K.Flay’s risky path to ‘Solutions’

The multi-talented musician makes a stop at the Observatory on Thursday


Singer, rapper, and songwriter Kristine Flaherty is in a pretty good place right now. And a lot of that has to do with the recent release of her third studio album, Solutions.

Following 2016’s Crush Me EP and 2017’s Grammy-nominated Every Where Is Some Where, Solutions is yet another collection on Interscope’s Night Street Records – an imprint founded by Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons.

It also stands as the Chicago-born, Bay Area-bred artist’s most directly personal work since she adopted the moniker K.Flay and self-released her debut EP in 2010.

But after the marathon touring for the last record and EP left her emotionally, creatively and physically battered, the honesty, self-reflection, and joy that accompanied the making of Solutions came at just the right time.

And as an artist who is quickly approaching the milestone of a decade spent making music, Flaherty understands just how important it is to have that synergy between her personal and professional lives back once again.

“I could have easily called my last record ‘Problems,’” she said recently from L.A. during a break in band rehearsals. “I was at a point in my life where there was a lot of inconsistency and low-level chaos. I was tired and I was yearning for a sense of home and stability. I was looking for answers. And in many ways, Solutions gave them to me.”

While Flaherty also acknowledges that the chaos in her life was many times as “energizing, exciting and inspiring” as it was debilitating, the 34-year-old performer is now at a point where coming off the road and feeling “broken” is no longer an acceptable place to re-boot the creative process.

So how did Solutions change all that? For starters, it stands as the first project on which the multi-instrumentalist made a concerted effort to swap out the metaphors and subtext of her lyrics for plainspoken self-confessionals.

A track like album opener “I Like Myself (Most of the Time)” is the kind of self-affirming revelation that could easily double as personal mantra away from the stage, and the infectiously catchy “Sister” is a literal olive branch to sections of the singer’s real-life estranged family.

The new album is also a product of the Stanford graduate adhering to her career-long belief that great art is usually the result of great risk.

“I wanted to be as vulnerable as I could be with this album,” said Flaherty. “And as I’ve learned over the years, vulnerability means asking yourself what is the riskiest thing that you can do emotionally? And for me, given what was going on in my life and the world, the riskiest thing I could do was to be realistic, straightforward, and kind of hopeful.”

Although that not might seem like a wildly revolutionary approach, initially, it wasn’t something that made Flaherty feel comfortable in any way.

“It was scary to me,” she said. “But it really was cathartic. Because once you get the scariest thing out of the way, what else is there to be afraid of? And both psychologically and spiritually, I needed that in my life.”

Flaherty hits the road to promote Solutions and the tour makes its second-night stop in San Diego on Thursday, Sept. 5, at the Observatory in North Park.

The live act is back to a 3-piece, and while its bandleader was coy about the details, she was able to say that “it’s going to be a crazy set.”

And if Flaherty was asking questions about her future like, “how am I going to do this?” after the last time she toured the globe for months on end, fans can be assured that her recent paradigm shift has inspired creativity moving forward.

“It’s exciting to know that I can keep charting new territory,” said Flaherty. “And as long as I stay true to myself, continue to take risks, and am excited by what I’m doing, I’m going to continue to make records.”

Details: K.Flay with Houses and Your Smith. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5. Observatory, 2891 University Ave., North Park. $25; find tickets.