I moved from New York to El Paso in 2015, just before my senior year. I was super nervous. My mom, she’s in the Army, and she got stationed at Fort Bliss. We packed everything up and drove all the way to El Paso. I had never been to Texas before. I was lonely, but I turned that loneliness into a spur to creativity. I was so inspired by El Paso and by the geography.

I started writing out all of my feelings, and people asked me, “Have you ever thought of recording your music?” It was something I’d always thought of, but I’d never really had the confidence. And now I had a group of friends who were like, “You should push for this.” And less than a year later—literally my graduation day—Kylie Jenner played my song on her Snapchat. And then I was going to New York City to sign a record deal. The people here are so strong and so kind.
—as told to Jordan Breal

Khalid’s debut album, American Teen, is out now from RCA.