photo by: Koury Angelo
K.Flay talks the inspiration behind Solutions, the influence of Imagine Dragons and waking up with fire
“I Like Myself (Most of the Time)”, “Sister”, “Nervous”, “Not in California” – these are just some of the song titles on K.Flay’s moving new record entitled, Solutions.
As a voice of the artist platform, it is a necessary ingredient to not overcomplicate as we submerse into the creative process and ripple effect of the artist we are partnering with, and simply ask ourselves – what is the artist saying? What is causing this connection? Simply, what is the voice?
Solutions offers a fresh perspective on how a true artist digs deep within and is able to turn true feelings that we all deal with into a beautiful, well, …solution. For the audience, that could be – connecting to the radiating voice in a way to call your own. For K.Flay, it’s in-part an opportunity to grow artistically while also staying true to your roots.
I recently had the chance to speak with K.Flay hours before taking the stage in Boston. We jumped right into the inspiration behind Solutions – the road maps, turning the clocks back, and visions of dissonance while searching for synonyms. Ultimately, K.Flay explained while even wrestling through “Bad Vibes” there are always opportunities to look up at the clouds and see the light peaking out.
Solutions has officially been released, you are now touring the world, how are you? How does it feel?
I feel great. Part of the broader inspiration for this record in general was my psychological and physical state after almost three years of touring the last record. It was super-fun, but also very intense. I lost track of taking good care of myself. While making Solutions, I got my own apartment, bought a couch and literally this is the first time I’ve been the person on the utility bill. Doing little things like that to ground me both geographically and psychologically, was a big part of making this record, and it reflects this level of searching for stability because that’s what I was going through. Now, I’ve continued that – this is the healthiest I’ve been on tour. I’m really focused on the show especially in the climate we’re in right now. I want the show to be three hours of relief.
I love one-word titles like Solutions. It’s almost harder to come up with something concise and in a song, a strong one-word title often has a ton of meaning behind it.
The title Solutions came to me early in the process. What appealed to me about it was the fascinating nature of the word. On one hand it’s the response to a question – the solution to a problem, but a solution is also a liquid. There’s this mathematical symbology to it. It struck a lot of chords with me in that way. One of the themes running through my music across the years has been alcohol and my father’s issues with it. It’s been me grappling with it in my life and how I want to live. I think I’ve really made peace with that in a beautiful way, and in some ways, this felt like the culmination of that journey. So, I like the liquid connotation to it.
Dan Reynolds wrote “This Baby Don’t Cry With You” and you’ve toured with Imagine Dragons quite a bit. Reynolds always has a ton of passion behind his purpose. How has being around people like that influenced you and how did that come out in Solutions?
We opened for Imagine Dragons in both the U.S. and in Europe, so we got to spend a lot of time with them. The two biggest things I got from them, watching them as a band and Dan specifically as a front-person, was first and foremost, how to put on a show with peaks and valleys. My time in arenas is really affecting what we have created in the club setting. The cool thing about arena shows are there are these acts to them where one section is thematical and then it can move to a quieter time. I’ve made an effort to do that in this club setting. The second thing I have learned is that – Dan is a real motivator. As a frontperson he conveys a lot of hope and positivity to a lot of people, not just through the songs, but what he says and his body language. Watching that and being close to it every day made me want to do that too and create music that felt hopeful.
photo by: Koury Angelo
One of the things that centered me in making this album was thinking about the scariest thing that I could do. And that was to try to be positive. It’s easy to say you are dark and your life sucks, nobody is going to bash you for that. I’ve felt like that before, so it’s a valid point of view, but for me this time, it felt scarier to think – OK, I have felt that way, but how can I reframe that situation to look to try and change and make things a little better for myself and the people in my life? So, being around that positivity on tour with Imagine Dragons and Dan who is involved with the backend of things as well, I think certainly had an impact on me.
Have you made an effort to collaborate with artists who share your spirited approach? Tom Morello also comes to mind, I recall him saying you were one of the only artists he cold called on his latest record
Having been in Los Angeles for a year working on the record, I now see there’s a real community of truly decent people who are trying to do something positive – who are really hardworking and really talented. I feel like I’m starting to build this community of people that I respect and who inspire me to make music like this.
Given Solutions is such a personal record, how has it translated live? How has it felt for you seeing these songs take on a new experience?
It’s translated great. We also took time to rehearse properly, which was very helpful. There was more time to plan with this album and think things through. So, the songs have felt really enjoyable. It’s a bit of relief now performing them. Relief can take on multiple forms. When we play “Blood in the Cut” for example, that’s relief in that its energy and there’s something exciting when the heavy riff comes in – it feels like a release. You can be in the best mood and that song feels fun or you can be in a horrible mood and it feels angry. With the new record, a lot of those songs have that same duality. “This Baby Don’t Cry” for instance, I think the songs is super fun. It’s interesting because the day I wrote that song I was upset, and I had been crying. That was the point – I think being sensitive is a super-power, crying is strength. But some people get very emotional when we play that song whereas I am now up there dancing around. Everyone is interpreting these songs according to their lives and that’s been really special to see.
photo by: Koury Angelo
The video for “Not in California” came out at a unique time during the U.N. summit, how was that experience for you?
It was great. Every generation has certain battles with what matters and how they are going to change culture and the world. This feels quite dramatic in terms of the stakes. As a young person making music, I want to be one of the voices who can say we need to change how we are interacting with our environment. The smaller voices you have doing that, that’s how you create a consensus, and effectively, that’s what needs to happen. I’m very proud of that video and the team that put it together. It turned out exactly how I wanted it to. If it impacts one person’s life, then we succeeded.
Coming full circle here, if you think about your journey to this point and all you put into the new record, what does this Solutions moment mean to you?
It’s a reminder that every day is a day to make a change or do the thing you wanted to do. Every morning when I wake up, I’m like “OK, well now I get to try again.” There’s something really exciting about that, and maybe haunting at times. But for me with this record and being out on the road, it’s reminding me that every day I have the power to do better and the power to be excited, curious and active. I want to extend my energy to other people and not be inwardly focused.