5 Questions for K.Flay: Beauty of collaboration is “unpredictability of the chemistry”

Songwriter, performer and general badass K.Flay (born Kristine Meredith Flaherty) is as much a star thinker and communicator as she is artist and composer. Philosophical and contemplative, K.Flay, who released a new LP this year, MONO, is as ready to write lyrics over as beat as she is to discuss the patterns of planetary formation.

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And we’re here for it! To wit, here below, we caught up with K.Flay to discuss some of her favorite songs of the year, how she writes music and lyrics, what her favorite news story of 2023 was, and more. So, sit back and bask in the abilities, from melody-making to conversation starts, with one of the masters in the music world.

[RELATED: K.Flay Talks Hearing Loss, Humor and Her New LP ‘MONO’]

American Songwriter: When you’re going to co-write or collaborate with another artist, either for one of your songs or theirs, how do you approach the experience?

K.Flay: I usually try to go in with as few expectations or “intentions” as possible. Maybe intentions isn’t the right word, but what I mean is that I try not to limit or constrain the collaboration before it begins. I think the beauty of creativity with another person is the unpredictability of the chemistry, the very specific alchemy of your personal histories, your present realities, how hungry you are, what article you read yesterday, whose friend is going through a breakup. If you try to engineer a collaboration in advance, you miss out on all of the chaos, all of the surprises. and those are often the spaces in which interesting things get made.

AS: When you write lyrics, what thing or two do you keep in mind—either a technique like alliteration or a way of voicing a story succinctly? Another way of asking this is what tip or trick do you hold to close when writing lyrics, if anything?

K.Flay: When writing lyrics, it’s very top of mind for me how the words actually feel to sing. A lot of songs (including my own) don’t make 100% literal sense, but they evoke something that rings true. Like when Jack White says, “I’m going to Wichita,” he means, “I am leaving town, I am getting the hell out of this place.” But it feels way cooler and more succinct and more memorable to express that feeling the way he does, even though the listener likely has no frame of reference for the actual town of Wichita. So I try to follow my gut on that stuff, and trust the emotion of certain words or phrases or images, and not get too caught up in the literal nature of things.

AS: When it comes to news stories of 2023, what was one that really raised your eyebrow when it came to the world of music?

K.Flay: I don’t know that much about music news, to be honest, but I did come across an amazing story about the formation of the moon. Scientists have built new simulations that hypothesize that the Moon was formed in a matter of hours, after a planetary object—Theia—collided directly with an early version of the Earth, and that both the Earth and the Moon are comprised of this amalgamation of Earth and Theia, which is pretty cool to me. And I guess because the Moon is relatively small, its magma eventually cooled, forming those “seas” or dark spots on its surface. Since the Earth is large and has a core that stays extremely hot, our magma is still flowing hot and free. But it’s interesting to think that Earth as we know it may be a combination of elements from two giant molten objects. And that the moon might have been built in an afternoon!

AS: What were your one or two favorite songs or artists or albums from 2023?

K.Flay: “Bullet Man” by Paris Texas, and “Punk’s Dead” from Soft Play.

AS: What are your hopes for 2024 personally, professionally or for the world?

K.Flay: Personally, I’m looking forward to bringing my new album, MONO, to life on tour. Plus, I’m releasing some more new music. I kind of slacked on reading this year, so I’m also trying to read a lot of books. Oh, and I’m trying to work on my hip mobility too. But seriously I am. My back is all messed up and apparently your hips are the key.

Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images

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