K.Flay is a triple threat. Maybe in fact, a triple-double. She double majored at Stanford. She’s got two Grammy nominations and is the only female nominated in the Best Rock Song category. She’s embarked on a national and soon to be international tour later this year with Imagine Dragons in Europe, and she’s just getting strarted. We had the pleasure of intrerviewing K.Flay as she toured up the West Coast, a day before covering her performance at the sold out Wonder Ballroom in Portland. Speaking to the rising star, we learned more about how important it is to challenge yourself, think outside the box, embrace the new, and always keep pushing.
Keegan Tuckonie Huey-Woods: First off, I’m a huge fan. My family actually went down and saw you when you played down in Eugene Back in march.
K.Flay: Oohhh at the WOW hall right?
K.Flay: That was a fun show.
KTHW: Yea, my little sister, my dad, actually all of us are pretty big fans. He’s got the meet n greet for tomorrow and he can’t wait.
K.Flay: Aww! That’s awesome. I’ll make sure to give him a high five.
KTHW: So you’re in Seattle tonight correct? How’s it been going so far? Going up and down the West Coast?
K.Flay: Honestly the shows have been awesome from both sides. The performance on stage has been great. The lights and video shows have been a lot of fun and the crowd has been incredible. It’s really been a wonderful celebration of the album.
KTHW: That’s awesome! Yea, we cover a lot of bands and festivals in California, how were thos eshoes? Do you have any rituals wherever you go to California? Any places you make sure to eat at? Stuff like that?
K.Flay: I live in Los Angeles and have family and extended family who live in the Bay Area so for the most part, I try to just do regular things…. like laundry, seeing my family. I spent most of my adult live living in California, so there are kinda too many places to count, but California is a very special state to me.
KTHW: Speaking of California, you went to Stanford, and double majored there? What was that like?
K.Flay: I grew up loving school and I really really loved my experience in college. I loved the social stuff and it’s where I began making music and everything. From a purely academic standpoint, it’s a place to be constantly curious. I was very engaged with people who were different from me and we challenged each other’s assumptions. It was a critical experience for me to have.
It was awesome going from growing up in the Nidwest to going to liviing in the Bay Area. It was such a different cultural standpoint and so much more diverse. I think that was a great place for me to be when I was eighteen years old.
KTHW: How engaged were you in your music while you were in school?
K.Fay: I mean, I was making music and it was definitely something I was having fun doing I was spending my off time making music. I don’t think there was any part of me that understood or could have anticipated the way in which music would have really consumed my life or understood where I’d end up. On one hand, I was a regimented and very disciplined kid where music was this outlet for me. Music was so uncharted and different. I had no rules for it, you know? I have a lot of rules about how I was supposed to act and about how I was supposed to be in school and the things I was supposed to do. With music, it didn’t matter at all, and I think for that reason, it was quite compelling to me. It was a hobby and then once I moved to San Francisco and I started to get gigs and play shows, it became more than a hobby.
KTHW: Yeah, it’s awesome. Music is a pretty unreal escape if you think about it.
K.Flay: Yeah totally
KTHW: So you recently released the deluxe edition, sorry i mean the deluxe edition of the GRAMMY NOMINATED album, Everywhere Is Some Where.
KTHW: Would you recommend that album as a good starting point for fans?
K.Flay: Totally! It’s always the case you feel when you’ve made something new that you’re the most engaged with that, and the most excited about it and I certainly feel that from a production standpoint. From a songwriting standpoint, its some of the best stuff that I’ve done.
For the deluxe edition of the album, I went up to Seattle in August, and I worked on kind of re-imagining songs from the record by adding live horns, live strings, more intimate vocal performances. We had a choir come in, we did a lot of different things. This deluxe record is a great starting point and it’s got many pieces of the project.
KTHW: So you’re actually nominated for two Grammy awards. Both that album, and the single, “Blood In The Cut”. Have you heard many of the other nominated albums? Do you have any favorites?
K.Flay: Oh, um well. I think in, I know in the category for best engineered album there’s also the Bruno Mars record which I actually loved quite a bit. I always liked him, but especially as an artist on that level. You know, the big, mainstream pop artists that are able to create… I don’t want to say a concept album, but certainly an album with its own point of view and sampling.
One of my all time favorite things that happened to me as a music listener when I was a teenager, was when Beck put out Midnight Vultures. I was thinking about how bizarre it was when it came out and was just playing it the other day and thinking about how its one of my favorite records of all time. Anytime there can be this sort of semantic, coherent thing that happens throughout a whole record, you know its incredible. I’ve been listening to a lot of Beck this year.
For rock song, a lot of it is sort of tense music that isn’t totally what I always listen to. I just started listening to Metallica a year ago, and I’m understanding how they are one of the biggest bands in the world. I’m figuring it out slowly but surely.
KTHW: You’re actually the only woman nominated for best rock song. What does that mean to you?
K.Flay: For much of my musical career, and you can ask many women in music in general when it comes to being on the lineup for a show or a festival, I will often be one of a handful of woman who will appear on that stage that night. I’m pretty accustomed to being either the only woman, or one of a few. On one hand, I’m excited to represent some sliver of women in music. I’m also in touch with a lot of women who are making incredible music and I want to see them represented. So you know, I think there are two sides to it. I’m glad that i get included and I feel very honored in that sense, but I feel like we’ve got a lot of work to do to recognize a lot of the incredible stuff that all musicians make. There is a lot of really cool shit that women are doing right now in music.
KTHW:Definitely. You’ve been doing a really great job. It’s been awesome to watch how things have unfolded.
Going back to the tour, what have you been most excited about? I know you’re going to Europe in just a few weeks!
K.Flay: Ya know, the thing that I was originally excited about happened two days ago. I sold out the Fillmore in San Francisco, which was a bucket list thing for me. That was a great show. My drummer and my guitarist are both from The Bay, and so we have tons of family up there and it was such a good celebration. There was so much love in the room. So that was incredible and it was a dream come true.
I think that as we head out for the rest of it, I’m just excited for all the headline stuff in the U.S. and Canada.
When you’re on stage, it’s really hard to be present, oddly enough. It’s easy for the mind to wander or worry and not be fully in touch with right here, right now. I’m excited to continue doing that because because I think that that’s actually the best part about performing music live; to be liberated in that you are present and mindful in a way.
We’re going to a bunch of cities in Europe that I’ve never played before. That’s always a thrill to be in a new city, and have the opportunity to see the culture there, make new friends, and you know, hopefully set up the next show.
KTHW: Definitely. You’ve been selling out shows all over the place. It must be awesome.
K.Flay: you know, it’s really nice. It has been awesome. I think especially when you’ve spent a lot of your many years out there on the rode, dragging it out, it’s nice to see that hard work paying off.
KTHW: Yea, you actually just put out a few videos of the orchestra versions of some of your songs. It looked like you had a lot of fun doing that. Was that like, putting that together?
K.Flay: We had a blast. I put those together with a long term friend of mine. I met him on one of my first tours and his name is Josh. His producer name is Vudo. Yea he and I have been friends for the past six years. He’s super talented and he’s a good dude. Him and I get along on a very similarly positioned outlook as far as our outlook on life and being a human and maker of music. So we just got together and he oversaw the operation and we rented out this awesome studio in Seattle and it’s cool for me too because I’m not classically trained in any way, and every instrument I play, I learned kind of just as I went as a necessity. I’m not like an incredible instrumentalist in any way, and seeing people that were classically traine, seeing truly truly great musicians play the songs was a very cool thing. Watching them interpret the songs I created was incredible.
KTHW: Your single “Giver” keeps climbing the charts. What’s next release wise, or have you been too busy with the tour?
K.Flay: I’m never too busy! I do have a bunch of stuff coming out for things I have been working on, and none of it has been announced yet, some collaboration stuff, some things you know. New material is coming out in February, which I’m very very exclaimed for people to hear.
KTHW: That’s great. Really looking forward to that.
SO, one more, a little bit of a strange question. If you could explain your music to aliens how would you do it?
K.Flay: Oh, ok. Assuming they aren’t the aliens from a rival galxy, and I don’t have to learn some very complicated, compassion based language, I think the common thread to me in terms of my music has just been about honesty and authenticity. I think those are two of the things that I really value as a person and in other people. Its really something that has driven me to make music and feel connected to music and stay connected to fans. The doesn’t matter to me, whether it’s some weird Indie rap, or kind of a heavier rock song. That’s the common thread.
KTHW: You really do a good job of staying diverse in your music and not putting all your eggs in one genre basket so to speak. I dont really know how to put it, but you really explore many different genres and do a great job of it.
K.Flay: Thank you, I really appreciate that.
KTHW: Yeah, it’s really not an easy thing to do i imagine and you do a really do it well.
K.Flay: Well thank you.
KTHW: So all I’ve got for you. I really appreciate the time and I’m really looking forward to the tour.
And speaking of the tour, be sure to catch K.Flay in the coming months as her incredibly popular shows keep selling out. Also, make sure to catch the Grammy’s this weekend at 4:30PM PST on CBS.
Photos and words by Keegan Huey-Woods
Check K.Flay’s tour details here.