Boston-raised artist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Khamri is on the rise. From studying music at the renowned Berklee College of Music, Khamri sights influence from Frank Ocean, The Beatles, and Stevie Wonder. With clear direction and more music to be released, Khamri is determined not to be pigeonholed. Instead, he is pinned to become one of this year’s breakout stars.
HATC: Here’s a cliché. How would you Introduce yourself?
K: It’s not a cliche question. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that. For me, any introduction is okay. I would introduce myself as an artist, not just a musician or a songwriter. It’s very important to me as there are a lot of labels that go around. For someone to say I’m an R&B artist or musician of this genre is just people being labeled as an artist. I think it’s always best when people also recognise that that’s the goal. Right off the bat, they’re like, this person is an artist, and they identify with this, the things you put out, or the world you’re trying to build. So it always feels good when people introduce you that way. Or, at least for me, it does.
HATC: How’s your music grown and evolved over the years?
K: I’ve been making music for as long as I can remember. Honestly, I wasn’t always recording. I was at points just playing in my house in Boston when I was living with my family when I was super young and learning how to play songs on the radio, or just that my parents would play around the house. For the longest time, I wasn’t recording them. And then, at some point, I realised that I could use the keyboard to record with my laptop, and it was like jumping on, learning how to write songs and produce. So I’ve been making music forever, just in different ways.
HATC: Where do your roots lie? Where’s home?
K: For me, it’s less about a place, city, or state. It’s more about finding ways to make whatever, as long as I can make, whatever space I am in, I like that childhood bedroom or space with endless possibilities. I need a lot of like free rein and a lot of time and space in such flexibilities, so I can have hours on end to tweak a sound or find the right chords to fix the words so that it feels the way I want it to feel. So really, that home base. And typically, it’s in my living room or somewhere I settle into over a couple of weeks or months.
HATC: How has producing your music given you autonomy and the freedom to do what you want?
K: I think one of the things that I’ve learned about at least the artists that I admire and respect, the way that they do things is that they find a way to utilise every part of whatever it is they’re creating, to tell a story or to add a layer to the lyrics or the vibe of the song or the energy of the project, whether it be like visual or musical. So learning how to produce has helped me tie everything together in a way that I don’t think would be the same if I didn’t produce. I believe there are some times when you can communicate an idea very well. But it’s not quite the same as being able to tweak it endlessly yourself with your own hands until it gets to that place where you feel comfortable. So I think it’s helped me in that way, where I can execute them a little bit closer.
HATC: Do you have more confidence approaching it yourself than with others?
K: So I don’t think the faith in myself changes. What changes in the idea of that childhood bedroom and that flexibility. And I think when you’re working with people, there are a bunch of other dynamics. You want to respect people’s time, and you want to respect people’s feelings, and you want to respect their ideas. It’s not that you don’t like to invite other people into that space with you, but it’s a little harder to get things sometimes closer to how I see things. If I’m working with myself or producing by myself, I’m likely to spend hours writing or locking in on something, so it’s a little easier for me not to worry about confidence. Because that, for me, it’s not necessarily about the confidence level. It’s about when you walk into a room with people, and you’re also dealing with their feelings and their perspective. You want to be thoughtful about all those things. But when alone, I don’t care if I waste my time. I don’t care if getting something right takes me a week. I don’t care if I have to edit something 50 times to ensure it feels good, like I’ve heard it in my head. So it’s more about the freedom of not having to worry about other expectations.
HATC: Have you found some freedom in not being labeled to a genre?
K: The dope thing about being an artist in 2023 is that the only boundaries are the ones we impose on ourselves. In 2023, in terms of genre, pretty much anything goes. You get to make your DNA as an artist. You can be put into multiple boxes or fit into various groups in terms of genre.
HATC: Who have been your inspirations growing up?
K: I love very early Kanye. I love the idea of what he stands for in a way that he grew up and he wasn’t supposed to end up in his position. J.Cole is a big inspiration because he produces a lot of his stuff and is very involved in making his albums. I look at people like Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway and songwriters like Sir Paul McCartney, The Beatles, Lauryn Hill, and Joni Mitchell.
HATC: Tell me about your writing process and the vulnerability that goes in.
K: Part of being a good artist, at least, the artists I admire or gravitate to are very open about their lives. I think it’s less about being inherently vulnerable and more just about talking about my experience, and I hope people identify with it in that way.
HATC: Do you find peace in writing that way?
K: For me, it’s more of a brain exercise. It’s more like a puzzle I’m putting together and trying to translate. I’m trying to see how accurately and closely I can come to solving that feeling or that experience into a song. It’s not necessarily therapeutic because sometimes it takes ten times to get it right. Sometimes it takes 20 times to get it right. And sometimes, you get it right the first time, but there are times when you can tell this is something important.
HATC: What’s on the horizon?
K: I guess I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel but create something that people feel is quality that they could fall in love with the entire project and not just a couple of songs. I want to make a fuller body of work that allows people to listen from front to back, identify with my stories, and enjoy them.
HATC: Where would it be if you could pick a place to share your music and perform live?
K: It would probably be Boston, my home crowd.
Photography Frank Fieber