By: Steve Baltin, Contributor
It is quite a time to be Khaild. In the last two months, the 21-year-old has scored a No 1 album, Free Spirit; hobnobbed with Taylor Swift, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and many more at the Time 100, a gathering of those selected by the magazine as the most influential people; played Coachella and Lollapalooza shows in South America, and is getting ready to kick off his first arena tour.
So when I spoke with Khalid on a recent Friday afternoon as he got ready to play at Syracuse University that night there was a lot to discuss, from his BMW activation leading up to Coachella, to hanging with “The Rock,” his admiration for Billie Eilish and why he is still so grateful and appreciative of his fans.
Steve Baltin: Being at Time 100 were there those people for you outside of music you were excited to meet?
Khalid: I met “The Rock,” [Dwayne Johnson] had a personal conversation with him and it was super, super awesome. He was really nice. I kind of looked at it as us just meeting but then I saw he posted a picture of us on his Instagram story and he said that I have soul. I really appreciated that. I held that to my heart definitely.
Baltin: Because you do work with so many musicians it is almost more exotic and unique to meet people outside of music?
Khalid: In my life right now everything feels like a dream and it’s all unraveling in front of my own eyes. I’ve been really big on music, music has definitely been my forefront. It’s always super cool to step out of your element and go into a different world to see people that I’ve seen on TV cause I don’t know how it is to be an actor or to see people who are in politics or journalists. I don’t know how it is to be any of those things other than a musician, so it’s super cool. It really puts you into a different perspective because I’m like, “Wow, there’s so much talent in the world on every aspect.” Everyone deserves to be where they are, especially at the Time 100, everybody deserves their spot. I just happen to be acknowledging and appreciating the other 99. I was like, “Wow, I can’t believe I’m on the list myself.” It was definitely a blessing.
Baltin: I have found being at FORBES there are a lot of similarities in successful people, from business to athletes to musicians. Did you find talking with these people at Time 100 there was a lot in common?
Khalid: It was cool talking to Gayle [King] as well, me and “The Rock” and Gayle, we even took a selfie together. But before we took the selfie we had a conversation and she asked me and “The Rock,” “Where were you when you got that call? What were you guys doing and how did you feel?” And it was super interesting to hear, we all have different routines, to hear Gayle’s routine and to hear “The Rock”‘s routine. And then for me to be like, “Well, when I found out I was laying on the couch and I get a call. I called my mom immediately and I talked to her.” It was something that was super, super amazing, but that’s only three people out of 100 who all were given the Time 100. I don’t know how all of the people felt about what they received and how they held it to their hearts, but I could tell the energy of the room was genuine. Everyone was gracious, everyone was appreciative and they were all supportive because when I sang for everybody I was so nervous. But they showed me so much [love] because everybody has all been there, different levels. I haven’t been making music that long; I wrote my first song in 2015. A lot of the people who were in the room have been working for decades. So they’ve all been there, they’ve all been in my place, even having a conversation with Taylor Swift, this is her second time being on the list. And her first time, she told me, she was exactly where I was. I was a dreamer, we were all dreamers. We just so happened to accomplish our dreams and I think that’s beautiful.
Baltin: What was it about the Coachella activation and working with BMW that excited you?
Khalid: The activation I did with BMW and Coachella was something I was super interested in because I love BMW. Living in Germany for six years, my mom owned a three series and that’s the car I would say, sitting in the backseat as a 12-year-old, “I can’t wait to get in the front and drive.” When I bought my own car my car was also a BMW, a four series. Then I traded that in, now I have a M6 and I’m definitely gonna get another BMW. So I feel like it made the process easier for me business wise. I was so open to it because it was something I was extremely interested in and wanted to be a part of. I think across the board that’s the dream. Dreaming of having a car, dreaming of performing at Coachella, being on that stage. Cars are something I love so much; I’ve always been a fan of cars growing up. So it was really cool to see my little Free Spirit cars riding around town, seeing people from like Paris Hilton to whoever driving these cars.
Baltin: Since all of this is still so new for you as well and you can remember being a fan so recently, I imagine it’s even more important to interact with the fans as you did in this activation.
Khalid: Yeah, that’s why I do it. I was a fan first, I’m always a fan of music. I’m a fan to this day of so many different people and there are so many artists to this day who I would still love to meet and I would geek over. So it’s cool to know I have the relationship I do have with my fans. I feel like it’s very strong. I give it up to my fans because they make the time, dedicate time to travel hours sometimes to come and see me wherever I am, stop what they’re doing, leave work early, leave school early, whatever it is for a couple of minutes. So I make sure that every meeting I have with a fan I talk with them and give them what they deserve. That’s a personal conversation because we’re all humans. So to work with a business or activation that is very fan-driven, that is strictly for the fans, that is something I am so geared to because if I can show them my appreciation, whatever way I have to, that’s what I want to do. I always want me fans to feel they are appreciated by me. They’re the reason why, in 2017 I was doing 1,000 or 2,000-person rooms and now I’m going on an arena tour. That’s not because of me by myself, that’s because of the fans.
Baltin: The lead singer of Portugal The Man once told me a story of getting to listen to Led Zeppelin in a Cadillac with Neil Young at Bonnaroo. In honor of that who is the one band you would want to listen to and with which artist in a BMW?
Khalid: Oh my god (laughs), definitely I would want to listen to Fleetwood Mac with Kid Cudi. That would be the trippiest, most free spirited car ride ever. I feel like it would be euphoric.
Baltin: How is the album changing as you play it live?
Khalid: Coachella was already unbelievable and tonight I have a show in Syracuse and I am playing a couple of songs from the album live for the first time in a closed environment, something that is not festival like. And I’m actually really anxious, I’m nervous cause like you said, the fans control the album and they receive it whatever they want to. And I really hope that they sing the words as loud as they possibly can because then it’s going to change my perception of the music as well. It’s one thing to live with an album in a recording studio, but when you live with an album as you’re performing it live every night or other night the songs start to change meaning, they start to hold different messages, you start to see what songs resonate with fans. And when you’re in America or go to Europe or Asia all the songs end up creating their own energy and that’s what I love the most about it. I love recording the songs, that’s definitely a fun process. But performing the songs live, you can’t recreate that feeling, especially having my dancers on the stage with me. We always have a good time and it’s always the best, the music feels way better.
Baltin: Are there particular songs that really stand out to you to do live?
Khalid: I did “Out Of My Head” this past weekend for Coachella and that was amazing, and “Twenty One,” which is also one of my favorite songs off the album. These are songs that I feel like when I was in the studio I strictly wrote for performing them live. I am so excited to perform them live and I feel like those songs are going to change for me. And hopefully the fans like them because I can’t wait for this tour. This tour is gonna be my favorite, the best tour I have ever done. It’s gonna be an amazing journey and I can’t wait to see the fans.
Baltin: Are there artists you’ve watched grow and you admire their evolution?
Khalid: I saw one of Billie Eilish’s first performances a couple of years back and it was at this venue where you had to be a certain age, either 18 up or 21 up and she was like 15 or 16 at the time, it was super interesting to see all these people who were adults, some of them well into their adulthood, and they’re watching this 15-year-old girl. You could see the star power, but you could see how shy she was, how new everything was. And then I saw her at Coachella, I went both weekends. I saw the energy both crowds had, I saw the energy she brought to both crowds, I saw how she controlled the crowd by completely being the true inspiration of herself in the moment. I could see the youth, it was almost radiating off her, just her jumps, how care free she was. She looked free and I can’t wait to see her on tour because she’s definitely one of my favorite shows that I’ve been to.
Mirrored Media was proud to produce BMW’s #RoadtoCoachella campaign for the third year, with Khalid as the featured artist of 2019.
Check out the whole article at Forbes.com.