We spent our Sunday afternoon with Khalid before his sold-out Toronto debut. The 18-year-old R&B singer from El Paso, Texas talks to us about the rise of his success, finishing high school, his first-ever tour and more.

Get familiar now.


Your single “Location” blew up extremely quick. Was it surreal for you?

It was very surreal, especially being in high school. My senior year, there weren’t really a lot of other creatives around me, in my city of El Paso, so I was kind of one of the first up and coming, newer artists from El Paso to step up and it’s just so interesting what a voice note/memo that wasn’t even serious –  it was kind of serious to me, but I didn’t really expect it to be serious to everyone else –  how much that could affect other people. When they listen to it they’re like “Damn, I relate to this” and just seeing it take off like that, while I’m not even graduated yet, like I went from being the regular high school teenager to “oh shit, he’s a recording artist,” so it was really special for me. I had released it right before my senior prom, won prom king, graduated, and now I’m a recording artist. It was a really dope start for me.

That is dope. Because at 18 people are usually like “Oh what am I doing next?” Whereas for you, your voice memo took off and it turned into “This is what I’m doing next.”

Yeah, because before this I was like “what am I gonna do next!?” “What am I gonna do when I graduate?” and then, it’s almost like my life had a course of its own. It’s like, this is what you were meant to do, this is why the voice notes came about, this is why you uploaded them to SoundCloud, so keep pushing, follow that dream you have. And I followed that dream.

Timings crazy eh.

Definitely. Timing is wild haha.

Photography by Jake Kivanc
Photography by Jake Kivanc

Tell us about the music scene in El Paso, Texas.

There’s becoming a music scene. There has been, At the Drive-In is a very popular band from El Paso. Ever since then, there weren’t really a lot of creatives and a lot of artists because I feel like people were kinda scared, they didn’t really have the confidence to step out and create music. There were a lot of different musicians, but there wasn’t really anything that took it to the next level. It’s almost like everybody in El Paso wanted to be ‘El Paso Artists’ – they wanted to stay in El Paso, but over the course of my senior year, just seeing how my life transformed, I looked around me and I saw how there were so many different creatives, so many different photographers, so many different painters, all of that. Now I feel like there’s going to be a really strong music scene in El Paso, for 2017 and 2018. There’s so many different, new creatives really doing their thing out there, pushing out support. All of us telling each other ‘we have to support our friends’ cause that’s the only way that music is going to push out of that city – if you have support from the city. If you don’t have support from the city, you’re gonna stay in the city. The [El Paso] music scene is learning, it’s growing, but it’s becoming something, and I really have a lot of faith for it in the upcoming years.

How’s your first tour going? We know this is day 3, but do you have any highlights so far?

It was so funny in Detroit. I’m on one side of the stage singing and performing and this one girl has a rose in her hand and she’s trying to hand me the rose, but I’m still singing on the mic while I’m trying to grab the rose, I’m trying to sing all the words but I’m just thinking “damn, someone actually gave me a rose.” I thought that was super dope in Detroit. Chicago was my first show, I was super nervous, but to go out there on my first tour and to hear everybody reciting all of the lyrics to my songs was special. It hyped me up. My awkward dance moves came into place, I was awkward, feeling it. I can’t wait for the Toronto show. That’s what I’m excited about. I mean, it’s a whole new country, I never been to Canada. Ever. I’m really pumped for the show.

Do you like Toronto so far?

Yeah, I love the vibe.

It’s rugged eh.

Yeah, I love it though. I’m starting to get used to the cold now. Being in El Paso, at first I lived in New York but moving from New York to El Paso, you kinda gotta adjust to the heat 24/7. Desert heat. Too much heat. But now it’s kinda relaxing to be up here and to just to see fog in your breath, it’s kinda dope.

Photography by Jake Kivanc
Photography by Jake Kivanc

What do you think about before you hit the stage?

Oh shit, don’t forget the words. If something repeats over and over in my head it’s “words, words, words,” and then I go out and I hear everyone else just telling me the words, so I’m like “oh I got this.”

Anything interesting on your rider?

I’m a really big fan of red starburst. If it’s yellow, I’m not eating it. Sour patch kids. Tea. More sprite. That’s pretty much it. I’m not much of a picky person other than the fact that I just said I only like red starbursts.

If you could only get one thing on there, what would it be?

Sprite, just Sprite.

How’s your tour bus?

It’s super cool because it’s just filled with a lot of people who have the same passion and drive for music. Everyone is a team, there are no egos, no one stands out. My best friend is actually going on tour with me, he’s super helpful. I kinda have a little bit of home with me wherever I go, which is also super cool. It’s a really cool bus. I like it a lot.

If you could get anything added on your tour bus, what would it be?

Hmm. Anything? We have video games, but I feel like if the back of the bus wasn’t so crowded and we had a decked out big t.v. where we could all kick back and just play video games the whole time, that would be dope. My best friend is a super nerd when it comes to video games, so I feel like he would enjoy that.

What do you have planned after this tour? After your North American dates you’re headed to Europe. What’s next?

After my tour, I’m dropping a project, an album on March 3rd. I’m really excited for the project. I feel like it’s kind of just the representation of who I was in high school, and it’s kind of a collection of everything that I’ve been through emotionally. All of my influences are heard throughout the project and it’s just me pushing it out and expressing it to everyone else because I’m pretty sure there were a lot of people who were in high school who were thinking the same shit that I was thinking when I was in high school. I’m really excited about the album.

Me too. March 3rd. I’m ready.