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K.Flay

K.Flay

K.Flay

INTERVIEW BY CARIANN BRADLEY • PHOTOS BY DAVY KESEY • AUGUST 15, 2019

STREAM K.FLAY'S NEW ALBUM "SOLUTIONS" HERE.

INTERVIEW BY CARIANN BRADLEY • PHOTOS BY DAVY KESEY • AUGUST 15, 2019

STREAM K.FLAY'S NEW ALBUM "SOLUTIONS" HERE.

CARIANN: Hi Kristine, this is Cariann from l'Odet. How are you?


K.FLAY: Oh hey, Cariann. I'm good. Just drinking some coffee. You know, preparing to face the day in earnest shortly.


C: Perfect. [Laughs] Okay, well great. I really appreciate you talking to me today.


K: Yeah, of course.


C: I thought you would be perfect [for l'Odet]. And I think I originally emailed your team because you were going to be at Bonnaroo, and we did a panel at there this year. But how was performing, was it your first time performing at Bonnaroo?


K: You know, it was actually my second time. The first time I played Bonnaroo was the first festival — like, big festival — I ever played. So it was cool to come back and have a little bit more experience under my belt. I remember the first time, and when I played that first show, I pretty much almost had a panic attack before going on stage. [Laughs] It was the biggest crowd I had ever played to. I was definitely freaked out. 


But that’s weirdly the nice thing – once you've been a touring musician for a little bit, there are these touchstones that force you to reminisce on or reckon with a past experience. It was great. We had a blast.


C: It was my first time going, but like I said, we did a panel. So I don’t think it was the real normal experience. It went pretty well, but festivals are...something. They are definitely a specific scene. It was a lot.


K: Oh yeah, undoubtedly. I think I'd say it's a whole world, and especially Bonnaroo, they really create that world. I know there are definitely people who have been going every year for however long the festival has been in existence.


C: That's insane, but I respect it. I respect it. So I did want to ask — you have an album coming out in just a few days, right?


K: I do. Yes. Thursday at midnight.


C: Oh my gosh. What are your feelings? What are your thoughts?


K: Is this a four hour interview? [Laughs]


C: [Laughs] I was about to say, you actually might need a whole day.


K: [Laughs] Yeah, can I? Hm...I think my thoughts are – I mean my thoughts are ever-changing, right? There are moments when I feel incredibly excited and proud and optimistic. And those are the moments, honestly, when I think about the spirit in which I made the record, the people that I worked with, my fundamental goals in doing music — which are really simple: to express myself authentically and to help people connect to their own experiences in life and give them just maybe a moment of relief, maybe a moment of clarity, maybe a moment of joy, you know, like whatever those little things are. When I think about all of that rational and real stuff, I feel good. 


And then when I think about all the other bullshit that is easy to get caught up in, I do start to feel anxious, and I think that's a pretty normal way to feel. And I will say the former feeling is vastly outweighing the latter. It's just negative, maladaptive thoughts have a very particular way of burrowing inside one's brain.

C: Right. Your team sent me some things to check out as talking points, but I don't think they included the article in GQ. I read it a couple days ago; I’ve been wondering about influence as I've been listening to your music, but I hadn't thought about the love interest. So I'm really interested after reading that to see, are there any really personal songs on the record? I'm guessing that there are.


K: Yeah, I mean there's one love song on the record, which I actually wrote pretty early in our relationship. It's called “Nervous” and it's about that feeling of being nervous when something – when you feel like something big is happening and good is happening and it's new. And I think, you know, it's just one of the great things about falling in love in general or even making a new close friend – there's something pretty magical about that feeling and that experience. 


I think being in love, falling in love, and being in this relationship informed a lot of my headspace for the record because, in a practical sense — we talked a little bit about this [in the GQ Interview] — I think we're both good influences on each other from a day-to-day living standpoint. It’s sort of weird being a musician and it's easy to lose your way. I think it's been really nice to have somebody holding me down and for me to feel like I can do that for someone else, too. I think that kept me very even-keeled during this album process and made me feel really hopeful in a lot of ways. You know — being, falling, agreeing to fall in love with someone or letting yourself do that, you have to be optimistic. There's a hopefulness inherent in that process. I think this whole record for me was me saying, okay, last record and in the past, I feel like I was focused on problems so heavily. This time around — you know what? I actually want to find some real answers to my problems, and maybe there's a way I can do that in my songwriting.


C: Yeah, definitely. That's just amazing. A lot of artists or creative people glamorize being sad, or, you know, being in a depression, because they think it's the only way that they can make good art.


K: Yeah. I mean, this is such a big conversation. I think what always strikes me as interesting is that you have to be willing to engage with pain on some level in order to make compelling art. I think art derives – even really happy art – derives from pain, different forms of pain, disappointment, angst, fear, these sorts of things. I don't think you need to – I think engaging with those feelings is vastly different from being those feelings. I always think about old school authors like Emily Dickinson. She was pretty much just up in a room in a house. It's not like she was out doing drugs and clubbing and living this life in order to make art that feels resonant and full and emotional. So I think the human imagination is a very powerful thing. I just feel like sometimes the imagination gets underestimated in this capacity.

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C: Yeah. I think the first time I heard your single “Bad Vibes” I was really surprised subject matter-wise because what I took from it is that it's okay to be happy. Like, you don't always have to be so negative. I just love that, especially in today's world when it's like a fucking dumpster fire everywhere you look. [Laughs]


K: Yeah! Totally. I think sometimes it feels like there's sort of like an acceptance and, not just a glamorization, but an acceptance of yeah, of course. I think there's this really fine line between productive cynicism and unproductive cynicism. In order to have a vibrant, safe, and non-authoritarian society, you need to have cynicism. I think it is an important characteristic of a person and of a population. But I think there's a point when, you know – and I think many of us have an internal sense of it – that tips into the zone of actually not propelling us towards productive action and progress. Not to quote “Field of Dreams,” but, "If you build it, they will come." You have to believe that there has to be some weird blind belief that hopefulness is important.


C: Yeah, definitely. Also, you just speak really well. I can tell you're very intelligent which is true because you studied at Stanford. [Laughs]


K: Well, I mean, they let some idiots in, don't go by that. [Laughs] But thank you, I appreciate that.


C: Yeah of course. Well, I was wondering – and I know you're in your thirties now – how your education and passions, I guess intelligence-wise, inform your songwriting and your music.


K: Well, at the beginning, I think the way that all shook out is that I just have a very strong work ethic. And I'm curious about things. I mean, that's why I started doing music in the first place. I basically got curious and I explored that curiosity. Then it was like, all right, well I'm going to do school, and I'm going to care about that, but I'm also going to learn Pro Tools. At the time I was using Reason to program and make beats and stuff. I'm going to learn Photoshop, and I'm going to use my learning tools in this different domain with music. More fundamentally, I would like to think that I've fostered and cultivated that curiosity throughout my post-schooling life, and I do think curiosity is just such an important thing to have inside of you. 


I actually got asked to speak at Stanford – so this big crowd of incoming freshmen – just a couple months ago. It was really cool – it was a totally freeform talk. I wasn't given any instructions except that this is a platform for me to share how my experience at school and in college has affected adult life. I get asked about it sometimes in interviews, but I hadn't thought about it in this really concerted fashion for this sort of event. And I just kept circling back to this feeling of the ever-burning flame of curiosity and openness to the world. I think one of the great things that happened for me, and I don't know if you've had a similar experience with schooling, but it sort of disabused me of the notion that I am an authority on anything, you know? [Laughs] And in a good way, not in a beating-me-down way, but like, "Hey, the world is huge and gigantic and there's so many ways to think about it, and the notion that your way of thinking about it somehow is the correct way, the only way, the most illuminating way, whatever, is really an illusion.” 


I think you have to have that little voice inside of you going really? or why? This is a very long-winded way of saying I think I've maintained a high level of curiosity, and I think that curiosity is the reason that my music has never adhered to one genre or one set of sonic rules. I think it's why I've dipped in and out of delivery styles in terms of doing stuff that's really rhythmic and atonal, sort of in the rap world too – highly melodic. I genuinely do that out of the spirit of curiosity. There's less of a tangible way in which it manifests, but it feels like it's the spiritual guiding light for me.

I think one of the great things you can do as you mature is just become bigger and bigger.

I think one of the great things you can do as you mature is just become bigger and bigger.

I think one of the great things you can do as you mature is just become bigger and bigger.

C: Right. I can kind of relate to that educational experience. I'm really young, only 24, so I graduated in 2017 from college, and my university experience is actually why I started the brand and the platform because, like you said, it snapped me out of this very naive way of thinking that I know everything and that the world revolves around me, like most kids do – especially creative kids. I would make things and be like, "Oh my god, this is amazing. No one's ever made anything like this," which sounds dumb. But as a 17 year old kid, I don't know. That's the mindset. 


There's a certain confidence to the former which is really beautiful. But I also went to a really conservative, religious school. It was very interesting. I think in a lot of ways, I snapped out of that very conservative and narrow-minded way of thinking to another. Like, "I don't know anything, but neither do any of you guys, and you're acting like you know everything." So yeah, I totally understand what you're saying. It's – I do think that life is about continuously, you know, snapping out of things and being curious about what's coming and what's next.


K: Totally. I think one of the great things you can do as you mature is just become bigger and bigger. In a sense of what you're interested in, what you know, the places you go – and even if they're just places in your mind, I think there's this idea that the world can sometimes squeeze us. The best thing we can do is stretch our arms out and just be like, no, I'm staying big. You know? And really fight for that. It's important to do, and it's hard to do because there's a lot of things encouraging us not to.


C: Yeah, absolutely. I honestly wrote down – you had so much about you that's so interesting – about three pages of things that I could bring up. So I'm looking at that, trying to figure out what to wrap up with. 


I know that you've talked a lot about coming from a blended family. Anytime I've talked to someone on l'Odet about family, it really resonates with my readers. I think a lot of people come from broken families, or different kinds of families that aren't really normal, so I kind of wanted to ask you about that and see what your outlook was.


K: Yeah. I mean, I think this idea of a normal family at this point is pretty abnormal. Whatever our “Leave It To Beaver” idea of a nuclear family is, just in my experience, speaking to people and knowing their families – it's just not the norm in any sense. I think most people have complex family arrangements. And you know, the great lesson there for me has been, I have two fathers in my life. One is my biological father, who was around until he died when I was 14, and my other dad who adopted me after my biological dad died, but who primarily raised me. My parents had split custody, so I was with my dad, my biological dad a bit, but I was primarily raised by my mom and my other dad. And I have a brother and sister who have different biological parents from me. And so we have these shared experiences, but then we also have experiences that were unique to us. 


I think as a young person, and by that I mean 12 years old, 13 years old, that difference – that sense of difference or alienation felt really acute to me. I always felt like I wanted to be their real sister. And I wanted whatever this vision of a normal family, a simple family is. For instance, I'm the only person with my last name. Everybody else has a different last name. Things like this made me feel separate and somehow like an outsider. I think I focused on that a lot, and what I've realized – my siblings and I are now adults; my sister's going to have a baby, the next generation is coming. [Laughs] But we've built this wonderful sibling-dom together, and it doesn't have to do with any blood relationship. It has to do with the understanding, and I think a lot of us have this [understanding] – especially if we have come from some type of tough family situation or maybe there are absent people and there are roles that are missing – that family is a thing you create, and it's not a given in a lot of ways. I think that's a beautiful thing to be celebrated. 


You know, that it mattered to me to have a relationship with my parents and my siblings. And even though my dad isn't biologically related to me and my siblings aren't either, and even though my siblings have a life and set of experiences with their biological mom, that doesn't mean we can't build a supportive family together. I think that feeling is really common. When I talk to people about this, either from the blended families or folks who, for whatever reason their family just wasn't there for them and they built a different kind of family with friends that then sort of became those people. I think the way that I see family is that it's a really nuanced thing and this idealized notion of what it should be is dangerous. Because I think it makes a lot of us feel really lonely when we don't need to. And it doesn't immediately offer these ways in which I have seen so many people create their family in beautiful ways. 


So yeah, that's kind of how I think, and I have a song on the record — it's the last song; it's called “DNA” and it means a lot to me, and it's really me talking about my relationship with my biological dad. I look like him. And people say it, and he's no longer in the room since he's been dead for almost 20 years. You know, that's a long time. He's not been here on this earth for quite some time, but people still say, "Oh yeah, you look like your dad." The songs about how, for a long time, I didn't want to be like him and I really directed my life in a way that was the opposite. And as I've gotten older, I've realized that there's parts of him that I can embrace, too, and have some peace with this idea that where we come from matters, but it also doesn't because we make our own lives and there's something beautiful about understanding both sides of that. And that's, yeah. That's kinda where I've ended up.


C: That's really beautiful. I relate to that a lot too with my own family. Everybody has family stuff.


K: That's for sure. Well, this was a great conversation.


C: Yeah, thank you so much for talking to me. I really appreciate it. And good luck with the album coming out on Thursday!


K: Thank you!

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For general inquiries, please contact us at hello@midnight-woman.com

 

For advertising opportunities, please write to us at goldie@midnight-woman.com

 

Have you been to Midnight Woman? That's our sister.

Midnight Woman is an online platform that welcomes contributors of all kinds to submit personal experiences anonymously.

We aim to redefine the way we talk about what's happened to us, no matter the subject. l'Odet exists for the named to encourage the nameless.

Midnight Woman is an online platform that welcomes contributors of all kinds to submit personal experiences.

We aim to redefine the way we talk about what's happened to us, no matter the subject. L'Odet exists for the named to encourage the nameless.