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Sound of 2018: American Teen star Khalid is fourth

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Khalid shares the secrets of his success
US R&B sensation Khalid has taken fourth place in BBC Music's Sound of 2018 list, which tips acts for success in the next 12 months.The 19-year-old is already a star in the US where his debut album, American Teen, has sold over a million copies.Written while he was at high school, the record's themes of belonging, love and loneliness have spoken directly to a generation."The success was very rapid," he says. "It's crazy."
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Your biggest single in the UK so far is Silence. What's the story behind that song?When I teamed up with [dance producer] Marshmello, I knew I wanted to be vulnerable - and so, when I wrote this song, it was very personal and it was very deep and I was very upset. But the moment the song came out, I went to Australia and I saw fans screaming every single word, every night. To have that in a whole different continent? It was awesome. One of my favourites is Saved - That lyric about keeping an ex's number in case they call and say they made a mistake. Have you ever done that?I keep all of my exes' numbers saved, just in case they feel like they need to talk to me, or I need to talk to them - because they all started as friends first. Even if we're not as close as we were after the end of the relationship, I have so much love for all of them.At the same time, you must have had old acquiantances crawling out of the woodwork since you've become famous.All the time. All the time. And I'm a person who stands my ground. I let them know. I had a lot of great friends and then I had a lot of friends who couldn't deal with the things I was going through. They didn't want to deal through all that, but then they wanted to celebrate me when I became successful, and I don't feel like that's fair.
The star says his goal is to "create happiness".
Your goal was to get to the Grammys. Does it seem real that you're not only going but you're nominated five times?It's insane. I just can't believe it. It happened way faster than I thought it would. I remember talking to people and I'd be like, "maybe I'll get nominated for something in 2019" but it was way faster! It was something I couldn't have prepared for but I'm just so blessed.Which of those awards do you want to win the most?Best new artist. Hands down.You've got some tough competition there - SZA, Julia Michaels, Lil Uzi Vert, Alessia Cara.It's amazing competition because they are extraordinary artists, every one. It's crazy because a lot of them inspired me - so to be up against my inspirations is slightly overwhelming, but it's definitely exciting.The interesting thing about that category is none of the nominees are white men. What does that say about music in 2018?Music is in such an interesting place right now. You can look like anything. You can be anybody and you can still be super-successful because the listeners are looking for relationships. They're looking for people they can look up to. The fact that I am nominated, I'm 19 years old, I'm this boy from El Paso Texas, and so many people across the world sing my songs? It's crazy on its own.
The singer was awarded a platinum disc, denoting one million sales of his album, last October
And what about the Sound of 2018? Were you aware of the list or that it's such a big thing in the UK?Oh yeah! One of my good friends Billie Eilish is on the longlist as well. I love her so much. Her star is going to shine so bright. I love the cover you did of her song idontwannabeyouanymoreOh, that's my favourite song.What's your plan for 2018? I hear you're heading into the studio straight after this interview… Is there new music on the way?Ooh, yes. I've been in the studio a lot and there are a lot of collaborations to look forward to. I mean, I'm excited to work on my own but the collabs... I've been listening to them on repeat. They're awesome.What's your advice to anyone else who wants to get into music?Persistence is key. Don't listen to negativity. There's so much hate in the world because people are envious, so focus on yourself. Don't give up. And always be you. That's my advice. Peace out.
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More on Khalid
BBC Music homepage
BBC Music News LIVE
Sound of 2018
Music
Grammy Awards 2018
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