After a busy touring year in 2017, that included playing several festivals and opening for Imagine Dragons, K.Flay, real name Kristine Flaherty, is back on the road again already in 2018. This time she’ll be headlining the “Every Where is Some Where” Tour, celebrating her newest album, which was released last year.
The album, which blends rock and hip-hop, has earned K.Flay plenty of praise, even picking up two Grammy Award nominations, including Best Engineered Album (nonclassical). She was also the only female nominated for “Best Rock Song,” with her hit “Blood in the Cut.”
Ahead of her show sold-out show at the Cannery Ballroom in Nashville on Saturday, K.Flay talked with The Tullahoma News about what people can expect from this leg of the tour, her music career and the love that she has for Nashville.
Tullahoma News (TN): Thanks for doing this, I know you kicked off the new tour on Jan. 11, how have things been going so far?
K.Flay (KF): It’s been incredible. This is the kind of an unveiling of a new production set up and this is the kind of proper headline tour for my record. We did so many festivals last year and overseas stuff. It’s nice to kind of be on home territory. Really, we’ve been celebrating the record, so it’s been awesome.
TN: Speaking of celebrating stuff you just got nominated for two Grammy Awards. How surreal is that to have your name mentioned in candidates for a Grammy Award?
KF: Oh it’s very surreal. I think my entire musical career has felt a little bit like a strange, but wonderful dream on some level, because I didn’t grow up aspiring to be a musician or being fascinated and consumed by music. So, yeah the whole thing has been a little bit of a surprise, so I’m constantly surprised.
TN: You brought up your music career and it’s one of the things that I find fascinating. I’ve talked to so many artists who knew in high school that they wanted to be musicians, or they knew from an early level. When did you start to get into music though?
KF: You know I was actually kind of a late bloomer in this way. Even outside of playing music and from a fan like listenership perspective, I didn’t become emotionally connected to or invested in music until I was like 19 or 20. I was in college when that kind of occurred. I think that was that was also the time I was starting to to make music and experiment with that, just really as a hobby. I think I was a very regimented kid and I think I found some degree of solace in that type of scheduling.
Music for me was this uncharted territory, you know, where there really weren’t any rules or expectations. I think looking back on it, I think it fulfilled some deep psychological need to be unhinged from that very, very strict kind of lifestyle.
Yeah, so it was really in college, that was the very long-winded answer of when I started making music. Then I moved to San Francisco after I graduated and that was when I really playing shows, getting gigs in the city, making a little bit of money and kind of figuring out that I really enjoyed this as a life pursuit.
TN: You talked about sort of breaking down walls and just listening to your work, the lyrics instantly jump out at me, whether it’s politics, romance, or whatever it may be. So did you start seeing music as a creative outlet for yourself?
KF: Totally. I’ve always been fascinated by lyricism, which has always been the component of songwriting that has always drawn my attention and I think it’s been really compelling for me as a writer too.
All of my favorite– or a lot of my favorite records, songs and artists are very lyric driven. I think that’s been fascinating and exciting to me from the get go. There’s something really, again talking about music being a total freedom or liberation, there is something liberating about being uncomfortably honest publicly and having to reenact that every night.
It almost feels like a version of therapy. I think that often the mere act of stating an uncomfortable or unpleasant truth, it doesn’t get that power over you. You kind of reassert your power over it. So, from an emotional and psychological sense, I think it’s been huge thing for me.
TN: Is there any worry that you’re getting too personal, making yourself more vulnerable to everybody’s appeal?
KF: I think I felt worried about that for a brief time earlier in my career and I kind of had conversations with my family and my friends and got them clear on me being ok.
I think that sometimes when you write about dark things or sadness or grief or whatever, people are concerned about you, it lets you know that they care about you. So what I was able to kind of establish with those people that this is an element of my mind and my thought process, it’s not all of me, like they know all of me.
If I really were in trouble I would let them know. Once that was kind of cleared up, I think I felt totally free to express those sentiments. I think that’s kind of the job of somebody who makes music or art for a living. Most people aren’t allowed or don’t have time or capacity to explore those kinds of thoughts that we all have, so I kind of see that as my purview.
TN: You talked about feelings that we all have. You put out the “Crush Me” book, which is based on notes from your fans. Where did that concept come from?
KF: This has been true for me for a lot of ideas throughout my life, but they started very small, but sincere place. We were going out on the road in support of the E.P. which is called “Crush Me.” I just sort of had the idea to bring a notebook, but a nice leather bound notebook on tour and leave it at the merch booth alongside a bunch of and just give people the opportunity to write about an experience of feeling crushed by somebody by something or even crushing somebody else, but just a message about life.
It could be a drunk message though that’s weird where you give me your phone number. There are all too many of those. It’s just like a place for people to write something that I was going to read and that was going to exist in a world that they would never really see again.
I wasn’t positive what the response would be like, but immediately it was evident to me that this idea and this act was striking a chord within the people coming to the show. I started getting the craziest range of entries. Like any given night, I was getting in touch with the fact that people were dealing with like tremendous joy, pain, excitement, fear and you know really going through the entire spectrum of human emotions all at my show. Like we are all under one roof.
You know it kind of overwhelmed me with a sense of compassion. And I know we all know what we ought to be compassionate, or I hope at least. I was really struck by what people were contributing. So, flash forward to a year, I literally read and transcribed every entry. We had many, many books that ultimately got sold. I compiled my favorites that were more on the concise side and spanned the gamut of content that put together a book.
I’ve got two friends of mine who do art in New York to design and illustrate it. Then we put it it on sell and all the proceeds go to charitiy. We picked three different charties that fans submitted who would benefit. So the initial spirit was again, that compassion and we wanted to carry that until the end.
TN: Now you just got back from being on tour with Imagine Dragons, what did you learn from that tour?
KF: I learned on that tour, how to play a show in an arena, because I had never really done that before. It’s kind of a bizarre experience and I was actually speaking to my family about this yesterday. Often you know at a club show or a theater show, typically the most excited people are right up front because they got there like mega early, because they want to see the headliner, blah blah blah.
At arena shows, typically like the most excited people are often in the nosebleed. Like they just scraped enough money together to get the tickets and are super stoked and got there early.
So it’s weird because you’re kind of confronted with a situation that’s deeply unfamiliar in that you can’t just draw energy from people right in front of you. You have to draw energy from yourself and your bandmates and from this imagined audience in a way, like an audience you can’t see very well. You know that they’re there, because you can hear them, but you can’t physically see them.
So I think the biggest thing was really how to create energy on stage with this invisible or distant audience. Which I think, in my experience, is a really valuable thing as I continue to hone my skills.
TN: Now that you’ll be headlining this tour, what are you really looking forward to this time around? Obviously, it’s a celebration of the album release, but is there anything that you’re specifically looking forward to on this tour?
KF: Oh man, I mean this tour is the opposite of that. There have been tons of energy, everybody knows all the songs. In a way, it feels so much fun and easy– not easy like there’s no effort. These past shows, I’ve got on stage and have been drenched in sweat, lost like eight pounds of body weight, so they are certainly hard work.
From a psychological standpoint though, it just feels great.It’s really nice to have the balance of that. No matter what you do, you’ll always remember that you’re fighting to exist, you’re fighting to be relevant and you’re fighting to be heard. Sometimes, you’ve won some of those battles, and people will come up after those and tell me that. It’s a constant work in progress, which is awesome because that’s the journey.
TN: You talked about the journey, I want to hit back on the Grammy Award nominations. One of those nominations was for best rock song, with “Blood In The Cut.” A lot of your older stuff, is more rap centered. So has your music started changing or is this the music business where genres have become irrelevant?
KF: I think it’s a mix of both. We are kind of in a brave new world, as far was what is a music genre, and are genres relevant with the massiveness of streaming and the way that people consume music these days?
However, getting to your first point, I do think that there has been a shift in the music that I’ve been making. It hasn’t been a conscious one. Certainly, it’s been more about following the path of inspiration for me.
So, when I started making music I was pretty much listening exclusively to indie rap. I was just you know incredibly excited by that and storytelling, the lyricism and also the ability to just say so much in a song. I mean, if you write out the lyrics of a lot of hip hop songs, they are quite long and you really have the opportunity to say a lot of things. For me, that was a really fun kind of puzzle, like a word puzzle, in a way.
As I started getting more into music and playing, I was encountering more rock and alternative music and discovering that and making that a part of what I listen to and what I was interested in. I think that was just sort of a natural progression. The good thing for me was that I never firmly existed in anyone’s genre. So, it’s kind of given me the ability, to kind of do whatever it is that I’m doing.
It just so happens that this record got played on alternative radio and became a rock song. But, I think that was just sort of its natural place, like that song started with the guitar riff and I followed that spirit where it led which was more rock.
Genres, we need a way to categorize music or we need a way to categorize a lot of things, because there’s a lot of content out there. I do think though that are existing genres are being challenged in many ways.
TN: You brought up some of your influences on the rock side, and you were on Warped Tour back in 2014. Did that kind of help shift what you were listening to, as that’s a whole different world than indie rap?
KF: I would say the main thing that I took away from Warped Tour was that I became less scared of screamo and hardcore music. I originally was really frightened by hyper aggressive dark like screaming, anytime anybody was screaming,I was like, ‘I can’t handle it. It’s scaring me it’s making me anxious.’
Then I got to meet a lot of the people who making hardcore heavy music and they’re some of the sweetest and nicest people out there and are super talented. So it helped me to understand like this type of music is a release, not the fomenting of anger.
Warped Tour really helped me wrap my head around that and find the spirit of some of that heavier music. I think around that time is when I began listening to more rock.
I remember, we were out on tour in Europe and this song came on and I was like, ‘Oh, I like this song.’ Everybody started laughing at me and were asking, ‘You don’t know this song?’ I was like no and they were laughing because it was a huge hit like 10 years ago, it was a Kaiser Chiefs song. I ended up buying all their records.
It’s been this process, because anytime that I’m exposed to anything, I’m naturally a curious person. Anytime that I’m exposed to something, I really am interested in understanding it and learning. Warped Tour was another part of that process in being exposed to music that I wasn’t connected to already.
TN: One last question for you. This leg of the tour is coming through Nashville, so not to say that any other show doesn’t matter, but is there something special about playing in Nashville?
KF: Definitely, 100 percent there is, especially for me, because I wrote and recorded half of my record just outside of Nashville. So I spent quite a bit of time there, like really unexpectedly.
So, a producer on the record, JT Daly, he was actually out on the road with me as well, playing as part of my band, which was awesome. He and had linked up and started working on music together and he was based out of Nashville.
I spent a lot of time in and around Nashville and really grew to love the city in so many ways. Anytime that you make something in a place, whether it’s a specific studio or a city, it just sort of becomes part of this bigger narrative in your life. Aside from all of the history and legacy that Nashville has in general to the world, for me personally, and for this record, there are a lot of really beautiful memories.