Interview: Starshell - Mary J. Blige's New Artist she's Building Up
Starshell is the first female signed by Mary J. Blige’s Matriarch Entertainment, music label and co-signed by one of the most respected and powerful record company executives and label CEO Vincent Herbert of Streamline Records.
Breaking into the music scene fresh out of college as a songwriter Starshell gained recognition as an accomplished songwriter when she co-penned multi platinum selling single by Kanye West called, “Love Lockdown” (2008). She followed this up in 2009 with “I Can See in Color” and “Closer” for Mary J. Blige. The former was featured in the Oscar-nominated film, “Precious,” while the latter is one of numerous highlights on Blige’s last studio album, “Stronger With Each Tear.”
Right off the bat your name really interested me. How did you come about with the name? It seems like it's two word put together?
Starshell is a name that means a lot to me. It means a beacon of light, and I like for my music to reflect that, very much so, all my imagery, and stuff like that. It's fun, celebrate life, and it's also my sister's name. My sister passed away and as a tribute to her, and in honor of her, I made my name Starshell so that her name could be a constant reminder of the beacon of light that she is, was, and lives on to be, forever, and of course the stuff that my music brings to the table for everybody. So it has multiple meanings. That's a good one to start off with. We could talk the whole time about that!
It's a great name. So, I know you are the first artist that is on Mary J. Blige's Matriarch Entertainment label.
Well, I'm not the first but I'm the first to come out with a record.
Ok, I didn't know that.
Yeah, we got a whole roster. Make sure you guys check us out. There are other people on the roster. We have Katlyn Nicol, Mary Jane Girls, Just'Us, Dave Young - who was actually the first person signed but I'm the first one who's coming out with my music. So, it's a big movement. We have a big movement going on here. It's exciting!
How did you get started and how did you get to the point where you are now, to get signed, and all of that?
How far back do you want me to go? *laughs* Music has always been a part of my life and my household, you know, ever since I could remember. My love for music, my passion for music, and words has always existed. In high school, I really, really started honing in on my craft writing poetry. My poetry turned in lyrics, I threw myself into poetry. And then in college, I started a writing camp, and we used to write and perform the records that I started. Then I created a demo to kind of shop around. So I would be in New York City every weekend, kind of trying to get into the industry, each and every way that I could, each nook and crannies, whatever was going on. My demo landed in the hands of Kendu Isaacs, who is Mary's husband and partner, at Matriarch Records, and he liked the stuff. It was interesting because he hated the quality of the music - because I made it at makeshift studios or wherever I could - but he saw past that. He saw that there was a lot of talent in the writing and a lot of talent in my passion in my style, overall as an artist. So then he introduced me to Mary the next day at a studio in New York City to write on her "Stronger With Each Tear " album and vaula, here I am. She and I hit it off on a personal level, and then music of course. And then I got my feet wet by writing for other people. Here I am today, my album's coming out, "Liberation", with my very own "Liberation Tour".
When can we expect your album to drop?
It should be here late 2012 or the top of 2013. So it's coming really fast.
You seem like a really driven person. Do you think it comes from your ambitions, your life experiences, or a mix of both?
Definitely a mix of both. You have to have passion, you have to have drive. Some people who are talented just don't have the drive or vice versa but it's definitely a combination of all of it to get to where you want to go.
So I know along the process of where you are now, you met up with Kanye and you co-wrote his "Love Lockdown" song. Can you talk about what the process was like for you?
See the thing is, I was just trying to prove myself. I wasn't necessarily looking for credit or trying to get on the album. I was just really into being in creative environment. For me, it was the ultimate experience because Kanye is one of the greatest of our time. I believe he is one of the most talented people of this decade. So working with him early on motivated me and it made me realize that I could do this and I am recognized by people who are amazing. Then it helped me see the things that I also want to do when I have the ability to have a team because what he does is have creative teams around him all the time and it's just like a music heaven. So it was amazing, something that I'll never forget.
So then it must be a great accomplishment to have him on your song, "Superluva" right? And Big Sean?
Yesssss! It's funny because I have a song called "Superluva", produced by Fernando Garibay and I put it out, kind of as a buzz single, like something to get out there in the clubs, and it was kind of working. People just loved the record. Then Kanye heard the record and he loved the melodies in the record. He said, "I love this song. I love the melodies. I'd love to do a remix." So it was organic the way it happened. He did the remix and he put Big Sean on it, which he actually did awhile ago. Now it leaked, and people loved it. So we're putting it out, and you're going to start to hear it on the radio, everyday! So start to call and request for it.
I know your single out now is "Birthday Girl". First of all, I just want to say thanks for making a song like that because I get so excited for my birthday every year and now I have it to look forward to when my birthday comes around so I can play it. So, can you talk a little bit about that single that's out right now?
Of course, of course. "Birthday Girl" is something like you just said. I was sitting on my couch when I thought of the concepts, calling my girlfriends like, "OMG, on my birthday, we're going to do this and that!" You know how you have to prep your girlfriends. Like, "I don't care if Louis wants you to go out with him, you're coming out with me." So, I was doing that whole thing. Mind you, we were three months out. My birthday is in May and I was doing this in March. So, I was like I have to write a song about how every girl feels, like it's a national holiday on her birthday, and it really is. Like any husband, brother, or father will tell you that any girl in their lives feel that way, and we know that we feel that way. So that is the place that I wrote it from and I'm glad that you loved that. Then I took it one step further in the record that, and that you know what? It shouldn't be once a year. How about we celebrate life everyday, like it's our birthday? Everyday, I feel this way. Like, me and my girls are going to have fun or I'm just going to celebrate me because you never know. Life is short. I just really want to push that fact that you could celebrate your life on your birthday, and everyday.
Can you talk about your tour life with Mary J. Blige and Jennifer Lopez? Do the crowds feed off of you differently? What's it like?
It's great. I feel like I'm in the perfect lane because right now, I'm on tour with Mary, who is the Queen of R&B, and I'm tour with J. Lo, who is the Queen of Pop music and just an icon, an American idol. Like, she is the idol. When you look at that from my perspective, I feel like I fall right in between of both of the women, both of those queens. So I get to watch the both of them, to seeing the different things that they do so I can incorporate them into my career, in my business, and in my performances. For the crowds, it's so interesting to see the difference between the crowds but it's so unique in themselves and I love them both. I love the more laid-back crowd that Mary might have and the younger, pop crowd that Enrique (Inglesias) and J. Lo have. So, it feels different on both sides but it's so fulfilling each time. And, I'm learning so much. Oh my gosh! It's like crash courses. You know how you cram for exams? It's like that. Every night, I make a switch to my show. So I'm like, "ok, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that," but I always stay true to my music. That's what something that's really cool because even though they're such different genres of music for both tours, I stay consistent with what I'm doing. If I'm not consistent and genuine, then people won't understand who I am.
What has been the most memorable experience on tour?
So Randy Phillips, who is the biggest promoter, who was going to put Michael on the road, and all that stuff - rest in peace Michael Jackson, you are everything - but he is the one putting the J. Lo and Enrique tour out, watched my show, and was like, "you are amazing. You are a superstar and you are going to go really far." To me, that was like hot flashes; I couldn't believe he was saying it. So far, the exposure, just the level of people seeing the show, and loving the show, and loving me, and for the first time hearing me, it means a lot. So, the exposure. The second thing, that is just as important, that was "the moment" was my fan. Just being able to being able to see my fans face-to-face, and hear them, and touch them - all that stuff. Those two are my highlights so far.
So it must be very exciting so far!
Ah, yeah. Can't you tell? (laughs and gets excited)
What can we except from you in the next upcoming year, in 2013?
I've got a lot coming. The album, "Liberation" is coming. Be on the lookout for "Superluva", featuring Kanye and Big Sean...and lots, lots more to come. Oh my gosh, in 2013, I'll probably start working on the next album and more tours. So I'll be everywhere touring and all that stuff. Just look out for Starshell. I'm definitely going to be out there.