FLYLEAF's new lineup made its live debut on November 1 at the Grand Stafford Theater in Bryan, Texas in front of a sold-out capacity crowd of 400. The show featured the debut of new singer Kristen May, who replaced original vocalist Lacey Sturm after the latter abruptly departed the group late last month.
Local radio station KJXJ Rock 103.9 promoted the concert as a CD-release party for regional rockers SIGNAL RISING and their new disc, entitled "Novo", with opening acts DIMITRIS RAIL and ECLIPSE.
Just after May was announced as the new vocalist of FLYLEAF, the band contacted their longtime friend Christerfer Pate, lead singer of SIGNAL RISING, inquiring if they could use the CD-release party as a warm-up show.
Everything was hush-hush leading up to the night. Rock 103.9 joked of a "super-secret headliner named AERONAUTICAL FOLIAGE" so the diehard FLYLEAF fans could grab tickets.
Speaking to Kotter from KJXJ Rock 103.9's "RockHard" morning show (listen to the audio using the SoundCloud player below) backstage prior to the Bryan concert, May stated about her addition to FLYLEAF, "About four months ago, they were looking for somebody and they just got my name and called me and I flew to Texas just to hang out; no big situations going on at that moment. It was just like, 'Hang out, let's jam together and see what happens.' And thankfully, it worked out and now I'm here."
Asked how she would compare singing FLYLEAF's songs, which are musically harder than those of her previous projects, to what she has done before, May said, "It's, honestly, more fun for me. Just getting to sing and go up there. I was talking to [FLYLEAF guitarist] Sameer [Bhattacharya] about this. I mean, their music, all their lyrics and the style just really pulls you in and it makes you feel so much a part of it. I think it just makes me feel more present in the situation whenever we're playing. There's no more pressure; it actually feels more free. So I'm really excited about it."
Kristen also denied that there was any apprehension on her part about joining an already established band like FLYLEAF, saying, "If you have trepidation, then you can kind of cancel out the really positive things coming your way. So, for me, it feels right. Sameer says the same thing — it just feels comfortable and I just feel really blessed to be here."
Added Bhattacharya: "I think that we were all nervous, because change is always strange. As human beings, we're creaturs of habit, so if something's different, we're always, like, 'Oh, what's going on?' But after getting to know Kristen and playing music with her, it feels so natural, and it feels so good."
Sturm left the band on the eve of the release of its third album, "New Horizons", which came out on October 30 and sold 20,000 copies in the United States in its first week of release to land at position No. 16 on The Billboard 200 chart.
Sturm issued a statement about her exit from the group she co-founded, saying, "I am very thankful to have recently become a mom to one of the greatest blessings of my life, my son Jack . . . I understand that, for me, living life to the fullest in this season means to step down as the lead singer for FLYLEAF."
The new album follows up 2009's "Memento Mori" and FLYLEAF's self-titled 2005 debut, which have combined to sell more than 1.6 million copies in the U.S.
FLYLEAF's Kristen May and Sameer Bhattacharya interviewed by Kotter from KJXJ Rock 103.9's "RockHard" morning show (audio):
Performance footage - November 1, 2012 at Grand Stafford Theater in Bryan, Texas:
Pictured below: New FLYLEAF singer Kristen May