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K.Flay On Embracing Inner Wildness & Working With Tom Morello On Her Brazen New EP 'Inside Voices'

K.Flay

Photo: Ashley Osborn

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K.Flay On Embracing Inner Wildness & Working With Tom Morello On Her Brazen New EP 'Inside Voices'

Kristine Flaherty finds refuge in her K.Flay moniker as an outlet for her most brash, noisy, colorful side—and 'Inside Voices' is her most personality-packed offering yet

GRAMMYs/Jun 11, 2021 - 07:31 pm

Kristine Flaherty's name is not Katherine. This is a bizarre phenomenon. Over the better part of a decade, she's been misnamed and misidentified all over the planet for mysterious reasons. "So, Katherine? Katherine, right?" she tells GRAMMY.com, mimicking a terminally underprepared European interviewer. Rather than leave it alone as a pet peeve, the singer/songwriter turned it into a declaration of self: "My Name Isn't Katherine."

"It started as a joke, but then it became this meditation on 'What does it feel like to be named? What is that experience like?'" she continues. "Your name is the accumulation of hopes and dreams and fears and the context of your parents and forebears. What does it feel like to be called by the wrong name and not seen and sort of misidentified?"

This age-old question—"What's in a name?"—not only applies to the pronouns-in-bio era, but the artist known as K.Flay herself. Within this persona, the easygoing, polite and articulate artist is free to be a flippant, extroverted provocateur. Her new EP, Inside Voices, which released June 11, contains the K.Flay persona in all her multitudes. It all wraps up with "My Name Isn't Katherine," sealing its central theme of identity.

Being flippant and absurd doesn't quite jibe with social media, where declarative statements by artists are parsed like court records. K.Flay is deeply aware of this paradigm but views art as a porous place to have difficult discussions. "It's no surprise that people seek out comedy and music and literature and visual art and all these things as a salve for the harshness of the world," she says. "They're not able to, on a daily basis, have that catharsis or sublimation or expression.

GRAMMY.com had an in-depth Zoom conversation with K.Flay about the genesis of Inside Voices, working with Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello on the EP and how unfiltered self-expression T-bones with social media.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

I like how extroverted and full of melodies and attitude your music is. You're not holding back with anything. Is that an intentional approach?

I think, at first, it was not intentional. But then, once it became apparent, I leaned the f* into it. I started working on my next project of music right before quarantine, so many of these songs began in their infancy in a pre-quarantine world and then developed and were produced and recorded and became themselves during the pandemic.

In many ways, this has been a time when I have fleshed out the essence of the difference between Kristine and K.Flay. In interviews, people are often like, "Is there a difference?" and I'm like "No." But actually, there's a huge difference. I don't know why I was saying that. There's a giant difference and it's basically what I talk about in "Four Letter Words."

Which is, I'm usually nice. I'm polite and try to be on time and respectful of others and never yell. I sort of fear confrontation in many ways. As K.Flay, I don't. I'm very expressive. I'm often fairly profane. This is where I'm able to be this; it's my alter-ego. But of course, it's a part of me. My psychological process on this EP and new music is a full embracing of that.

It's not a gratuitous celebration, but, I think, a justified celebration of: Hey, that's a part of me too. That's great, and I'm going to channel it through music and hopefully be self-aware and have enough of a sense of humor that people understand what I'm saying—that I'm in on the joke and know what I'm saying.

In many ways, this is the most confrontational music I've made. At first, that was uncomfortable. I think we all have these boundaries that feel like, "If I stay inside this space, I'm not really ruffling any feathers but I can still be edgy, or I'm still pushing the envelope a little bit." With this EP, I did feel like I was going out of my comfort zone, which is usually when you're on to something.

Is it just me, or are we living through the most humorless, self-serious era of the last several centuries?

Oh, my god. Yeah.

When I was very young and my parents were going through this very acrimonious split, my mom and I had this vagabond period for a year, kind of roaming around. We had this horrible night and we were going to a friend's house. We were both crying and [it was] raining. My mom was like, "We're going to laugh about this someday." And the minute she said that, it broke the spell. We both started laughing.

It is not always possible, in the moment, to see the humor in things. Certainly, there are things that are just not funny. However, many things in life, whether it's due to absurdity, whether it's due to its physical humor, have that element of humor. 

It's been important to me throughout my career to have that sensibility and to embrace it and acknowledge that it doesn't make what I'm doing less tough or less serious. In fact, I would say, for me, it kind of deepens it.

This moment hasn't been so conducive to that sense of release—of grappling with unknowns and reckoning with the things we're all thinking but can't say. Still, certain songwriters such as yourself aren't afraid to potentially piss people off.

Yeah, I think that's the role of somebody who makes art or music or comedy or whatever for a living.

I think about this frequently. My brother and sister, for instance, have normal jobs. They work within an institution. My sister works for the government. So she can't just go spouting off and say, "I'm usually nice, but f you!" She can't say that at work. And she can't say, "The world is run by lunatics, so who gives a f? Let's light it up!" [Lyrics from "TGIF."] She definitely can't say that.

I think as a person—and particularly as a songwriter and musician—your job is to say the things other people are thinking and feeling, because you have some immunity there. Your work isn't in peril when you express yourself. In fact, your work is at its best when you express yourself.

To me, it's no surprise that people seek out comedy and music and literature and visual art and all these things as a salve for the harshness of the world—because they're not able to, on a daily basis, have that catharsis or sublimation or expression.

How'd you end up working with Tom Morello on Inside Voices?

I've known Tom for about four years. He actually cold-emailed me four years ago. He said, "Hey, I got your email address. I heard your song on the radio with my kids. I was driving them to school and I thought it was cool. Do you want to talk on the phone?" I was like, "What the f*?"

Anyhow, we ended up having a great conversation. I collaborated with him on his solo record called Atlas Underground. We did a song called "Lucky One." I loved that experience, and Tom and I got the chance to actually get to know each other and spend time together. I really appreciate his intellect and creativity. And, perhaps most significantly, his openness to music.

So, I just texted Tom: "Hey, I'm working on this song. This is what it sounds like. Would you possibly be down to play guitar? I think it'd be a perfect fit. Also, I already mentioned Rage Against the Machine in the song, so it seems like kismet.

Everyone's probably asked you about your favorite songs on Inside Voices. Instead, what are your favorite moments?

[One of] my favorite moments on the EP is In "TGIF," when the first drop hits. The producers I worked on this—who are two of my best friends—we were texting about this this morning. Man, we layered so much s*. What I was saying to them is: This song has to feel demented. Gnarly, weird and sort of dissonant. You don't know what instrument it is. It just sounds like a guttural thing.

I think the moment when we layered saxophone, me screaming, drop C guitar, some weird mellotrons that were put through [processing]—all of this noise, but following the riff. The first time I heard that I was like, "OK. I feel this, and I feel that this song is giving me power." It went from an idea that was cool to something that felt bigger than the sum of its parts.

There's also a moment in "My Name Isn't Katherine," which is the last song on the EP, where two-thirds into the song, it goes into this super-heavy sub-breakdown section where it feels like the song is considering its own weight, or whatever. 

That song started out as a joke because people have been consistently, incorrectly calling me Katherine for about eight years now.

Oof.

I don't know why, but it's everywhere. All over the world. Doing interviews in Germany, Russia, they're like, "So, Katherine? Katherine, right?" I don't know where the miscommunication is happening, because I'm very open about my name. 

So it started as a joke, but then it became this meditation on "What does it feel like to be named? What is that experience like?" Because of course, your name is the accumulation of hopes and dreams and fears and the context of your parents and forebears. What does it feel like to be called by the wrong name and not seen and sort of misidentified?

I think people feel that with their name. I think people feel that with their gender. Often with their ethnic or racial identity. There are many ways in which people are misidentified and misunderstood.

When we were trying to make this song, we finally got to that point and I was like, "I think this is a song and it should go on this." But it didn't make sense to me until we reached that really heavy section.

I feel like the central question of this moment is "Who am I?"

It's super interesting. I think at the heart of putting your pronouns on Instagram and being front-facing with some of these identifiers is an effort to preempt that misunderstanding, because the misunderstanding feels very upsetting.

I'm sure there's a whole psychology to it depending on the nature of the misunderstanding, but perhaps in a world where arguably any human being can be more known than ever—everyone's at an all-time high of knowability—it's also, strangely, because of maybe the wide spectrum of identifiers, the apex of being totally unknown and misunderstood.

That strikes me as a pretty interesting juxtaposition. I don't know if I have any insight about it other than that's the case.

Juliana Hatfield On Independent Thinking, Living In A Nuance-Free World & Her Unflinching New Album 'Blood'

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GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

On Aug. 28 Nashville Chapter GRAMMY U members took part in GRAMMY SoundChecks with Gavin DeGraw. Approximately 30 students gathered at music venue City Hall and watched DeGraw play through some of the singles from earlier in his career along with "Cheated On Me" from his latest self-titled album.

In between songs, DeGraw conducted a question-and-answer session and inquired about the talents and goals of the students in attendance. He gave inside tips to the musicians present on how to make it in the industry and made sure that every question was answered before moving onto the next song.

 

Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

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Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

 GRAMMY.com

 Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/performer Juan Gabriel will be celebrated as the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. Juan Gabriel, chosen for his professional accomplishments as well as his commitment to philanthropic efforts, will be recognized at a star-studded concert and black tie dinner on Nov. 4 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nev. 

The "Celebration with Juan Gabriel" gala will be one of the most prestigious events held during Latin GRAMMY week, a celebration that culminates with the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The milestone telecast will be held at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 5 and will be broadcast live on the Univision Television Network at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central. 

"As we celebrate this momentous decade of the Latin GRAMMYs, The Latin Recording Academy and its Board of Trustees take great pride in recognizing Juan Gabriel as an extraordinary entertainer who never has forgotten his roots, while at the same time having a global impact," said Latin Recording Academy President Gabriel Abaroa. "His influence on the music and culture of our era has been tremendous, and we welcome this opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a voice that strongly resonates within our community.

Over the course of his 30-year career, Juan Gabriel has sold more than 100 million albums and has performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. He has produced more than 100 albums for more than 50 artists including Paul Anka, Lola Beltran, Rocío Dúrcal, and Lucha Villa among many others. Additionally, Juan Gabriel has written more than 1,500 songs, which have been covered by such artists as Marc Anthony, Raúl Di Blasio, Ana Gabriel, Angelica María, Lucia Mendez, Estela Nuñez, and Son Del Son. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Oct. 5 "The Day of Juan Gabriel." The '90s saw his induction into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame and he joined La Opinion's Tributo Nacional Lifetime Achievement Award recipients list. 

At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was already writing his own songs and in 1971 recorded his first hit, "No Tengo Dinero," which landed him a recording contract with RCA. Over the next 14 years, he established himself as Mexico's leading singer/songwriter, composing in diverse styles such as rancheras, ballads, pop, disco, and mariachi, which resulted in an incredible list of hits ("Hasta Que Te Conocí," "Siempre En Mi Mente," "Querida," "Inocente Pobre Amigo," "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," "Amor Eterno," "El Noa Noa," and "Insensible") not only for himself  but for many leading Latin artists. In 1990, Juan Gabriel became the only non-classical singer/songwriter to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and the album release of that concert, Juan Gabriel En Vivo Desde El Palacio De Bellas Artes, broke sales records and established his iconic status. 

After a hiatus from recording, Juan Gabriel released such albums as Gracias Por Esperar, Juntos Otra Vez, Abrázame Muy Fuerte, Los Gabriel…Para Ti, Juan Gabriel Con La Banda…El Recodo, and El Mexico Que Se Nos Fue, which were all certified gold and/or platinum by the RIAA. In 1996, to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the music industry, BMG released a retrospective set of CDs entitled 25 Aniversario, Solos, Duetos, y Versiones Especiales, comprised appropriately of 25 discs.   

In addition to his numerous accolades and career successes, Juan Gabriel has been a compassionate and generous philanthropist. He has donated all proceeds from approximately 10 performances a year to his favorite children's foster homes, and proceeds from fan photo-ops go to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, he founded Semjase, an orphanage for approximately 120 children, which also serves as a music school with music, recreation and video game rooms. Today, he continues to personally fund the school he opened more than 22 years ago.   

Juan Gabriel will have the distinction of becoming the 10th Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honoree, and joins a list of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana among others who have been recognized. 

For information on purchasing tickets or tables to The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year tribute to Juan Gabriel, please contact The Latin Recording Academy ticketing office at 310.314.8281 or ticketing@grammy.com.

Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
Grizzled Mighty perform at Bumbershoot on Sept. 1

Photo: The Recording Academy

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Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Alexa Zaske
Seattle

This past Labor Day weekend meant one thing for many folks in Seattle: Bumbershoot, a three-decade-old music and arts event that consumed the area surrounding the Space Needle from Aug. 31–Sept. 2. Amid attendees wandering around dressed as zombies and participating in festival-planned flash mobs to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," this year the focus was on music from the Pacific Northwest region — from the soulful sounds of Allen Stone and legendary female rockers Heart, to the highly-awaited return of Death Cab For Cutie performing their 2003 hit album Transatlanticism in its entirety.

The festival started off on day one with performances by synth-pop group the Flavr Blue, hip-hop artist Grynch, rapper Nacho Picasso, psychedelic pop group Beat Connection, lively rapper/writer George Watsky, hip-hop group the Physics, and (my personal favorite), punk/dance band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Also performing on day one was Seattle folk singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, who was accompanied by the Passenger String Quartet. As always, Orlowski's songs were catchy and endearing yet brilliant and honest.

Day one came to a scorching finale with a full set from GRAMMY-nominated rock group Heart. Kicking off with their Top 20 hit "Barracuda," the set spanned three decades of songs, including "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "What About Love?" It became a gathering of Seattle rock greats when, during Heart's final song, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined for 1976's "Crazy On You."

Day two got off to an early start with performances from eccentric Seattle group Kithkin and Seattle ladies Mary Lambert and Shelby Earl, who were accompanied by the band Le Wrens. My highlight of the day was the Grizzled Mighty — a duo with a bigger sound than most family sized bands. Drummer Whitney Petty, whose stage presence and skills make for an exciting performance, was balanced out by the easy listening of guitarist and lead singer Ryan Granger.

Then the long-awaited moment finally fell upon Seattle when, after wrapping a long-awaited tour with the Postal Service, singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard returned to Seattle to represent another great success of the Pacific Northwest — Death Cab For Cutie. The band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their album Transatlanticism by performing it from front to back. While a majority of attendees opted to watch the set from an air-conditioned arena, some of us recognized the uniqueness of this experience and enjoyed the entire set lying in the grass where the entire performance was streamed. 

Monday was the day for soul and folk. Local blues/R&B group Hot Bodies In Motion have been making their way through the Seattle scene with songs such as "Old Habits," "That Darkness" and "The Pulse." Their set was lively and enticing to people who have seen them multiple times or never at all.

My other highlights of the festival included the Maldives, who delivered a fun performance with the perfect amount of satirical humor and folk. They represent the increasing number of Pacific Northwest bands who consist of many members playing different sounds while still managing to stay cohesive and simple. I embraced the return of folk/pop duo Ivan & Alyosha with open arms and later closed my festival experience with local favorite Stone.

For music fans in Seattle and beyond, the annual Bumbershoot festival is a must-attend.

(Alexa Zaske is the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's a music enthusiast and obsessed with the local Seattle scene.)

Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Neil Portnow and Jimmy Jam

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

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Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Jimmy Jam helps celebrate the outgoing President/CEO of the Recording Academy on the 61st GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Feb 11, 2019 - 10:58 am

As Neil Portnow's tenure as Recording Academy President/CEO draws to its end, five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam paid tribute to his friend and walked us through a brief overview of some of the Academy's major recent achievements, including the invaluable work of MusiCares, the GRAMMY Museum, Advocacy and more.

Portnow delivered a brief speech, acknowledging the need to continue to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in the music industry. He also seized the golden opportunity to say the words he's always wanted to say on the GRAMMY stage, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," showing his gratitude and respect for the staff, elected leaders and music community he's worked with during his career at the Recording Academy. "We can be so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together," Portnow added.

"As I finish out my term leading this great organization, my heart and soul are filled with gratitude, pride, for the opportunity and unequal experience," he continued. "Please know that my commitment to all the good that we do will carry on as we turn the page on the next chapter of the storied history of this phenomenal institution."

Full Winners List: 61st GRAMMY Awards