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Val Starr Interview

Tell us the brief history of your band or musical career.

Started off playing original rock in Los Angeles in the 80’s and then moved to Northern California. Discovered the blues in 2010 and have never looked back. Since then I’ve recorded and released 6 original blues albums.

Who are your musical and non-musical influences?

Female influences range from Carol King and Joni Mitchell to Bonnie Raitt and Debbie Davies. Band influences are Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin and for blues the Kings..BB, Freddie and Albert.

What album has had the greatest impact on your life as a musician?

Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell. I knew the album backwards and forwards and perfected the art of singing harmony to that album.

What’s your favorite accomplishment as a musician thus far? 

My last album, Healing Kind of Blues has remained on the RMR Contemporary Blues charts for 53 consecutive weeks! It also spawned a #1 single with “Slow Blues Grinder” I’m also proud that it is the first CD I solo produced.

What's the best piece of advice another musician ever gave you?

Never compare your music to anyone else. The music you create is beautifly unique to you.

What inspires you to write the music you write? 

I'm a very positive person, and I like to write about life lessons and anecdotes. Life inspires me. I also love rhyming words and clever stories.

What made you want to play the instrument you play? 

I started off playing the piano as a child, but because I was a singer, the guitar was much more an accompanying instrument to the voice than piano. Plus it was a heck of a lot easier to take with you!

How are you continuing to grow musically?

I am a rock solid rhythm guitarist, but I have been taking online courses and practicing my guitar scales and lead guitar improvisation daily. I don’t want to be a lead guitarist. just want to be able to throw in some lead licks and enhancement. Also so that I can “show” better my guitarist what I’m hearing for a lead solo when we’re in the studio.

Describe your worst performance. What did you learn from this experience?

My worst performance was when I had let myself get dehydrated. I didn’t know what was happening, but I couldn’t remember my lyrics and I went into a panic attack. I was so tired on stage and I couldn’t focus. It really taught me to make sure I hydrate and I have electrolyte pills that I take with me just in case to my gigs.

If you could play anywhere or with anyone in the world, where or with who would it be?

I’d love to jam with Bonnie Raitt! Both red headed guitar slinging gals. And I can sound like her too!

If you could change anything about the music industry today, what would it be?

I would love to see a middle class musician. It’s either feast or famine. It would be so great to just be able to make a comfortable living making music.

What are your biggest obstacles as a musician?

I think finding places to play live consistently that will pay enough to allow you to keep a full time band.

What strengths do you have that you believe make you the musician you are?

I believe I am an excellent singer/songwriter. I have great energy on stage and I love people. When I get off stage, I always go around the room and say hi to people I know and introduce myself to people I don’t know.

Do you have any weaknesses that you're actively working to improve on?

My biggest weakness I feel is keeping focused and in the moment when I’m singing. Sometimes I just automatically am performing and I zone out and start thinking about other things. I need to turn my brain off and just get totally taken over by the music. I’m also easily distracted when the tempo or feel is off.

Describe your favorite and least favorite part about being a musician.

I love everything about being a musician. (except hauling heavy equipment around – can we say Roadie?? LOL

If you had to choose one... live performance or studio work, which do you prefer and why? 

Ooh that’s a tough one. I love being in the studio creating music. I love to see how a song unfolds from conception to completion. Performing live can be so incredibly gratifying, but we’ve all had challenging shows. Why is it that some of our best performances are when there are like 3 people in the audience? ROFL

Describe your creative process when you write new music.

I usually start with a one liner that I think is clever (usually the chorus line or repeating or ending verse line) then I build a story around it. I usually do the lyric, melody and chord progression all together and keep tweaking until It works. Luckily the blues template is pretty set in stone with some chord variations for flavor. I also like to put a little signature “Val” change up to keep it interesting. Works great for a rehearsed band, but harder to duplicate when you are playing with pitch in players or jamming.

Other than being a musician, what was your dream job growing up? 

I’ve worked in the music business all my life. I knew that making a living being a musician was hard, so I chose to work on the business side alongside of playing, so that I was guaranteed to have music 24/7 in my life.

What's next for your band?

Album #7! I have more than enough songs written for another album but I still have a few more to write to round out the material. I like to make sure I have a good variety of blues shuffles and ballads along with some more “less traditional” blues. For me, a blues release needs to have at least 60% of the material as solid recognizable blues. I’m going to re-evaluate the live personnel make up – maybe add a keyboardist to our live show this year.

What are your interests outside of music?

I love to go glamping! We have a nice RV and there are plenty of beautiful places to camp in California.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I was Miss Tarzana, California 1977! (please don’t do the math!) ROFL


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