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With motherhood pending, Kristen May delivers first solo record

Kristen May
Kristen May Lori McConnaughie

December has been a month of expectations for Kristen May.

On Tuesday, the singer/songwriter from Kansas City released “Conversations,” her first solo record, which has been years in the making. And sometime before Christmas, she and her husband, Brian Little, will become first-time parents.

May and Little have been making music together for more than 10 years, first as the band Veda, which included Little’s brother, Drew Little. It became Vedera after a band named Vaeda objected to the Veda name.

In 2007, Vedera’s fortunes soared. The band signed a major-label deal with Epic Records, had a song selected for the MTV show “The Hills” and performed on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” It also scored prize opening gigs on tours with the Fray, Mutemath, Murder by Death and Lucero.

But in 2011, Vedera broke up, and May started focusing on a solo career. A year later, she joined the hard-rock band Flyleaf as its lead singer, replacing Lacey Sturm.

After Flyleaf took a break this year and after she learned she was pregnant, May re-focused on her solo album. It was released exclusively via PledgeMusic, in which fans redeem contributions for a variety of prizes, from albums, posters and T-shirts to a coffee party, a house concert or a wedding performance. May’s fundraising campaign raised 113 percent of its goal from 506 pledgers, and 5 percent was donated to her favorite charity, Kansas City Pet Project.

She recently talked to The Star about her new record and how she will mix music with motherhood.

Q: How is everything? How are you feeling?

A: Everything is good. I’m due in a few weeks and I’m keeping busy.

Q: Do you know your child’s gender?

A: Yes. I’m having a boy, named Graham.

Q: When did you start working in earnest on “Conversations”?

A: When I found out I was pregnant, I knew I’d spend at least half of my pregnancy at home. Flyleaf was off the road, so I thought it was a good time to put out a solo album. I’d been wanting to do it for a while. But after I joined Flyleaf, I didn’t have time to write for myself, so I put some of the songs on standby.

I’m always writing songs. It’s a passion of mine. Some of the songs on the album are from a few years ago, but the bulk of the album was made over the past five months. The PledgeMusic campaign started in September, which was around the time we went into Chapman (studio) with Robert Rebeck. More than any other album I’ve ever worked on, I knew what I wanted.

For this album, the songs started on the piano or acoustic guitar. Brian and I worked on some parts, and he came up with some great guitar parts. I also got a bass player and drummers, who added elements that weren’t there before. But the meat-and-potatoes of the songs I did myself. And this time, there was no label checking in on the process. It was a very free and creative environment.

Q: Did you change your approach to songwriting?

A: For this album, I didn’t have a super-strict time limit. I didn’t have people asking me what the single is going to be. I had the freedom to spend as much time as I wanted to get each song the way I wanted it to be.

When Vedera signed to Epic, it was like, “OK, make a whole album, but let’s focus on the single first and let’s really make it big and amazing and something that will appeal to radio.” I didn’t want that vibe on this album. I wanted each song to tell its own story and be vulnerable in that.

Q: Is there a lyrical theme?

A: It’s called “Conversations” because, like I said, I had the freedom to make each song a conversation about my life and not force anything too much. It’s certainly an album where I’m experiencing things I’ve never experienced before, my pregnancy being one.

I wrote a song called “Magic” when I first learned I was pregnant because I was already feeling so connected to this living energy inside me. I’d never felt that connection before — the wonder of life and how it grows — and kind of dreaming about what it will be like when he is born.

I’ve spent more time at home than I’ve been able to for a while, and it allowed me to write songs about the love in my life and feeling grounded in that. I feel more grounded than I’ve felt in a long time.

There’s a song on the album called “Don’t Forget.” I reminisce on these special moments you have growing up but you don’t realize at the time are so special. So you think back and it’s like, how do you stay in the present moment and understand how valuable these times are as they are happening?

Q: What are your plans after your son is born? Where will music fit in?

A: I’ll take a month or two off and focus on being a mom. Releasing this album through PledgeMusic has been great. It allowed me to stay focused on making the best album I could and to connect to my fans and let them come in to the experience.

I wanted at first to release the album only to the people who pledged for it. But in 2016, I’d like to release the album elsewhere and possibly write a little more for it, maybe make a video. I’ve been talking to people in town about some shows, maybe have a release party. So those ideas are in my head, but first I want to make the pledge experience special.

Q: Any chance Vedera will get together, even if it’s just a one-off?

A: We have no plans right now. But especially when I was writing for the solo album, the way I wrote is so similar to how I wrote with Vedera. And working with Brian was so similar to how we worked with Vedera. So it feels like it could be a natural thing. I’m not sure the timing is right for all the members, but I’m certainly open to eventually doing that.

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain

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