Every album by singer-songwriter Garrison Starr takes her fans deeper into
her life. It's a journey that started in Memphis, where she built a following
playing the clubs and coffeehouses, and continued in Los Angeles for seven
years and countless cross-country tours. And now it's taken her to Nashville,
where her new Vanguard CD The Sound of You & Me is her deepest, most
emotional work yet.
It's not a CD of bright pop tunes or meaningless hard-rocking jammers,
though that has never been her style. This time, Starr is determined to
put it all out there: her heartaches, and desires and hopes and loves
lost and found. "These songs are about my search for lasting love
in my life and the experiences and heartaches I've endured in that journey,"
She bares her soul on The Sound of You & Me. "It really wasn't
that hard to write the songs," she said. "The period over which
they were written was hard, a painful growing process in my life. I don't
want to hold back. I have kept so many things inside for so long and I
am thankful to be in a place where I can let some of that go and tell
my story. This record sums up who I am emotionally. I struggle with a
lot emotionally, I carry a lot of weight on my shoulders and in my heart.
It sums me up more than any record I have made."
Starr has made some big changes in her life and relationships over the
last year and a half, the period during which she wrote most of the songs
on The Sound of You & Me. After seven years in Los Angeles, with its
glitzy neon image and traffic jams and loneliness, she moved to Nashville
in the summer of 2005. Originally from Hernando, Mississippi, she's a
lot closer to home and to her "best friend," collaborator and
guitarist Neilson Hubbard, who co-produced the CD with Brad Jones.
"My experience in this business has been do things to please other
people," she said. "I am not making an album that will be thrown
against the wall to see if it sticks for radio. It was made because it's
beautiful and intense and sad and lonely and that's how I feel a lot of
the time. I wanted to make a record that is true to my life."
Starr's musical story starts back in Memphis in the mid 1990s. An only
child, her parents still live in Hernando, and other family is scattered
around Mississippi. She did a couple of self-financed recordings and worked
to establish herself on the lively and important Memphis music scene.
But Los Angeles was calling. In her early 20s, she was signed to Geffen,
which released 1997's Eighteen Over Me which included the radio-friendly
hit "Superhero," a song that her fans still want to hear today.
"There was a fantasy attached to the big city," she said. "When
I was living in Memphis, I didn't really know who I was, and I needed
to spread my wings a bit," she said. "I was able to explore
myself more freely in L.A. - it provided the haven I needed to look deeper
into myself without judgment."With a label deal, Starr was assured
of being the next big thing. But Geffen was absorbed into Interscope and
Starr didn't fit in. So she walked, not only from the label, but from
music altogether, virtually vanishing from the industry radar.
"At 20, 21, I was emotionally immature," she said. "
I didn't know what I wanted, I didn't know what it was all about. I started
believing (the industry promises of fame) were true. I set myself up for
But the journey was just beginning. In 2003, she re-emerged with a new
CD, Songs From Take-off to Landing, and reached deeper with her 2004 Vanguard
debut, Airstreams and Satellites. Still, she remained in Los Angeles.
"I did love living there for a time, but it seemed so far away from
everything, literally and figuratively. I got involved with someone in
New York, and I needed a change."
And so Starr headed for Nashville and began to record The Sound of You
& Me, which details her romantic relationships and attempts at keeping
love alive, even when the coals are flickering out. "There are transitions
through three different people," she said. Beyond the lyrics, Starr
goes into some new territory musically.
"I think it is more organic than anything I have done," she
said. "I wanted to do this album with a more stripped down approach.
That is something that hasn't been captured in my career."
Some tracks, such as "Beautiful in Los Angeles," are based
in her well-established rock sound of the past. The song isn't so much
about the city, but a personal relationship left behind, she said. Others
are more roots-based such as "Sing it Like a Victim," which
includes piano accompaniment for the first time. On "No Man's Land,"
she longs for "someone to hold my hand." And then there's "Big
Enough," which began life as a rocker, before morphing into a softer
version on the CD, with a finish of Beatle-like strings.
Starr would rather be known and respected as a songwriter more than just
another pop or folk performer. "I want a career that's more like
Bonnie Raitt's" than whatever act is flickering away on MTV or pouring
out of the nearest rock radio station, she said.
"I want to write really good songs and go out there and sing those
songs," she said. "I don't always feel comfortable. But I know
my heart and I know my truth.''