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Flyleaf Reach For The Stars

It’s a case of Per ardua ad astra as Kristen May faces the backlash and comes out fighting with Flyleaf

Texan rockers Flyleaf are heading out in support of Between The Stars this November. It may be their fourth album, but it’s a record of firsts – their first studio album with vocalist Kristen May who took over from Lacey Sturm at the end of 2012. “The band had been on a major label and I had experience of major labels with my old band [Vedera] and we knew what it felt like to have many different people involved in the writing process and having a lot of opinions,” says Kristen. “We wanted to take our time and really be able to listen to our own hearts and let it organically unfold. We decided to do it on Pledgemusic to get just the fans involved. We got to thank our fans for how they’ve been there with us through it all and take them on the journey of making the album with us.”

Kirsten had a baptism of fire as Sturm left just before the touring cycle for 2012’s New Horizons, but the singer believes she is reaping the benefits of jumping in at the deep end. “I learned a lot going on the road,” she says. “I’m glad that I got to sing their back catalogue before I started to write music with them because it allowed me to experience where they’ve come from and focus on that first, what Flyleaf used to be, and then we can focus on how Flyleaf is moving forward.”

Being the new voice and face of an established band meant facing the detractors who crawled out of their internet holes, but May channelled their hostility into inspiration. “There is a lot riding on this album. I knew that I had to be proud of what I put out and I didn’t want to have any regrets so I think any pressure only fuelled the creative process and actually helped me,” she says. 

“I wrote Head Underwater when I was dealing with some feelings of doubt that I had about joining this band and some of the backlash I’d felt from fans. I was starting to question my own talent. There were some really hateful things that I’d read online so I knew that I needed to find a way moving forwards, because it’s not like haters are going to go away, to fight back or speak out in a way that would empower other people that have been bullied or told that they’re not good enough or who felt uncomfortable in their skin.”

The first single, Set Me On Fire, was influenced by Veronica Roth’s science fiction novel Divergent. “I love fiction, all genres, fantasy, sci-fi, I just love reading and falling in love with new characters,” says May, “so when I heard that Veronica Roth was a fan and some of the Divergent/books were inspired by Flyleaf songs, I was like, well I’ve got to check this out. I ended up really connecting with the main character Tris.” 

The story’s themes about someone finding their place in the world resonated with the singer. “It’s this dystopian novel and where she lives, the faction she’s from, they have to wear grey and they have to be very humble and not seek out their passions, they can’t have tattoos or anything that would make them stand out; nothing dangerous. She leaves home at 16 and joins a new faction, experiencing all these dangerous things. She also falls in love so she feels alive for the first time. I connected with that joining Flyleaf and feeling like I was in uncharted water but knowing that I had to throw myself into this situation because it was really something I needed. I’d experienced a lot of writer’s block after my previous band broke up and I didn’t know where I was moving forward. I didn’t feel very alive at that time so joining Flyleaf was a real gift to me because it ignited my fire, my passion for writing and for touring. I also inherited a whole new family so that’s what Set Me On Fire ended up being about – finding your passions in life and finding why you’re alive.”

Flyleaf are currently on tour in the US with UK dates still to be announced – tour dates here. Between The Stars is out 3rd November via Loud & Proud/Edel.

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