Starley has a voice that captivated the worlds attention through her mammoth hit ‘Call On Me’ which became an anthem in its own right, and soundtracked so many people’s drunken nights out screaming along to it in a club, or singing it on an uber ride home. But the Sydney based artist wants to be known for more than that.
Showcasing her raw talent as a singer-songwriter, her debut album ‘One Of One’ is a surprisingly vulnerable affair that unravels her emotions in a very candid and honest manner. The album isn’t as beat heavy or club driven as expected, and instead it’s got a real heart and soul in-tact that will have you immediately resonating with her emotional confessions.
I recently chatted to Starley about the creative process behind her debut album ‘One Of One’, the contrast between vulnerability and the production, and the evolution of the mammoth hit ‘Call On Me’. Check it out BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: Your debut album ‘One Of One’ is a personal reflection of love, acceptance and loss, and hears you baring your heart to the listener candidly. So what are you hoping they will take away, or feel, when they listen to it for the first time?
STARLEY: I really just want people to take away a fuller idea of who I am. I’m just not a dance artist, I’m a singer-songwriter. I really write from my introspective thoughts, and I write for cathartic reasons. So I hope they really take away that I’m someone they can relate to, and that I’m a storyteller because that’s what I try to do. It might sound generalised, but I do hope they just fall in love with the music.
TB: Do you think listeners will be surprised of how many ballads and emotionally charged songs are on the record because of the upbeat singles you’ve released in the past? And was that a conscious decision you made?
S: It surprisingly wasn’t conscious! I signed to a dance label because I always thought my voice would go well with dance music, but I’m first and foremost a singer-songwriter. So all my songs are very raw when they first begin, and that’s how I’ve always sung them. I never really started singing to dance music until my first single came out with the label. So I’m used to writing slow or mid-tempo songs, it’s my thing.
I guess some people will be shocked by this, but hopefully because the songs are so authentic it won’t even be a thing that they are like “I didn’t expect it”. Hopefully they just take it in, because I think when something is authentic it just speaks to people.
TB: The title track ‘One Of One’ hit me right in the feels with the lyrics “who am I supposed to call when you probably don’t even think of me at all”. Can you tell me about that line and the heaviness behind it?
S: I think the biggest thing for me is that I’m an introverted extrovert, so most of the time I’m just lost in my thoughts, and I really do overthink stuff quite extremely. I guess I can be quite insecure, and when I think about reaching out to someone I get anxiety about it which stops me from doing it. When I was writing this song I was assuming that the person had already moved on from me because I had messed up and hurt them enough for them to not care about me anymore. To this day I still feel like that is true, but I guess I will never know, but that’s how I wrote it from that place.
TB: Your new single ‘Let Me In’ melodically gave me some real Julia Michaels meets JoJo vibes, so who was inspiring you sonically with this song?
S: Well this song is actually the only song on the album that wasn’t written by me. It was written by Amy Allen who did ‘Adore You’ by Harry Styles and ‘Be Kind’ by Marshmello and Halsey. I decided to put this song on the album because it’s stylistically a little different to what I normally do, and that was a very conscious decision. I wanted a bit of that country and soulful feel that she brings to it, and I also think it really represented who I am in a relationship. I’m often fucking up, so I feel like I could instantly relate to it.
I can’t speak on behalf of her to what was inspiring her when she wrote it, but when I took on board I could just see myself through it, and that country-soulful feeling was genuinely exciting to me.
TB: A song that stood out to me immediately was ‘Bad Love’. So can you explain to me how it creatively came together?
S: So that is one of my favourite songs off the album! I wrote that about three years ago, and iI was going through a break up with somebody who was quite toxic. I got into the studio with a friend of mine called Hector, and the way we met in LA was so weird, we met at a burger joint and a mutual friend was like “you guys should work together”. So we got into the studio and he just played three chords, and I was so emotional because i was going through a break up, so I smoked some weed and basically the whole song just flowed out.
The vocal you hear on the final master is actually the demo vocal. The only thing we re-recorded was the keyboard which we re-recorded on a grand piano as I wanted it to be a bit bigger. It was a really emotional time for me to let go of somebody special, but it had gotten to a point where I had been broken hearted about certain things, and then I was getting back with certain things. It was a back and forth cycle. So it’s a tragic love story really. But it’s still one of my favourite songs because I can still feel every ounce of emotion in it.
TB: The album is divided into two parts by a interlude that prefaces ‘Bad Love’. So what was your visual concept in doing that?
S: I just felt like ‘Bad At Love’ deserved it’s own moment, and deserved a cinematic and dramatic feel to it. I honestly added this interlude part recently, and I just wanted to highlight the moodiness of the track, and have it really bring listeners into another world. It also goes along with the concept of the music video that I’m shooting for it, which is very stripped back.
TB: Reflecting on the creative journey of the album, what song took the longest to hone it’s sound?
S: I’d say ‘Bad Love’ as it honestly did a full 360 degrees. I kept messing around with it, changing it, and I’d do different versions of it. With the album deadline creeping in, I was like “you know what, the simple stripped back version is the best”. I’ve had this song is my repertoire for years and I continually wanted to do different things to it to make it “more exciting”, but really the original is quite exciting on its own.
TB: ’Call On Me’ both versions on the album, why was that important for you to showcase both versions of the song artistically?
S: That song really had a life of its own, and I definitely wanted to include the beginnings of it to represent my journey. The absolute beginnings was just the piano version which then evolved to just the guitar version. So I wanted to give them as much rawness as possible because that song is literal chapters of my life in one song. I definitely wanted to include the original version because it has that organic feeling that originated from me writing it in my parents bedroom.
I wrote it in a really dark time of my life when I was super depressed, and I had suicidal moments happening that no one knew about as I didn’t tell anybody. It came out through the song, and it was more me telling myself to keep going. So I really feel that it was important to keep that as obviously the Ryan Riback remix had a life of its own and heard everything being sped up. So I wanted to bring it back to its roots with the studio version.
TB: You also have included a cover of Tracey Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ which you’ve done in your set for a few years. What sparked your connection with this song and why you wanted to include it on your debut album?
S: I feel a really strong connection to Tracey Chapman in the first place because she’s very androgynous, very soulful, and very respected. I relate to that song like everybody does, but it’s genuinely one of my favourite songs ever. I added a cover of this song to my setlist when I was oj tour and it just stuck. So many people asked me to release a studio version of it, so this was a bit of a thank you to all the fans.
TB: Let’s play a quick game of rapid fire questions, you ready?
S: Let’s do it!
TB: The emoji that best describe my debut album ‘One Of One’ is…
S: The eyes closed with the tongue out!
TB: My pre-show ritual involves…
S: I do 20 pushups before every show followed by a little pray.
TB: A TV show I’ve binged during isolation is…
S: Indian Matchmaker!
TB: If I could have any superpower it would be to…
S: to fly!
TB: Pineapple on pizza is…
S: Delicious! Amazing! Why not!
‘One Of One’ is out now!