In anticipation of Khamari’s latest single release, ‘On My Way’, Khamari talks with GUAP about his life in LA, the best songwriting advice he ever received and what music he’s listening to right now.
After his ‘Eldorado’ EP debuted, Khamari packed his life in his car and drove alone cross-country to build the life he wanted. In this new track, he poeticizes his journey from Boston to LA; weaving a sample of a 1972 Al Green classic into his own chorus, he sings “I’m on my way, to Love and Happiness”.
Bethel: On My Way is your latest single. It’s about claiming the success of this journey that you’ve been on, speaking on what it means to be in LA. Tell me more about that.
Khamari: ‘On My Way’ kind of encapsulates my feelings, experiences and stories that I’ve been through over the last couple of years, surrounding my move to LA. I’m at my most confident but it’s about me going into a new space and discovering what it’s going to be like on the other side.
I’ve always been very confident about music, and I knew that from a very young age what I wanted to do for a career. Moving in the middle of a pandemic and moving away from my family and friends,I had dropped out of school and all these things combined to make the situation a little bit more nerve wracking than it would have been.
The pandemic gave me a lot of time to look at everything objectively and say that there’s no better time than now. That’s kind of what the song is about.
Bethel: Yeah, it’s definitely more of a confident take because ‘Doctor, My Eyes’ had a bit of a lonely tone to it. Two years later, where do you find yourself?
Khamari: Well, to be to be fair I’m very confident about my ability and my capability, and in music and how I can survive in that world, but LA is a different game. My feelings haven’t really changed very much since I first moved out here, which is just that kind of survival of the fittest, if you want to call it that.
That feeling of loneliness that I had in Boston, that feeling of being in that fight or flight-like survival state didn’t really go away when I moved to La, because LA is that on steroids.
Now I have a little bit more going on with work and I have all these great opportunities. I had it in my head that I was going to be a completely different game when I came out here, and I was going to be, you know, partying and like doing all this stuff. And when I came out here, it just wasn’t that.
Bethel: What was it like? Was it more work focused?
Khamari: It’s not that those spaces don’t exist. It can be hard when you come out here as a creative to find them. As many opportunities as there are in LA, the communities are also smaller and it’s a little bit more cliquey.
Bethel: I found it that way too when I started writing in music. It’s just the nature of the industry.
Bethel: Would you say you’re an introverted person who tries to go out?
Khamari: Yeah, there have been times where I found myself able to be very extroverted. More recently, I don’t know if it’s due to the pandemic or just due to other things that happen in life, I found myself becoming a more introverted person.
So I feel like there’s two sides of that coin. There’s some times where I haven’t been out in a while so I gotta get out, and then there’s other times where I could go months in the studio.
Bethel: You’re a pretty expressive guy who’s intentional with what he writes about. What do you do to hone that songwriting skill?
Khamari: One of the first pieces of advice that I got from a lot of people when I was struggling with songwriting, trying to find my voice and trying to find my way to tell stories, was that you just had to live through things. You had to feel certain things in order to be able to talk about them. I think my process in honing that skill was really just living and learning how to talk about what I would do.
Some people are very good storytellers. There are songwriters that are comparable to JK Rowling in the sense that they will be very imaginative, but I think it boils down to being able to talk about your experience in the creative way that people can connect to.
Bethel: You take inspiration from Al Green, Nina Simone, Jackson Browne and Incubus to create your songs. Is that a mix of music from your upbringing and current discoveries?
Khamari: It’s definitely a mixture of things that I heard growing up that I didn’t really appreciate until now and also things that I’m just discovering within the last couple of years. When I first came out to LA I introduced myself to a lot of new sounds, a lot of new artists and that really helped me contextualize where I wanted to place myself in the artistic world.
My grandfather and my parents; they had music playing when I was growing up in the house, in the car. My grandfather always played jazz music and my parents always play like R&B music, so I’ve always been surrounded by good music.
You just know when you connect with something. The Al Green thing is one of those things you hear and you’re just like “ I want to put my spin on that”. I always appreciate when artists introduce their audience to something that they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. That’s part of the reason I do that.
Bethel Haimanot: Would you say that you’re the only musically talented person in your family?
Khamari: You know it’s crazy because I talked to my dad about it, and at one point, he played flute in a marching band when he was in high school or college. He just didn’t stick with it so I don’t know if that counts.
Bethel Haimanot: I’ll take that. So you’ve had some warming reactions to your ‘El Dorado’ EP that you dropped a while ago. What has that project done for your career?
Khamari: That project is a stepping stone in being able to get to this project. It was at that time I was learning how to produce; I was in my grandfather’s attic, making beats and writing songs. I was figuring out the sonic landscape of how my favorite producers were putting together tracks so I could figure out how to do something kind of similar in my own way.
That EP was me testing the waters for what it meant to put together a whole body of work together as an artist, conceptualise a feeling and give it a name.
Bethel Haimanot: Did you expect it to be that big?
Khamari: Honestly, it is kind of crazy. Not to say I had no expectations right, because as we talked about before, I’m very confident with this one thing I love to do, which is music. I was just doing it because I like to do it and for a few reasons.
The first reason is that you do anything as an artist for self-expression, it’s kind of selfish. The other reason is that it will help heal other people and to help connect with other people. And the third thing it has to be because you love it.
Bethel: What are your latest music/artist/genre discoveries ?
Khamari: There’s a lot of alternative R&B that’s really dope. People are saying that R&B is dead, but I don’t believe it. It’s really just becoming a more direct expression of the personalities that we have. I’ve also been listening to a lot of older rock music and I’m trying to like to find a way to communicate that influence on my next journey.
‘On My Way’ follows Khamari’s previous releases ‘Drifting,’ ‘Tell Me,’ and ‘Doctor, My Eyes.’
While you patiently wait for his forthcoming project (yes, you read that right!), you can listen to Khamari’s latest single ‘On My Way’ below!
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