Kristine Flaherty, known professionally as K.Flay, is having a stellar year. The rising singer-songwriter scored her first Grammy nominations for Best Rock Song and Best Engineered Album — Non-Classical earlier this month, and her album "Every Where Is Some Where" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart.
It’s a future the 32-year-old, who graduated from Stanford University, never envisioned. In fact, her musical ambitions only kicked off in earnest after a chance conversation with her resident adviser at the Palo Alto campus.
“This is very, very far from what I every expected I would do,” K.Flay told NBC Bay Area in a phone conversation. "...But I think this lifestyle and this professional pursuit has put me into a lot of places that are outside my comfort zone, and I’m a pretty firm believer that's where growth happens.”
To be sure, K.Flay is hardly an overnight success. She spent years playing small venues in the Bay Area after graduation, and she crowdfunded an LP after a record deal with RCA fell through. Her prospects have been looking up since signing with Interscope-distributed Night Street Records.
“I’m grateful,” she said. “... [Music] has given me a vehicle to examine nuance in the world and in myself that I’m not sure I would have been able to do if I had followed a more traditional path.”
The artist’s music is influenced by indie rap, a genre that she fell in love with when she first arrived in the Bay Area from Illinois. Its political overtones and exploration of society were both aspirational and inspirational to the then-teen. She counts herself as a fan of Zion I, Mos Def and Saul Williams.
“I never was very interested in music growing up,” she said. “...I came to the Bay when I was 18 and was just immediately inundated with culture and music and ideas that I hadn’t previously been exposed to. I was really excited by that.”
And that excitement still holds, as does the region’s influence. On her Grammy-nominated hit song “Blood in the Cut,” she laments a broken heart, riffing “Met back up with the boy I love/Cried on the streets of San Francisco, I don’t have an agenda/All I do is pretend to be ok so my friends can’t see my heart in the blender.”
The track has already racked up more than 10 million views on YouTube.
Although she tries not to look too far ahead, it’s a trajectory that she hopes will continue.
“So much can change,” she said. “But my goal for the next few years is to put out my next record and hopefully make some real creative progress on that, in terms of it feeling fresh and new. That’s the only thing I really have planned!”