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THE GRAMMY CONVERSATIONS: KHALID

Interview by Michelle Santosuosso

Khalid Robinson’s given middle name is Legend, and as one of 2017’s breakout stars, 
the RCA artist is making good on his parents’ optimistic gesture. The 19-year-old prodigy’s rapid ascent has been buoyed by his distinctive voice and powered by hits like “Location” (which went platinum) and “Young Dumb and Broke,” as well as notable collaborations with rapper Logic (“1-800-273-8255”) and electronic producer Marshmello (“Silence”).

Since releasing your debut album, American Teen, what has surprised you the most about your experiences as an artist?
The most surprising thing about my success has been fan engagement. Meeting so many different fans from so many different countries and hearing them sing all the words to a song they might not even understand is super-amazing, and it keeps me going. 



Who was the greatest influence in the creation of American Teen?
My friends, hands down. When I wrote for American Teen, I wanted to draw from true stories of youth in terms of love, self-love and finding self-acceptance, and my friends helped me through that. Every song that I made I showed to all my friends, and they picked the ones that made American Teen what it is.



You grew up in El Paso and you’re still just 19; has traveling the world as an artist changed your approach to writing?
I also lived in Germany for six years and New York for four, so I don’t feel like traveling has necessarily changed my writing ability. Meeting fans across the world who are listening to my music has changed the way I write. 



What do the Grammys represent to you? I watched the show growing up, and during my freshman or sophomore year of high school, I tweeted, “I’m going to go to the Grammys one day”—I was that hopeful. I’ve always felt that the Grammys is an awards show [that recognizes] complete excellence for the year. Creating complete excellence in something you do is rare—that’s why awards aren’t given to everyone. That’s why the process takes as long as it does, and why it’s so vigorous. It makes me work super-hard, because I want to go down in history as one of the best of that year—not necessarily of all time, but that year—because I feel like it’s the artist’s job to work at becoming a better creator. 



I want every song I create to be meaningful.’’

Your collaborations have included a variety of music styles, and your uniqueness comes through in every one of them. What’s your primary motivation for joining forces with another creative?
My primary motivation has to be compatibility, and it’s definitely a feeling. If I can talk to someone as a friend instead of just work buddies after we’ve created a song, or even before, that drives the song for me. Otherwise, the song lacks energy and doesn’t mean anything. I want every song I create to be meaningful. 



What was the moment in the past year that you remember made you feel, “Hey Mom, I made it”?
It happened when I announced a show in Santa Monica at the last minute. I was hoping a couple thousand people were going to come, but over 60,000 people showed up, and we almost broke the Santa Monica Pier! It was amazing. I was really nervous, but I looked at all these fans—people who couldn’t even fit in the area around the stage so they had to stand on the beach—and thought, “Wow, all these people came out to listen to me sing. I made it. I did something great.” It was therapy for me and for them as well. That’s a moment I’ll never be able to ever get back again. It will always be with me, wherever I go.

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With a gigantic check. Soon.
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