When the legends look down from their thrones of rock & roll to applaud a relatively non-glossily-famous musician, you know you’ve either a) found a groupie/child star of the already famous or preferably, b) someone with a whole bunch of talent who acts as muse to the rock gods in question.
Arise, Star Anna.
“She is the real deal. She will be a talent that we can all say that we saw her when. Guaranteed,” says Duff McKeegan of Guns & Roses/Velvet Revolver.
The lyrical and confessional in both poetry and songwriting (see: Plath, Oberst) prizes the skill of turning a bad exeperience into a lesson learned and a song which has both the power to elevate the listener and be universal. Star Anna seems pretty adept at this. “Star Anna is an American original. She sings from a place of beauty that takes me to a higher place,” says Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready.
Yeah. I just wrote ‘says Pearl Jame’s Mike McCready’. It’s that good. Something that makes the album so different is the focus on her voice – she didn’t play her guitar on the record. “I was surprised by how I was able to push myself vocally,” she says proudly. “When the guys would say, ‘Ok, that was good, but go do it again and just let loose,’ I’d think, ‘well, fine, fuck you. I thought that was great. You’ll see. I just can’t do better.’ But, somehow I was always able to pull it out. It was nice to be able to focus on just the vocals and let the rest of the guys worry about the music.”
Her songs are eloquent and haunting, a cathartic, heady liquor filled with heartbreak and hope all in one. It’s no surprise that her songs are continually refered to a ‘soulful’ in the very essence of the word as aplied to folk and traditional American songs.
“[The album is about] balance. There is a lot of anger and loss, but there is also the other side of that. When something happens that strips you down to the bone, you can choose to only focus on the anger or you can also look around at the people who are still there, who are still trustworthy, loving and truly kind… at the time this record was being made [there were] a lot of betrayals that I was dealing with that had been woven into my personal life as well as the life of this record,” recalls Star. “We decided to keep moving forward and make this record. The title speaks for itself.”
Here’s the rest of the band members backing Star Anna:
Co-Producer: Ty Bailie (keyboards/organ/piano)
Julian McDonough (drums), Jacques Willis (vibraphones)
Will Moore (bass)
Jeff Fielder (guitars)
The surprise of the album is the cover she’s chosen: Tom Waits’ song ‘Come On Up To The House’ from his 12th album Mule Variations. There’s also a new song “Let Me Be,” which which she’s co-written with her friend Shane Tutmarc. She says the lyrics in this sone are some of the most important.
“It was written after the first recording session in Portland, where we recorded three songs that were meant to be demos. They were the inspiration for the rest of the album. It was co-written by a friend in Nashville who did not know the back story of the song and was just going off the first verse and chorus. He managed to capture the idea perfectly. The line, ‘I’m a new man looking sideways in the dark’ feels most significant to me, as it describes being stripped down to nothing.
“You have the freedom to become whatever you want because there is nothing left. It’s a heartbreaking place to be, but it opens up your world to rebuild.”
Go To Hell is, arguably, an album title you might expect more from the heavier side of Seattle but clearly that it’s a little tongue in cheek, which reflects the making of a woman: slaying demons, telling the smoke and mirrors to go eff themselves – pain and the restorative rarely go so well together.