From Soho to alt-pop superstardom, Starling talks new single “Swoop”, and her affinity with ’90s Britney.
Sharing her long-awaited comeback single “No Leader” back in October, alt-pop superstar Starling has finally graced us with the first taste of her debut album To Be Alive. The project is undoubtedly her most anticipated release in recent months, not least in part owing to production from the likes of Damian Taylor (Bjork, The Prodigy) and David Kyle Payne (Meghan Trainor, Sigala), so the expectations from pop connoisseurs across the globe are sure to be immense.
With an already flawless discography, anyone doubting this new era will find their faith restored after giving Starling’s latest single a spin. “Swoop” is an homage to the singer’s musical beginnings. Bold, brash and undeniably bouncy, Starling channels a diverse mix of instrumentation as she commands us to take control of life. With Britney Spears on her mind, she’s even formulated an experimental and nostalgia-filled with Liverpool hailed director Ryan Blackwell for the occasion.
“Swoop is about going for the life you want,” the singer reveals of her latest, bass-heavy hit. “Written on a dark December day at record speed I was tired of seeing people live like they have no ownership of their destiny. I’m named after a bird – they just swoop, fly high, then swoop for whatever it is they desire. This song is about my owning it. Owning the dream, the vision and going for what I want. The opening verse lists my favourite things: fizzy fangs, bubble bath, gold nails. A life of colour.”
Check out the interview below…
Hi Starling – how have you been during this uncertain time? How has it impacted your music and creativity?
After processing the heartbreak of no touring and all the physical things planned for the year I entered a deep ritualistic state. Every afternoon I completed my album remotely (with my producer through this insane software he found) and every morning I trained my body, my voice and got into true creative focus; I also fell in love with nature. I traded London for Margate one month before lockdown, I’m not psychic but it was perfect timing, a lucky fluke. Whilst the pandemic is a global tragedy on multiple levels if you have a roof over your head it can provide solace to realign in what’s important for you.
How did growing up in London influence you sonically? Who are your musical heroes?
The sound of Soho is not so much a sonic but an energy. If you grow up around misfits you don’t think anything odd of a young man in makeup having a drink at the French House or the old man at the Phoenix who use to do a waistcoat show (it was simply him swapping one waistcoat for another waistcoat, nothing more, but god was it great) it’s not odd because it’s being who they truly are. It wasn’t until I left Soho that I realised how advanced it was in self-expression. Couldn’t the rest of England be like that? The energy of unapologetic heroes like Bowie, Blondie and Boy George is the answer.
And how would you describe your genre?
Pop therapy. I want to change the world with my lyrics – people don’t see their beauty or power, they don’t see their worth, I’m here to remind them of it.
You initially trained as an actor, but a chance opportunity saw you sing for an event in Soho and be spotted while singing a Joni Mitchell cover – could you tell us a little more about this?
Yes I was always too nervous to sing, I deeply lacked confidence even though I loved singing in the shower. I was working in this bar and the manager asked me to be part of an event, to sing a few covers. I thought fuck it I’ve got no acting work just do it, if I’m shit hopefully they’ll be drunk and not notice. And though my voice shaked and my face went red, there was a guy in the audience (Henry from Zero7) who spotted me and asked me to collaborate with him. I was signed six months later.
Where are the most unusual places you pull musical inspiration from?
Probably psychotherapy books or my dreams. I journal a lot – reflections on mental health and the human condition but also my dreams, I wake up and before I touch my phone I touch my notebook and offload – there is some cool stuff in the brain – with distractions taken away it can be accessed.
Congratulations on your new single “Swoop” – what is it inspired by?
I became sick of hiding and playing small. I went into the studio one day and declared my ambition, my hunger unashamedly and was like fuck it, I just want it all – why do I pretend “ok” is enough? “Swoop” is literally that. Zoom in, swoop in, get it. Life’s too short to settle.
The music video is vivacious and packed with energy – how did you go about concepting what you wanted it to look like and what did you want to convey?
I collaborated with Ryan Blackwell the director, talking about all things 90’s – from Britney to backing dancers, we wanted a full-on pop slice of fun mixed in with the badass energy of the song’s message – it’s ok for you to want what you want, swoop in and get it.
And it’s taken from your debut album To Be Alive – what ties all the tracks together as a body of work?
The notion of “owning it” Life’s only guarantee is death – we gotta own our dream and go for it, own our pain and transform it. If you own who you are, you are really “alive” on this earth, this is the message.
What do you want fans to take from your music?
That they must stop underestimating themselves and step into their glory. I felt shit about myself for so much of my life – partly a weird childhood, partly trauma, partly living in a culture that tells you you’re not enough so you buy products to feed the economy. I’m here to disrupt that.
What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to next year?
Who knows. I have a visa to tour America for three years but we are living in an uncertain moment; so for now – release the rest of the album, sing, dance, give talks and hopefully through all that.. empower people to see their beauty.