Love Is Love
Australia singer-songwriter Starley (full name Starley Hope) scored a massive international hit in 2016 when her debut single ‘Call on Me’ was transformed into an EDM banger by remixer Ryan Riback. Her latest single ‘Love Is Love’ is out now and is a deeply personal track which celebrates both Starley coming out as bisexual and the love she shares with her girlfriend. Women In Pop recently caught up with Starley to find out more about the track and what she has coming up in the next few months.
Hey Starley! ‘Love Is Love’ is such a beautiful track, congratulations. The lyrics of the song detail your coming out as bisexual to your family, their reaction to it and introducing them to your girlfriend. What made you decide to record such a deeply personal track?
Hi Women In Pop! I think I always write from a personal standpoint. I’ve always used music as my therapy and my way to make a note of events that happen in my life and get things off my chest. Music has always been an outlet to let my feelings out. Last year was a pretty massive year for me. ‘Call on Me’, my first single, took off. I was travelling all around the world and having all sort of new experiences, and I met a girl and I fell in love and I had to let my family know about that. I come from a Christian type of upbringing, so it was a bit of a shock for my parents because I’d only ever had boyfriends before. It was quite hard for them to understand at first and there were a lot of things we went through last year and I guess that was the main reason for me writing this song.
Did you find it difficult putting such personal details into the song? Was that scary?
Yeah, it definitely was. I originally wrote this song in a different way. The chorus was still the same, but the lyrics and the verses were quite vague. For me, I really didn’t want to make my parents look like big meanies. I did not want people to think my family weren’t a beautiful loving family because they really are. As I was writing the song and I’d gotten a few people to listen to it, it just wasn’t hitting home because I wasn’t telling the full story. So I went back and rewrote it and that’s when I told the story in a way that was more about my perspective on my experience of the last year. That’s when it felt right.
I had to share my story now because it’s my truth and I’m sure a lot of other people go through the same things - whether it be in a gay relationship or a relationship of mixed religion or mixed culture. I wanted to share that with people and help them to go through their experiences and have, I guess, a little bit of comfort.
Did you encounter any resistance from anyone on the single? Did anyone suggest you dial it back a little?
I’m signed to an awesome dance label in Australia called Central Station and my A&R Archie loved it. As soon as he heard the chorus, he was in love with the song. So, I didn’t have any pushbacks from my label and my management loved it as well. But I’m sure that now that the song’s been released, it’s not going to be the same path as something like ‘Call on Me’ because it’s not as general. ‘Call on Me’ is something that just hits everybody and it’s pretty open and everyone can interpret it in whatever way they want, whereas this one is really specific and it’s not as easy listening as ‘Call on Me’. It’s a bit deeper and it’s not as much of an instant radio thing. When we put it out, I wasn’t thinking ‘oh yeah, I know that people are going to accept this song and radio is going to play it,’ but I knew there are people out there that needed to hear it and for me that is more important than anything. And if it works out on other mediums great, but if it doesn’t, I really just wanted to tell my story and put that out there.
How did your family react to the song?
I think they’re in a much better place than they were last year. We’ve really come to a bit more of an understanding of each other. It’s still a work in progress and that’s okay because I understand they have had their own way of being brought up and their own way of thinking their entire life and I just went and flipped it on them completely. It’s not like I’ve been bisexual since I was a kid. So to them it was a big shock. I’m understanding of that too and that patience is key in this situation with us. I brought my girlfriend home last year at Christmas and they all got to meet her. The transparency of that situation I think was the biggest thing that helped us repair the relationship because they got to see us together and they could put together an understanding of why I love her.
Earlier this year you headlined at the Sydney Mardi Gras alongside the iconic Cher. What was that experience like?
It was amazing! I met her and she was incredible. She’s just like a beaming light. I was pretty nervous when I met her. She is so iconic. She said to me ‘You must be somebody because they’re taking photos of us.’ They were just taking photos of me because I was standing next to her! It was the first time I’d ever attended the Mardi Gras itself. The fact that it was the first year that I’d come out as being bisexual was also amazing for me. It was the best atmosphere. It was so much fun.
Spotify recently released data on the most steamed tracks on the platform since 2012 and ‘Call on Me’ came in as the third most streamed song of all time in Australia by an Australian artist, which is an incredible achievement. How does that feel?
Amazing! I could never have been prepared for the kind of success that song had. It changed my life. It’s a great feeling because I wrote that song in my bedroom in my parent’s house when I was going to quit music. For me, it just was an incredible feeling to know that people connected with something that I was going through. We’re all human. We all go through the same experiences in life in different shapes and forms. That feeling was incredible. The remix by Ryan Riback was the one that took it all the way and I’m forever grateful to Ryan for that. Without Spotify, I just don’t know how it would have happened in the same way. I’m very grateful for that streaming service because I’m just an artist from an indie label and to get on the world stage like that and for that song to do what it did was absolutely incredible.
At the end of July you are supporting Katy Perry on the Australian leg of her Witness world tour. How are you feeling about that?
I am super excited and a bit nervous. I’ve never done an arena tour before. I toured with Clean Bandit last year in North America and the UK and that was a lot of fun but it definitely wasn’t on the scale of what a Katy Perry tour is. I’m going to be performing a lot of the new songs that I’ve got coming out on my album which is out soon. I’m just excited about the whole thing.
What can we expect from your debut album?
It’s kind of all along the same genre lines I guess. There’s a few different crossover areas, but I’d say it’s all pretty electronic with a bit of organic and me telling stories. Each song is a snippet of something that happened in my life in the form of a pop song. I’m just excited to share it with people, it’s the first project that I’ve ever put out. So I’m nervous and excited – again!
Who did you work with on the album?
I worked with a lot of different songwriters, there’s an array of different people I’ve been in writing sessions with for most of this year. I’ve been finding my footing and finding different people I enjoy working with and that could help me find my sound. There’s a lot of newer producers as well, but the main thing for me is that nothing sounds the same. I haven’t used the same producer twice. Everything sounds slightly different.
Where did you record the album?
The whole album has been recorded in LA so far. I’ve found a really good engineer that I love working with and I recorded the album in his house. In the past I was recording in a big studio like the superstars do but it felt really sterile because you were very far from each other - the engineer was in his room and you’re in your little room. I didn’t really enjoy that experience because I’m used to recording in a very small space - when I used to record in Australia, I’d record in a garage with a shoebox around my microphone. So recording in this engineer’s house has been good. He doesn’t have air-conditioning so it’s turned out to be very good for my voice because it’s very humid and that lubricates the vocal chords. It’s been great.
It sounds like the rest of the year is going to be busy for you! What’s next for Starley?
I actually have no idea! I’ve just got my head down focused on finishing on the album and then I’ll go onto rehearsals for the tour. I guess as I finish the album and wrap that up, I’ll see with everybody else what’s going to happen. But I’m sure that I’ll just continue to write - just do what I’ve always done.
Starley is supporting Katy Perry on the Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne dates of her Witness tour.
PERTH: Tuesday 24 July & Wednesday 25 July at Perth Arena. Buy tickets here
ADELAIDE: Saturday 28 July, Monday 30 July & Tuesday 31 July at Adelaide Entertainment Centre. Buy tickets here
MELBOURNE: Thursday 2 August, Friday 3 August & Sunday 5 August at Rod Laver Arena. Buy tickets here