Where are you currently based and what is the music scene like there?
At the moment I’m based in Mumbai, but spend a lot of time in LA and London too. The scene back home is so exciting right now. For ages, film music just dominated everything. But recently there’s just been this surge in independent musicians, thanks to new music festivals and streaming platforms. Music is just much more accessible for everyone. It’s a really exciting time, for sure.
How did you first start playing music?
I grew up with a family who had a real appreciation of music- there was always something playing in the background. The first time I fell in love with music was watching my mother play the santoor. I was totally entranced so started to play myself when I was 9, and I never looked back.
When I was a teenager, I taught myself to play guitar, just on YouTube. I learned all about music composition, and also started to get to grips with singing at the same time as playing an instrument – which was pretty challenging at first!
I really got into performing live when I was at university in the UK, I used to head to London every other weekend and perform at small gigs. These gigs gave me the strength to take up music as my career.
What have you been working on recently?
I spent that last few months working on my first EP ‘Fingerprint’, which has been just so exciting. I am so excited to share it with the world, it has been a lot of work and I’m really proud of it.
You’ve just dropped your new single ‘Blackout’ feat Vector & WurlD, what influenced the sound and songwriting for ‘Blackout’?
‘Blackout’ is one of my favourite tracks from the new EP. I’ve always wanted to incorporate hip-hop into one of my songs, and it was awesome to get to work with artists as talented as Vector and WurlD. Both of them resonated with the lyrics and really liked the vibe.
In terms of the song-writing: it’s all about taking a break from the craziness of the modern world; it’s about the importance of taking a step back and relaxing basically!
How did you come to work with Vector & WurlD and how was the experience?
I was introduced to them via UMG. Working with them was great! They’re both awesome. They both heard the song and loved it. That was really important for me because only if you resonate with the song, you can give it your heart.
You have a EP coming up, can you please give us an idea of what to expect?
Of course! It’s called Fingerprint because is really authentic to me and my own experiences. It’s mostly about love – the uniquely beautiful bits and the challenges too. It’s a pop record, but with little bits of R&B, hip hop and electro mixed in. I loved putting it together and I’m excited and nervous for it!
Where and when did you record/produce?
We mostly made it between London, LA and Mumbai. Whenever I travel for work, I’ll always try and learn a bit about the place and incorporate sounds in my music be it hip-hop from Atlanta or a simple Indian vibe.
Who did you work with during the recording and production process?
I’ve worked with loads of incredible creatives, like DJ Buddha, Nick Atkinson, Angela Hunte, who wrote ‘Empire State of Mind’, Edd Holloway and Mood Melodies, who I have collaborated with a lot over the past year and is one of my absolute favourite people to work with.
How was your time in the studio?
Apart from being on stage, the studio is my favourite place in the world. I can spend hours and hours in there without even feeling time go by; I just kind of get into this flow. Working with other people in there is great because you can really tap into each other’s creative flow.
What or who influences your music?
It can be anything really! I get particularly inspired by people I’ve met, places I’ve been, things I see… Most importantly though, it’s my own personal experiences – I write about stuff I’m going through: love, heartbreak, life, friendship. When music has its roots in something real, it makes it feel so much more authentic, audiences really appreciate that as they can connect with a song so much better.
I try to deliver my music in a way which people will relate to, no matter where they are or what their background is. Nothing makes me happier than when I read messages from people saying one of my songs has helped them to feel better about something they are going through.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
At the moment I’m listening to a ton of Ariana Grande (who isn’t?!). I’m obsessed with Billie Eilish, and everything Khalid touches at the moment turns to gold.
You also have a release coming out in July with Sean Kingston, how did you come to work with Sean and what did you two get up to?
Sean was touring in India and I was asked to open for him at one of his shows. I had always been a big fan of his – I think everyone my age was hooked on ‘Beautiful Girls’ back in the day.
We stayed in touch and agreed to catch up when I was next in LA. So, on my next trip we spent a couple of days in the studio and it all came together really nicely. He was great to work with, such an awesome guy – and we really vibe together in the studio.
How do you come to collaborate with all of these many amazing artists from all over the world?
So often it is just connecting with the musicians I am lucky enough to meet on my travels or, as in Sean’s case, when they come to India to perform. My labels, Universal Music India and Island Records UK have also put me in touch with such interesting and talented people.
What do you most enjoy and also find most challenging when collaborating with different artists?
I love to collaborate, working with other people really helps you to get perspective on a song and take it to the next level.
You can sometimes hit roadblocks – because music is so much down to personal taste, sometimes someone might like one thing and you like another – that’s why it’s so important to have a good relationship with the people you’re working with. You need to be able to be totally open with them, so that you can tell each other when you might not agree on something.
What has the impact of global streaming platforms like Spotify had on the music industry in India?
As a music lover and as an artist I am so excited that Spotify has now launched in India. There is a lot of competition, but they have made a great start and people are really excited.
In general, the rise of streaming has meant that audiences are enthusiastic about more international sounds. Through platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, they are finding and loving artists that they just wouldn’t have come across before. This goes both ways: the globalisation of music has been an amazing boost for some the amazing talent back home: we have these amazing electro, pop and hip hop scenes emerging that deserve to be heard both inside and outside India. I hope to see a lot of homegrown superstars emerging in the next few years.
What has the experience and influence been like working with UMG and Island Records UK?
They are both so great! They have really helped to expand my audience around the world and to connect me with amazing artists. They’ve been so supportive throughout the journey and instrumental in helping me find my space within music.
What correlation do you see with Mental Health and the Music Industry?
There’s always new evidence coming out about the relationship between music and mental health, and how it can be a force for good when someone is struggling. I’ve always believed in the power of music – live music particularly – to bring people together. This manifested last year in concerts I hosted through my organisation Mpower to raise awareness and create a sense of community and belonging.
On the flip side, we see loads of musicians who face huge battles with things like depression, anxiety and substance abuse. I think the industry can be a contributing factor: the unstable nature of a musician’s work, the fact that their art and their identity are so closely bound, the pressure, the challenges of writing about your emotions and then having to relive them again and again while performing….We’ve lost so many amazing talents in the industry, like Aviici, Chester Bennington, Amy Winehouse, and Kim Jyong-hyun – artists from all corners of the world. It really highlights how mental illness does not discriminate. It can affect anyone.
What do you have planned for the remainder of 2019?
After my EP, it’s my single with Sean. I’m doing a load of concerts around the world, which I’ll announce very soon.
Any secrets that you care to share?
I am probably a little too in love with my puppies, Skai and Snoopy, and I definitely get through too much chewing gum. But not too much else. Sorry.
Favourite food and place to hangout?
Any Soho House around the world. Whether I’m in Hollywood, Mumbai, or London’s Soho itself, I just sink in to its loveliness. And I enjoy anything Lebanese or Japanese, even though I’m vegetarian!