Kristen May

Wednesday, Jun 8, 2016
Tagged As: pop, singer-songwriter
Kristen May. Photo by Lori McConnaughie

We are extremely fortunate to welcome singer-songwriter Kristen May to Listen Local. In addition to her ongoing duties as lead singer for Flyleaf and previously for Vedera, May is enjoying the completion of her first solo album, Conversations. A veteran songwriter and touring musician for the past fifteen years, May describes the well-earned confidence she brought to the creation of her new album as "a pretty vibrant stream of musical consciousness." Enjoy our interview with Kristen, as well as her book, music and movie recommendations and songs fromConversations.

Please introduce yourself. Where do you live and work? What does a typical day look like for you?

Hi there! My name is Kristen May. I'm a Kansas City based musician and recently a new mama! :) I've been touring and writing music for the past fifteen years and have recently made my first solo album.

We are extremely fortunate to welcome singer-songwriter Kristen May to Listen Local. In addition to her ongoing duties as lead singer for Flyleaf and previously for Vedera, May is enjoying the completion of her first solo album, Conversations. A veteran songwriter and touring musician for the past fifteen years, May describes the well-earned confidence she brought to the creation of her new album as "a pretty vibrant stream of musical consciousness." Enjoy our interview with Kristen, as well as her book, music and movie recommendations and songs fromConversations.

"A day in the life" for me usually consists of hitting the road and playing the music I've written with my bands (previously Vedera, currently Flyleaf). Touring has been such a magical journey for me. Getting to see America and other parts of the world, has been exhilarating, mixed with the excitement of sharing my music with new people. I feel so blessed to be able to live my passion and make a couple bucks doing it!

Lately, my life involves a lot of time enjoying a four month old adorable, chubby mister named Graham. I find time to write new tunes here and there, but mostly I'm singing to an audience of one. Graham is after all, my biggest fan ;)

You recently completed a PledgeMusic campaign for your recently released Conversations, after years on a major label with your bands Vedera and Flyleaf. Can you speak to how your new songs were either inspired by or helped inspire some creative risk-taking? What have you learned from seeing through this risk that would help other artists follow your path?

When I began my journey as an artist, it was very much in a grassroots way. I pressed my own CDs, sought out venues in Kansas City to give me a gig, I hung out after the shows and sold my own merch. This continued with my band Vedera. We were lucky enough to catch the attention of a booking agent and manager who hooked us up with some tours, and off we went. It wasn't until about four years into our career that my band, Vedera signed to a major label. There are certainly some positive attributes to signing to a big label. Good distribution, money to support you while you tour, connections with people in the music industry, and you know, free clothes and swag ;) I also had the opportunity to work with some wonderful producers and artists because of my connection with our label, Epic Records.

So, for awhile it worked out pretty good to have a label looking after us. But, the downside of course is you have to share in some of the money you earn. You have to for the most part, listen to people's opinions of your art and let them have a share in it. This can be all well and good but sometimes it can cause a problem if you aren't seeing eye to eye.

So for my solo record, I weighed all my options and decided for me, putting out my album on my own was the best way to go. Pledgemusic is a company who interested me because they are all about letting you have control of your art. They are also really good at helping you have the power and they have good ideas on how to share that power with your fans. Putting my album out with Pledgemusic really helped me connect with my fans in a unique way and bring them in on the making of my album like never before. To me, there were really no creative risks. I felt confident in my ability to make an album I enjoyed and had time, while pregnant with my son at home to accomplish this.

Describe how you move through creative blocks, either in the early stages of songwriting or during the recording process. How often do you go back and try to rework songs that don’t quite ‘click’?

I had so much inspiration while at home from tour. I'm not sure why, maybe the fact that I was pregnant for the first time. That created a new kind of magic for me. The life inside me was helping to create life in my music. I'm usually pretty picky when it comes to my songs and sometimes I have a hard time finishing what I start. There are hundreds of voice memos on my phone and demos on my computer that may never see the light of day. But, for this album, I was connected somehow to a pretty vibrant stream of musical consciousness and the creativity was flowing, thankfully. :)

What artists do you look to these days for inspiration? What do you admire most about these artists?

I love Joni Mitchell, Sarah McLachlan, Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Coldplay. These are some musicians I will probably always listen to, because I really enjoy their songwriting. I love melodies that feel like they stand the test of time.

New artists I enjoy are Joy Williams, Ed Sheeran, Ben Howard, Laura Marling. These artists have beautiful voices and know how to tell a good story. I'm also a sucker for a good song about heartbreak and these artists really know how to go to that vulnerable place and create a gorgeously sad song.

What most excites you about music and creativity in Kansas City?

Being in the Midwest, as opposed to the coasts, I think people operate less on trends here. I think that can create some really honest, unique art. I'm excited about people collaborating here in the city and local radio like the Bridge supporting our artists. People like Chris Haghirian, who really have a passion for promoting local music, are what make this city special. As well, as your show here. It makes a difference to have this kind of support! I hope this movement continues to spread and more people listen to what Kansas City and Lawrence musicians have to offer!

Kristen's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:

1. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. This woman writes page turners. Suspenseful, witty writing with great character development. Sooo much drama, and though there are certainly some serious topics involved, somehow she always makes me laugh.

2. Garden State (DVD) . I went back and re-watched this movie the other day for maybe the tenth time. This movie made me fall in love with Zach Braff's writing/directing/acting and of course Natalie Portman is wonderful as well. Funny, heartwarming, bittersweet and triumphant. I love this movie! Plus, the soundtrack is killer!

3. Tapestry by Carole King. "You've got to get up every morning with a smile on your face and show the world all the love in your heart..."

I was singing these lyrics from Carole King's track "Beautiful" to my son the other day and was inspired to put this album on. One of my absolute favorite pieces of music forever and always. Every song is a hit. Beautiful, raw, honest. Carole King's melodies are just so good. She's one of the reasons I wanted to start writing my own songs.

4. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. While preparing to give birth to my son at home, a friend who also had a home birth, recommended this book to me. Ina May Gaskin is probably the most popular midwife out there. She has done so much to empower women to take steps toward natural childbirth and I loved this book. Its very insightful and is loaded with tools to help you if you are looking to give birth with little or no medical intervention.

5. Downton Abbey: Season 1 (DVD). I recently went back and re-watched this series from the beginning. I love this show. The casting, costumes, hair, landscapes, drama, script...everything. I think I was interested so much in this show at first because it is so different from my day to day life. I really felt transported into another world. But, the more I watched, the more I felt a connection to many of the characters, no matter where they are in the class system. The actors do a great job on this show. Stellar stuff. I also, want to get the Downton Abbey cookbook and try some of the desserts from the show. The meals are so extravagant!! Well, the whole show is extravagant. I'm so sad its over now.

Bryan V.

Written by Bryan V.

Fun fact: I once met a guy who met Captain Beefheart.