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K.Flay tries to create safe catharsis on tour

Fort Wayne, Indiana’s loss is the Mahoning Valley’s gain.

Indie pop / hip hop artist K.Flay will play Youngstown’s Westside Bowl on Friday because the Indiana venue originally booked that night for her headlining tour couldn’t comply with her COVID-19 protocols.

“We wanted to make sure we were creating as safe an environment as possible with the ever-changing circumstances,” she said last week during a telephone interview. “We wanted to make sure proof of vaccine or a negative test were required, and they were not able to accommodate that.”

K.Flay, whose name is Kristine Flaherty, believes those requirements are worth it in order to return to live shows.

“The way I see this, life is always about the management of risk,” she said. “I’ve talked to professionals, people I trust and respect, how do we engage in something that I think is really important for community and catharsis and emotional wellbeing, which is a live show? There is a real social and emotional function that the live show serves. How do I balance that with creating a safe environment?”

At a time when it feels the “world is crashing down,” that feeling of connectedness that comes from the live experience is needed more than ever, she said.

While K.Flay has played some shows this summer, she hasn’t been an audience member herself yet. She’s been too busy working on new music.

“I’m a big believer in creativity begetting creativity,” she said. “The more I create music, for me that’s a healthy place to be in.”

Not all of the music Flaherty writes is recorded by K.Flay. She co-wrote Walk the Moon’s current single “Can You Handle My Love” and also has written with Bishop Briggs, Fitz and the Tantrums and others.

“We met out on tour,” she said of Walk the Moon. “A lot of relationships kind of get solidified out there in the trenches … It’s really fun to be part of that process. There’s a real spirit of community, and it’s nice to get out of my own head.”

Those collaborations also have a positive impact on the songs she writes for herself.

“It’s more a philosophical influence,” she said. “It reminds me to be more open and nonjudgmental as I work. One of the greatest enemies of creativity is your own judgment. Working with someone else’s project, I’m so open. I’m not worried, ‘Is this going to fit with the other things I’ve written?’ ‘What will the fans think?’ I’m liberated, and it’s a good reminder in my own process, to finish the song and engage in that sense of play. So much of songwriting is playful.”

There are collaborations on K.Flay’s latest release as well. The five-song EP “Inside Voices” features Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine / Audioslave / Prophets of Rage on “TGIF,” and Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker appears on “Dating My Dad.”

Whittled down from about 20 songs, the five tracks are loosely connected by the idea of rebelling against her Midwestern upbringing, that attitude of, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” The video for “Four Little Words” visualizes that inner struggle with animated characters representing her id and superego.

“I like to see where my creativity and my mind lead me and then tie those pieces together,” she said. “These songs are in your face, a little bit more confrontational … I don’t mind singing songs, ‘Eh, I suck.’ ‘Well, I got problems.’ But singing, ‘You’ve got problems,’ that’s completely different.”

Making the EP was both an “exorcism of anger” and a way to channel it for personal growth.

“I’ve embraced part of that, fully acknowledging in myself that I can be an a—–, and that’s OK. I’m a human in that way. I, too, make mistakes, disappoint myself, get angry. It’s important to express that anger and safely channel it into something that makes me a better person.”

One of the ways she does that is in her live show.

“Public forms of catharsis throughout human history are so important. When you have something like a live show, such a mix of people who come to the music in all these different ways … A bunch of different people came from different places and had different kinds of days, and everyone can just scream together and do it peacefully. The show is this place of safe and pure catharsis.”

If you go …

WHO: K.Flay

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Westside Bowl, 2617 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown

HOW MUCH: $20. Tickets are available through EventBrite.

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