At 31 years old, Kristine Flaherty is known as K.Flay to listeners who’ve caught her single “Blood in the Cut” on modern rock radio and SiriusXM, where it topped the Alt 18 countdown in January. She’ll release her second full-length album April 7. Her current tour stops at Visulite Theatre on Monday.
But as a student at Stanford University a decade ago, Flaherty wouldn’t have predicted she’d have a future in music. She’d learned guitar as a kid, but didn’t grow up on stage or studying theater and never kept a journal or wrote poetry.
“Content-wise, I don’t think it would’ve been very interesting,” she says, considering what she would’ve written then. “I was worried about getting good grades.”
“I studied psychology and sociology. I think my assumption was that I would go to graduate school and I don’t know what I was going to do after that,” says Flaherty, who moved to San Francisco after graduation and dove into music. “That’s when it became a part of my identity in a big way and part of my emotional life.
“It’s probably like when you meet someone that’s totally unexpected and that person changes your life in ways you didn’t expect,” she adds.
Music changed her course. She adopted the stage name K.Flay around 2004, and went on to crank out a series of compilations, mixtapes and EPs. Then in 2014, she released her first studio album: “Life as a Dog,” with its poignant yet profanity strewn ruminations on her generation dead-ending in their twenties.
On that record, she is at once edgy and poetic, a brash lyricist with a tough exterior and vulnerable core successfully blurring the lines between hip-hop, rock, electronic and folk music.
“I think genre blending is the product of me getting into music haphazardly. I didn’t grow up in a scene or surrounded by people who were doing similar things,” she says. “I’m letting inspiration move me in whatever direction it may without concern if this sounds too rap, or too indie, or there’s too many words in it. I feel like that spirit is living on in a great way that I’m excited about on the new record.”
Flay also draws raves for her stage show.
“What I’ve discovered and try to integrate into my show is when you’re up there and you are loud and more visible, you’re setting a tone for how people can behave and how they can feel comfortable behaving. If I’m out there with a vulnerable energy and being really expressive physically and emotionally and being a little wild, that allows people to feel they can do those same things in the crowd.”
As a young feminist artist whose words resonate with younger women, she’s conscious of her platform.
“It is incredibly important to strive to be a positive example by expanding my world as much as I possibly can and creating a safe space with a live show where people can be themselves now more than ever,” she says.
At 21, she probably wouldn’t have considered that broader purpose. Maturity brings perspective.
“I think it’s more important than ever to be as vocal as I can be about things I believe in outside of music.”
When: 8 p.m. Monday.
Where: Visulite Theatre, 1615 Elizabeth Ave.
Details: 704-358-9200; www.visulite.com.