You know what the great thing about these boys are, well not all of them, just most of them, they're incredibly loyal. And you don't always expect that. Niall [Horan], Harry [Styles], Louis [Tomlinson] are amazing," he said.

"I was slightly surprised to read that Liam signed to another label," Cowell told Entertainment Tonight. "I wasn't expecting it. But you know, that happens."

"The great thing about these boys – well, not all of them, but most of them – they are incredibly loyal and you don't always expect that," he told reporters during a recent conference call. "Niall, Harry, Louis. [It's] amazing."

Recently, the One Direction heartthrob in a statement revealed he had signed his first solo contract deal. "I'm really happy to have signed to such a prestigious label as Capitol Records UK. Capitol Records has an amazing history stretching right back before even Frank Sinatra and I'm really looking forward to becoming part of their story," Payne said in the statement.

The singer also took to Twitter to inform his 23.1 million followers about the news. He wrote: "Happy to have signed to @CapitolUK. They have an amazing history of artists, I hope I can follow in their footsteps."

Payne is the latest member of the boy band to pursue a solo career after Zayn Malik, who quit the band on 25 March 2015. After leaving the band, Malik released his debut solo album Mind Of Mine in March this year.

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Simon Cowell praised One Direction members except Liam Payne Reuters