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K.Flay Talks Rap, Literature – and Why She Refuses to Play by the Rules

The Grammy-nominated artist draws inspiration from some unlikely sources

Illinois-born, two-time Grammy nominee Kristine Meredith Flaherty, aka K.Flay, rocks to her own beat. The genre-crossing artist refuses to play by the rules and her lyrics are raw and real – just like her.

“I’ve never felt boxed in by myself or a scene or a method of recording or songwriting or rapping vs. singing or one genre or the other,” Flaherty explains to Rolling Stone. “It’s been at times confounding both for myself and for other people but absolutely a life that at a glance back has been really, definitely liberating and an exciting way to make music.”

While Flaherty originally learned guitar from her father at nine years old, it wasn’t until she was 19 that she really got into music: someone challenged her to make a song, so she did.

“I reached this point in my life by being open to things and having no expectations or rules about how both my life and musical life were going to transpire,” Flaherty says. “I stumbled into music haphazardly in college and then took every opportunity as people came into my life; I just sort of said yes.”

While her explicit lyrics and non-conformist style might suggest Flaherty was naturally a rebel, the Stanford-grad says she’s always been “very academically inclined.”

“I was a very regimented teenager,” she says. “Music was totally outside of that; the great struggle for me and joy with music is that it pushed me very, very deeply out of that regimented comfort zone.

“Part of me knew I needed to let loose and be uncomfortable a little bit,” she continues. “Music was the way I was able to get there.”

When she moved to the San Francisco Bay area in college, the diverse, culturally rich region was a launching pad for new experiences, ideas and musical influences.

While these new influences—particularly rap—have made their way into her music, Flaherty’s natural inclination towards academia – and particularly literature – inspire her music as well.

“One of the things I love about all kinds of writing whether its songwriting, novels, non-fiction or poetry is the detail,” she says. “That’s the only thing on my mind when I’m writing music.

“There’s this conception that if you make a phrase really general then more people will relate to it,” she continues. “My orientation if you make the phrase really specific it evokes a stronger image that more people will connect with.”

Her unique approach to songwriting has resulted in a sound that is relevant yet unexpected. Her layered, raspy vocals deliver her intricate lyrics in a way that gets under the listener’s skin – in the best of ways.

“When you actually break down most songs, most novels, most films are about the same kind of things like love, alienation, identity, family,” she says. “My writing is about having to capture the same idea in a slightly novel way.”

That personal touch and
emphasis on honesty has earned Flaherty a serious fan base. Catch K.Flay at the
2018 Grammy Awards where she has been nominated in two categories (Best Rock
Song and Best Engineered Album, Non Classical) and on tour in early 2018.

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