HHM: Most songwriters claim to have been doing this their whole life, you literally have been. What do you think sparked this kind of dedication to music at such a young age?
Khalid Quesada: In a lot of ways, I think it was a desire to imitate what I was listening to and wanting to create something that might possibly affect someone the way music affected me.
HHM: You have stated that you admit you weren’t very good at it at first, where did you find the drive to keep at it?
KQ: Well, honestly, once imitation runs its course, it kinda becomes obvious you have two choices on how you want to proceed. You either play a bunch of covers or start writing your own original stuff. Eventually, I realized that in order to actually write songs of my own, I needed to at least be competent at one or more instruments. I tend to work better on my own, so the thought of collaborating with a musician just didn’t occur to me. I’ve since worked with some people on songs where I write the music or lyrics only, but it’s rarely as rewarding for me.
HHM: At what point do you feel like it turned around for you and your writing fell into place?
KQ: I’m fairly embarrassed of the majority of writing from my teenage years. It was a learning process. I get that. But I spent way too much energy tailoring my stuff to the band I was in and our common influences. So it was kind of at the tail-end of that experience where I really started to find my own voice. It still took a good five or so years to really fine-tune my songwriting, but even after years and years of writing songs, I’m constantly trying to challenge myself and write as much outside my comfort zone as humanly possible.
HHM: Most of your influences are songwriting purists, substance over sound, do you think that is harder than writing songs that just sound good?
KQ: Absolutely. I mean, as much as I love the birth era of rock and roll, there are countless songs, particularly from one hit wonders, that tend to lack in the lyric department. Not that every song needs to be serious or poetry for poetry sake. But it gets stale real fast if every song is about boy meets girl, boy loses girl, etc. Don’t get me wrong. I think love is definitely the most universal topic and let’s continue to write about it, but I’ve always tried to find new ways to do that. Emotions permeate my lyrics like a smoker’s cough. And that’s the hardest part when putting stuff out there. When people criticize your work, it’s almost like a teacher casting red marks all over your journal entries.
HHM: Besides the help of some others during recording and playing live, you pretty much have complete control over all your music huh?
KQ: Yes, for the most part. I’ll work with other musicians when it feels right, absolutely. But like I said, I tend to write alone and generally have a specific idea of what I want something to sound like when it’s finished, especially when recording it with the intention of releasing it.
HHM: Does that make it more difficult during the writing process or easier for you to express yourself?
KQ: I think it’s easier in the sense that I don’t have to please anyone but me. I know what I like and I generally try to write the type of stuff I’d actually listen to. Of course, the flipside is that it all falls on me. It could be the difference between a song taking 30 minutes to write with a co-songwriter and a song taking a month or more to finish because I’m too stubborn to bring someone else in. I am entertaining the idea of collaborating more often though. So we’ll see.
HHM: You have written a lot of songs, how much time does writing consume your life?
KQ: Lately, not nearly as much as it used to. Once I started marketing and self-promoting my stuff, in addition to the full-time job, a lot of the free time I used to have to write has unfortunately been lost. But I don’t put as much pressure on myself to write nowadays. Of the nearly 300 songs I’ve written, I’d probably be comfortable releasing about 25% of them. That still puts me at approximately 75 songs, which means I have roughly 6 or so albums ready to go. And obviously I’ll try to keep writing as frequently as possible.
HHM: Do you feel like as a songwriter, you see world differently than most other people?
KQ: Not necessarily. I mean, I tend to think it’s because I already see the world differently than most people that I am a songwriter. Hopefully it benefits how I write in a positive way. I’m still on the fence about that though.
HHM: Do you find that your mood at that moment affects your perspective and the outcome of a finished song?
KQ: Absolutely. I’ve used songwriting as a way to vent things I’m dealing with on, well, almost all occasions.
HHM: What have you been working on as of late?
KQ: Just working on promoting and playing shows. I’ve kinda gotten sick of the songs I usually play at shows, so I’m also trying to find time to re-learn some older stuff as well as some of the more recent songs that I haven’t really had a chance to bring to the set lists.
HHM: Are you planning on releasing any new material in the coming months?
KQ: I wish. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time or money to go back into the studio. I’m a bit of a perfectionist about the stuff I’m self-releasing. I’ve found an engineer that I like working with and I’d rather wait until I can finish the album with him than try to find another way to get it done.
HHM: What are some of your major goals and plans for 2013?
KQ: Well, in addition to more promotion and touring on my own, I’d really like to get the band I started working with last year back in action. The biggest goal is to finish the first album, and that’s going to take some time and budgeting. I’d love to actually find a way to put the album out this summer and then try to start work on the next one as soon as possible. Like I said, I’ve got about 6 albums almost ready to go. But obviously the focus right now is on finishing the first.
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