This alternative-rock singer/songwriter was born and raised Aleem Khalid in Northbrook, IL, outside of Chicago, and while he grew up wanting to be a point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, music soon took over his life. After singing in the Glenbrook North Ow! a cappella group in high school, the drummer-turned-guitarist-turned-songwriter scored a massive hit, “Inside Out,” from his 2016 debut EP, Open Letters, which has been streamed almost 4.4 million times since its release six years ago.
“I keep hearing whispers in the dark/Telling me to break your lovely heart,” he sings on that song, a melodic pop hit that can’t quite prepare us for his evolution through his latest EP, Dumb Love, and an upcoming six-song effort that includes such thunderous, heavy post-grunge anthems such as “Deal With You,” “That’s (Alright With Me)” and “Déjà Vu,” as well as funkier tracks such as “Drift” and “Unofficial.”
“These new tracks are really a reflection of the sound that I had envisioned for my next EP. Getting my start, I often felt pulled away from my musical roots, and I’m so happy to now be putting music out that is a direct reflection of what I like to listen to.”
The brand-new EP was produced with partner and co-writer Evan Anderson (Metameta, 311, Ghostwolf, Los Stellarians) at makeshift studios in a variety of Airbnb’s in Walker, MN, Superior, WI and Irvine, CA. Recording the new material “was challenging during the pandemic,” says Aleem. “It was all makeshift. We had microphones set up in closets and kitchens, whatever we could do to capture the best sound.”
The sound is big and bold, with buzzsaw guitars and heavy drums, a tribute to his eight-year-old self, seeing blink-182’s Travis Barker playing percussion in front of thousands of people on MTV’s coverage of the Warped Tour. “I was instantly hooked,” he says. “Before I got my first drum kit, I would set up pots and pans in my kitchen and bang away for hours. Following this newfound passion, I taught myself to sing, play guitar and work on my songwriting. Once I found a formula that worked for me, I was addicted.”
Aleem has opened on U.K. tours with Fifth Harmony in 2016 and Little Mix in 2017 as well as a U.S. tour in 2018 with Madison Beer.
“Reaching a million streams with ‘Inside Out’ has been my biggest thrill until now,” he says. “I never expected anything to come from that release. It kept growing on Spotify from there and that’s something I will never forget. It was a magical feeling knowing my music was actually being listened to.”
That growth continued on his most recent EP, Dumb Love, which chronicles the ups and downs of the various stages of a relationship, capped off with “Pretty Baby,” one of Aleem’s personal favorites of his songs.
“It’s one of those tracks that just wrote itself,” he marvels. “Evan and I were in Irvine, writing and around 2 a.m. just before burning out, I jokingly played a guitar riff paired with the lyrics, ‘Hey pretty baby, you know you look so good.’ We looked at each other and immediately knew we had something to build on from that. It was the spark we needed and it eventually became the opening line of the song.”
On his latest EP, Aleem continues to grow as an artist, using his personal life to influence the songs, which are now bigger and bolder, without losing his gift for a melodic hook, a combination of his three biggest influences – Bruno Mars “for his performance and singing prowess,” The Script “for their catchy chorus melodies,” and John Mayer “for his guitar and songwriting expertise.”
In whatever spare time he has, Aleem loves to cook and bake, work out and follow his hometown sports team, including the Bears, Bulls and Cubs. “Chicago runs deep in my roots,” he says.
With his new EP, Aleem continues to mine those roots for musical gold.