Khalid boasts great taste in style – and cars, as demonstrated by the exclusive M3 (E36) model that appears throughout his music video “Better.” The 21-year-old multi-platinum artist is a powerful and galvanizing global superstar hailing from El Paso, Texas. He made a name for himself with hits like “Location,” “Young Dumb & Broke” and collaborations such as “Love Lies” with Normani or “Eastside” with Benny Blanco and Halsey, amongst others.
Now Khalid is heading for the big stage at the Coachella music festival. For this event, BMW is bringing Khalid’s sophomore full-length album, “Free Spirit,” to life with a custom-wrapped BMW i8 Roadster. In our interview, he talks about his first festival appearance, the passion for creating road tripping soundtracks and growing up with different BMWs by his side.
In the video to “Better,” a song included in your new album, you dance in a vacant lot surrounded by multicolored BMW M3 (E36). Being in the center of these cars is more than just a metaphor for you, isn’t it?
Khalid: Life to me is very full circle sometimes. BMW has always been my favorite car growing up. In my childhood days, my mom had a 3 Series. It had a dark earthy green color. I always used to want to drive it. The first time that I got to drive it – finally! – I was doing driver’s ed, so I was like “oh my God, I don’t want to crash it.” My first car was a BMW 4 Series Convertible that I loved so much. It was like my baby. Then I kept seeing an M6 drive past me on the road and I was like, “I got to step it up,” and I got me an M6 and bought my mom a 5 Series. To me, BMW is power. When I’m driving, I feel like I control the road. And now, I’m heading to Coachella in this electric BMW i8. I’m grateful.
And this BMW i8 Roadster has a special wrapping that was inspired by your new album “Free spirit.” What do this title and the graphic elements mean to you?
Khalid: Free Spirit to me is no restrictions: mentally, physically, spiritually. Free Spirit is everything that I wish I was, that I’m on the path of becoming, but I’m not yet. The flames winding from the front to the side symbolize drive. Your body, you are the fire. You are the being. For me, the wolf perfectly embodies this picture of fire and drive. It’s a fierce animal, but courageous and strong and independent. So it’s a matching suit for the BMW i8 Roadster, because it’s the embodiment of freedom.
To me, BMW is power. When I’m driving, I feel like I control the road.
It’s been quite a successful journey so far since the release of your debut album “American Teen” in 2017. What has changed for you in the meantime?
Khalid: From being 19 to turning 21, I feel like my level of maturity has heightened. I soak in more emotions from other people. I’m more self-aware, but then that makes me more anxious about my surroundings. And I’m way cooler now than I was two years ago. This is gonna be my year. My growth was crazy, my songs were just going up, my fan base was going up. I enjoy looking back to 2017, the year that I did my favorite tour so far – the American Teen Tour. I brought all of my friends with me from high school, middle school, and elementary. It’s like we road-tripped on this bus and I just performed, we had fun, then we’d go back on the bus and just kick it and enjoy each others’ energy.
So is being on the road your home away from home? It seems like it’s still a driving force in your life.
Khalid: Yes. I love road-tripping. I love hopping into my car and driving from Los Angeles back home to El Paso. And I feel like I torture myself cause it’s 12 hours one way, but I do it all the time. I bring all of my cars and I’ll let some of my friends drive each one and we’ll just ride all the way over to El Paso.
Both with friends or as a solo trip: Are these trips a source of inspiration to you for new beats or songs?
Khalid: Yes, and it’s exciting for me. I love making music that you can drive to, windows down, wherever you are. I love convertibles, too. So I love making top-down music that makes you wanna kick the top back and just ride with your friends. That creates this energy and you’re just riding, singing the words out loud, not caring at all about what other people may think.
Do you sing along to your songs in your car, too? Is it an opportunity to check if a track has that road trip vibe?
Khalid: Yes, I always check mixes and masters in my BMW. My Beemer is like my private concert hall or sound studio. The sound system is crazy so after I record, I always go to my car and I listen to it while driving. Then I’m like “wow, okay this is cool.” Or: “Well, I’ve got to make these types of changes.” And the first time I heard a song of mine on the radio – this was in 2017 – was in a car. I was going shopping at this mall and hopped in my BMW 4 Series with my friend. I turned on the radio and it was playing the end of “Location.” I’m just like, “wow.“ My life is crazy and it’s going to get even crazier after this. Now I feel like I hear my song every single time I turn on the radio. It’s ridiculous. I’m thankful and it’s a blessing.
In your personal opinion, which artists make the best driving soundtracks?
Khalid: I love Fleetwood Mac, so I definitely play “Dreams” in my car when I’m feeling good. I love Panda Bear, he’s dope. The same for Still Woozy. The Japanese House has to be on that best driving songs list. I love driving to Kingdom or think SZA, she’s fire. Frank Ocean. Cool Vibes. And Father John Misty.
Which artist are you most excited to see at Coachella?
Khalid: Tame Impala. I can’t wait to see them hands down.
After I record, I always go to my car and I listen to it while driving.
Who would you take with you on the remaining free BMW i8 seat on your road to Coachella?
Khalid: My best friend Jerry. ‘Cause we go traveling all over and he rides passenger to me every single day.
How do you prepare for a concert?
Khalid: Healthy eating. And I definitely got to exercise to make sure my stamina is up and that I can breathe on the stage. It’s one of my first major shows since 2018, which is crazy. I just want to just make sure my energy is relatively chill, like I’m not psyching myself out and overthinking everything. And that everybody, my whole team, dancers, band, even behind the scenes on tech, I want to make sure that we all go in with great spirit and with good energy. Because if one person is off, then we’re all out of the rhythm and we can’t move the right way.
You’ll be heading towards your third appearance at the Coachella music festival. Do you remember playing there for the first time?
Khalid: When I stepped on stage at Coachella for the first time in 2017, I was nervous and it was intimidating. I felt shy. The next year, when I went to Coachella and I hopped on stage I felt confident engaged. I saw the audience and I paid attention to everybody. This year, I feel free and I’m confident I’ll be able to have way more fun. I’ll have less restrictions because I know that everybody out there for my set is there for me and there to support me and not to harm me. Definitely a free spirit kind of mentality. I can’t wait to feel it for myself when I get to walk on stage.
About the #RoadToCoachella
On two successive weekends in April, music fans come to the town of Indio,
125 miles to the east of Los Angeles for Coachella, named after the valley in the Californian desert. BMW i will once again celebrate the #RoadToCoachella as an official partner of the Coachella Valley Music & Art Festival in 2019. Khalid joins previous headliners, renowned composer and music producer Hans Zimmer (“Inception,” “Pearl Harbor,” and “The Dark Knight”) and the band “Portugal. The Man” lead singer John Gourley as a creative partner.