Liam was born in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, England to Geoff and Karen Payne. He has two older sisters, Nicola and Ruth. Liam was born three weeks early, and as a result he had a lot of health problems. He spent the first four years of his life in and out of the hospital having regular tests done. Doctors noticed one of his kidneys was scarred and dysfunctional. To help cope with the pain, he had 32 injections in his arm in the morning and evening as a child. In 2012 Liam found out and shared via Twitter that his kidney was functioning again.From the age of six, Liam had already started showing signs of singing talent. He would sing for his relatives or pub crowds on karaoke. However, he had his heart set on becoming an Olympic runner, and was a member of the Wolverhampton and Bilston Athletics Club. He would wake up at 5am every day to run five miles before school. His running dream ended at 14 years old when he narrowly missed out on a spot in the England schools team. At that point, he decided to completely focus on his singing, although he still loved his football club, West Bromwich Albion.
He started perfecting his singing skills at the age of 12 when he joined Pink Productions, a performing arts group based in Wolverhampton, that allowed him to showcase his talent in front of a real audience for the first time.
Liam completed 11 GCSEs at St Peter’s Collegiate School before moving on to study music technology at Wolverhampton College’s Paget Road campus, which he hoped would help him learn more about the industry.
As a student Liam tried for school teams. He eventually tried out for the cross-country running team and he came first in the race. "From then on I was training all the time and getting up at 6am to run for miles. At the age of 12 they put me in the school's under-18s team." Liam was picked on as a student and "needed to find a way to defend myself." He took up boxing lessons. "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. But it gave me confidence. I got pretty good over the next couple of years."
He was a music technology student at City of Wolverhampton College, a Further Education College. Payne had auditioned in 2008 to The X Factor's fifth series when he was 14 and reached judges' houses, but Cowell thought he was not ready for the competition and asked him to come back in two years. This time, Payne auditioned singing "Cry Me a River", and received a standing ovation from the audience and Simon Cowell. At bootcamp, he sang "Stop Crying Your Heart Out" before being rejected and put into One Direction. While Payne only having one functioning kidney, Payne: "I have to be careful not to drink too much, even water, and I have to keep myself as healthy as possible."