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Khalid in conversation with Ta-ku

Conducted over late night texts from Paris to Perth

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Acclaim Issue 37

Khalid is a juggernaut. Only a few weeks ago when we chatted he just released his debut album. Now he’s performing on Jimmy Fallon and at the time of writing has the number one record in the U.S. It’s no surprise—his music is honest and beautiful and his approach to his career is refreshing and surprisingly seasoned. I love Khalid’s music, which is why I had to track him down for this interview. He was in Paris; I was in Perth—so the following is a transcript of our late night texts.

Ta-ku: Hey hey—Ta-ku here just checking in.
Khalid: Hey! Sup bro!

Thanks for taking the time for this man, I know you’re mad busy! So even though you looking like a grown ass man about to beat someone down in your video—I just found out you’re 19!
Just turned 19 on February 11 actually.

Man—that’s how you know you have made it. Do you get asked about your age in interviews a lot? Does that annoy you?
I do, but I actually appreciate when people ask about my age because the moment that people find out they’re always super surprised. I guess because my age in music years seems way more advanced [laughs]. It hasn’t annoyed me yet [laughs].

I’m just salty because I just turned 30 [laughs]. I mean age and ability becomes a huge talking point especially when the artist is very talented (like yourself). What do you think has made you mature so quickly? With music and with life in general?
30 [laughs] that’s crazy, that makes me feel so young. I feel like having two parents in the army allowed me to mature fast, especially living overseas as a child. I lived in Germany for six years, and then I moved to New York. After four years I moved to El Paso. From all the moving I gathered so many stories, friendships, and experiences. I feel like that’s why in the music the topic of loneliness and hopelessness is super prevalent because growing up I never really had a sense of settlement. I started singing really early in life, so my voice being so mature is super separate because I was actually going to go to school for vocal performance.

I feel you man—you can really pick that up in your music and in your demeanour in general. ‘Location‘ is such a hopeful yet isolating song. It’s beautiful!
Thank you man!

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Never being able to settle and always having to relocate, do you think that did something to your creative process growing up?
I felt like being an artist or having an artistic viewpoint on life already separated me, but not being a local or growing up in a certain area kind of intensified that feeling. Once I started accepting that, instead of disregarding it, it helped me a lot. I liked being different.

That’s a great outlook to have.
Thank you man.

I feel younger kids these days can benefit with that kind of driving force in their lives— even the ones who are quite rooted in their local community and have grown up with familiarity. That yearning to identify oneself is important. Defining and refining themselves. What else has refined you over the short 19 years of your life here on earth? I see that your mother is one…
My mom is. I also feel like gaining and losing so many friendships and relationships in such a short amount of time because of moving allowed me to grow up and take advantage of a lot, especially the moment. I was so worried about the future that I didn’t spend time building my own. Also, I feel like a lot of the doubt that I got from teachers and peers really pushed me. So many people didn’t believe in me, I started to not believe in myself. Eventually, I just found self-acceptance and stopped caring about what people who didn’t even accept themselves thought about me.

That’s great… I feel like that is the key for a creative. Once you can block out that noise and stop caring about what everyone thinks—you can create freely and happily. You can’t please everyone and nor should you strive to.
It’s almost like unlocking a special feature within [laughs]. It’s like alright now, it’s go time.

One hundred percent. What if though… your mom turned around and said she didn’t feel your music? [Laughs] I feel bad for asking that but real talk… what if?
If she told me earlier in life, I probably would’ve gone into teaching [laughs]. But right now, it’s too late for me to change my mind I’m just such a representation of my mom—she sings as well.

Bro, your mom seems like a strong woman. My mom is the same. You know Wafia too, yeah? Her mom is also very strong. What about your mom has helped you push forward and create this lane for yourself?
I love Wafia. At a younger age my mom always told me to push for individuality and to never be a follower. I mean, when you’re younger you follow friends and sometimes they attract the wrong things and I guess that was me. I didn’t have a backbone [laughs], I would accept so little. But growing up, everything she said made sense. I told her that this is what I wanted so this was what I was going to bring back to her. Especially since this was a career that she dreamed of.

That’s an incredible foundation you have for your art. Do you feel a sense of accountability now or perhaps pressure to be able to deliver these things for yourself or your mother?
Not at all. I feel like once you stress too much it gets in the way of creativity. Half of the time I separate myself from the music half of me. I feel like if I lived in it one hundred percent things would be way more hard on me.

I feel you. Just got two more questions for you homie—really appreciate your time! I wanted to know what things outside of music interest you. What are you passionate about?
My friendships, that’s something that means a lot to me. Like creating time to just kick back and surround myself with genuine individuals, doing little stuff like watching movies and going bowling. That keeps me happy. Another thing I liked a lot growing up was musical theatre [laughs]. I kind of gave that away when I started recording though.

You are a real one. Just to wrap up bro, your new album American Teen just dropped. Tell me about what this album means to you? What is the significance and message behind it?
I think the album in a whole is not only a representation of my youth, but it’s multiple perspectives about the repetition we go through in high school and life as a kid. But it’s also a reminder that no matter what age you are emotions are real. We all have them. Each song has a different story and although more songs are seldom than others it’s just because by me writing every song—it’s almost like I gave away my personal journal in music format. I kind of want people no matter what age or country they’re from to put themselves in the perspective of a teen again and reminisce. That’s why a lot of the songs have a retro aspect in them. Naming it American Teen, was just an acceptance of who I was. I’m an American teen. That was the first step of vulnerability for me. The next step was writing the project [laughs]. And I’m super excited to see what people think about it.

I heard a bootleg copy from Wafia before release and I love it bro! Before we bounce, as someone who is still young and doing such global things, what would you tell other teens who want to be individuals in their own right?
To keep in mind that the only opinion of one’s self that matters is from one’s self. If you don’t love it, don’t chase. If you’re in love with it, then it’s right around the corner.

Man—thanks so much for your time brother, I really appreciate it! I’ll let you get some quiet time G. Let’s link up soon though, yeah?
Thank you man! And yes most definitely, I can’t wait for us to work together!

Me too G—lets make it happen sooner rather than later. Rest well.

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