“I consider sensitivity to be one of my greatest strengths”
BY RACHEL BADHAM
When the genre-defying album Life As A Dog was released independently in 2014, Kristine Meredith Flaherty, aka K Flay, had no idea that five years later, she would’ve been nominated for two Grammys, signed to a division of Interscope records and ready to release her third album, Solutions.
In K Flay’s latest album, she details her journey to figuring out how to find light in the darkest of times, and here, in one of her first UK interviews since coming out, she tells DIVA about the meaning behind Solutions, her thoughts on Pride, and why it’s ok to have a good ol’ cry.
After a summer spent touring with Solutions, K Flay has got a lot to look forward to: “I think there should be a German word for it – I’m in the moments before the thing happens.”
And of course, the central event is the release of K’s third album, the title of which, “Emerged early in the writing process,” K explains. “There’s always the temptation to live in the world of problems, and I think it’s good to engage with things that are dark within you, and dark around you. I do think there’s something really productive about that, but I think it’s only productive if you’re able to disengage and figure out how to live sustainably as well – that was my headspace when I was writing Solutions.”
After a couple of years spent touring, which took what K describes as a “psychological toll,” she found herself in a place where she wanted to “figure out how to live well,” and so, Solutions was born – music her therapy.
“When you speak to anybody who writes anything – for a living or for fun – there’s a catharsis whenever you make something out of nothing. I write about these feelings and then reenact them on stage and relive some of that stuff which I actually enjoy.
“I have an older song called FML which was written during a period of my life of going out a lot, drinking a lot, and whenever I play that song I’m brought back to that moment, like, ‘Wow, that’s weird, I’m different now. I feel different now.’ It’s sort of like reading a diary, you’re confronted, there’s something almost embarrassing about that, but it’s a therapeutic embarrassment.”
A personal favourite of mine from K’s new album is This Baby Don’t Cry, where she talks about , “Feeling different on the inside.’ Whilst K says that she hasn’t necessarily felt like an outsider, she’s always been one to march to the beat of her own drum.
“I always felt like I was in my own world. I was actually a pretty individualistic and resilient young kid and that attitude definitely carried with me throughout my life. I’ve never felt regular – not in the way that I’m special, I’ve just always felt a little bit different.”
Listening to the album, a stand out lyric in This Baby Don’t Cry is, “I used to want to say an early goodbye but I’m a disco queen and I keep staying alive,” to which K laughs. “I think that’s literally the best thing I’ve ever written.”
Something that makes K’s music unique is her ability to write about her darkest times while producing lyrics that are sure to bring a smile to anyone’s face – is it true what they say about laughter being the best medicine?
“I really think it is. Whenever I talk to people who are in the midst of grief, like real grief, I think humour and laughter are essential for getting through all that.”
And K Flay knows grief just as well as anyone. “When I was really quite young, my mom and dad spilt up and my mom and I left. It was a chaotic period and I was too young to understand what was going on, but now as an adult I can imagine that this was such a traumatic and painful time for my mother.
“I remember we were driving with all of our shit in the car, it was just a very sad moment in the pouring rain, and my mom and I were both crying, and my mom just turned to me and said, ‘We’re gonna laugh about this someday,’ and we both started laughing.
“With that kind of grief and pain, the only way to cope is to laugh. It feels like an antidote, and one I learnt really early on. To me that dark stuff sits quite naturally alongside funny things, and I think that line [from This Baby Don’t Cry] really resonated for me, and I hope for others too.
“Fuck man, I think we all think about not being alive, there are many moments in life where it just feels a lot easier to not have to deal with everything and you just feel utterly overwhelmed, and to place that next to a ‘Saturday Night Fever’ kind of image just somehow felt very appropriate to me.”
K reassures me that it’s not all pain however, and that there’s also “so much to endure in terms of beauty.”
“Sometimes I’ll see something or read something that’s so beautiful, I’ll feel like, ‘This is too beautiful, I can’t even deal with the beauty!’”
If you haven’t listened to K’s music before, she recommends This Baby Don’t Cry as a good starting point. “It’s the thesis statement of the record and it’s stylistically very ‘me’. It feels good to play and it feels good to hear.
“Lyrics have always been the focus of how I make music and they’re what I get most excited about when I’m making music. Lyrically, Baby Don’t Cry encapsulates the sentiment of the record – which is to recognise your own vulnerability and that that is your strength. I consider sensitivity to be one of my greatest strengths.”
As well as a new album, there are exciting things happening in her personal life – she recently took to Instagram to celebrate her one-year anniversary with fellow musician Miya Folick, which is the first time K has opened up about her sexuality.
As K’s mom read “every Instagram comment” on the post, they found that there wasn’t one negative thing said – the reaction was either neutral or positive which K thinks is, “pretty cool considering the internet is a strange and often terrible place.”
One of K’s main priorities is staying true to herself and to her fans. “I think I have a very honest dialogue with my fans and I’ve not really created this highly curated image of myself.
“People could tell that my talking about my relationship was done in the spirit of authenticity, honesty and sharing my experience and happiness.”
Being a queer woman in the music industry is not without it’s challenges, but thankfully K feels her professional sphere is, “incredibly tolerant and open and there’s a real queer presence and a real acceptance of that in music and the arts.
“That’s one of the things that’s really awesome about being able to do this for a living.
“I live in Los Angeles, so I’m in one of the most liberal cities with this huge LGBTQI population, so in both my home life and work life I really am privileged to be able to exist freely and naturally. But I know that’s not the case for many, many people around the world – we still have a long way to go in that sense.”
And, as we wave goodbye to the 2019 Pride season, how does K Flay feel about Pride?
“Human beings are all looking for the same thing. You want meaningful work, a safe place to live and to feel love. The way that I’ve always seen Pride is the acknowledgement and celebration of that, and that’s the most important and most beautiful thing we can do as humans.
“To recognise that we’re all united in these fundamental desires and yet, the ways in which we pursue them can be wildly different and we should celebrate that.”
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