ultimate american teen khalid’s guide to making friends and influencing people
At just 18, his coming of age single Location has gone platinum and he’s about to go on tour with Lorde -- we called on the American Teen pop star for his top tips.
Khalid comes from El Paso, Texas, where all the girls are pretty and they're down for the hype. That's what the title track of his feel good debut LP American Teen tells us at least, about the place he considers his hometown, the latest from a life spent moving from place to place with his US Army mother. Having graduated high school and waved his class off to college last summer, Khalid drove the twelve hours to Los Angeles with his best friend and never looked back; going from regular 18 year old kid to not so regular 19 year old globally recognised popstar. "I love it though," he assures us. "It's my first job, and it's an amazing first job."
He lives up by Universal Studios, not far from the mountains, but loves how close he is to the sea and still hasn't got over strolling up and down Santa Monica beach. He didn't know what to expect from the move but had visions of the California of TV and film in his head. "It's definitely not that," he soon realised, "but it is very fun. There's such a vibe." The sudden ascent of young Khalid followed the release of American Teen on RCA Records this March. "I wanted to make the album like a time capsule that I could remember years and years from now, of the youth that I had when I created the album." Looks like he succeeded. With everything that's gone on, he feels that he's grown up a lot, that his age is increasing at an alarming rate, and that he's "about 28 years old right now."
"I remember tweeting before the album came out, that this is the day my life changes forever, and it definitely was." The tweet is still pinned, the feeling still stands. "I was super nervous but when I finally got the album out of my system, I feel like I became a new person." It's slightly overwhelming, he tells us, but that's what keeps him going. "Being in a new city every other day when you're 19 and fresh out of high school definitely isn't the easiest to adjust to, but I get to see places I never thought I'd see." He says that the best part of touring is the opportunity to meet fans, to talk to them and learn what they've taken from his music. And because he's such a good friend, starting like he means to go on, he takes his old pals on tour with him.
Khalid is mates with a certain Miss Melodrama too. Their meeting is a very 2017 story actually, naturally. After posting a short clip of Young Dumb & Broke online, Lorde reached out to say that she loved it, and they followed each other for a while before eventually meeting up in NY. "I just told her how big an inspiration she was to me, and she told me how much she appreciated my music and that she was in the same position as me a couple years ago. It was awesome." When she invited him to join her on tour he accepted, obviously. With that in the bag, his single Location just confirmed as having gone platinum, and a seriously good cover of Frank Ocean's Lost laid down on Radio 1 last night, it's Khalid's time.
In town for a secret East London rooftop party (it was just announced on Beats 1 that he's the latest Apple Music Up Next artist) that we thoroughly enjoyed, Khalid has been doing a lot of walking about in our unusually hot weather, as well as hitting up Ripley's Believe It Or Not. Which, would you believe, we've not actually been to. The morning after the night before, we go for breakfast with Khalid and over pancakes, have a lovely chat. Considering his nomadic childhood, enviable ability to befriend everybody he meets, and impressive social skills both on and offline, we asked him to impart some of that fresh wisdom. Want to make more friends? Eager to influence people? Here are Khalid's top tips:
Learn about yourself.
"Moving about a lot has allowed me to communicate a lot better. I don't get nervous anymore. When I was younger I'd get super nervous, but once I began to learn about myself and who I was, I felt like it made things much easier when communicating."
Don't be afraid to reach out and tell someone that you think they're cool.
"A lot of people are afraid to make the first move when it comes to a friendship. Sometimes I just tell people I think they're awesome. I'm just showing my appreciation and just being like, 'yo, you're just so kickass, thanks for being you!' That type of stuff. If they don't respond they are missing out on a beautiful friendship."
You can't jump into a friendship expecting everything to go your way.
"If you do that, you're just creating your own idea of a friend. And friendships, like friends, are all supposed to be different. They're different parts of you, different parts of your own individuality. I see myself in all of my friends. It's about remaining loyal and remaining true. if you don't like something that they do, you should definitely speak up and work things out. A friendship is a relationship. It's about breaking the ice, having fun, and if the friendship doesn't work just respect it, move on and find another friend."
"Try to be nice, especially at first. Be polite. You know, just let people know that you're going to be there and that you got their back. People like to hear that type of stuff, people like to be reassured. And yeah just be nice."
Act confident until you are confident.
"When I started touring I always went out there super nervous and I had to just act confident. I had to act like I didn't think I was gonna mess up and I wasn't beating myself up in the head. It worked because people began to look at me and tell me how confident I seemed on stage. It wasn't even like that wasn't me now back then, you know, you just gain energy. You learn more about your performance abilities and confidence does come, but yes, creating this form of confidence on the outside allows people to see it. If people see confidence and they love the energy, all of those positive vibes fill the room and you all have a better time."
Partying together is a good friendship starter, just don't get too crazy or too drunk.
"Definitely don't get too crazy. If you drink, get an uber. Make sure that you're partying around friends that you're comfortable with, and that you know will protect you if you need it. It can definitely be scary when you're around people who you don't really trust, so always surround yourself with people that you can."
Text Frankie Dunn
Photography Jamie Drew