'Starr Search 2007!'
Judd Starr's release of his debut album Luminescent, is a culmination of his musical experience from his childhood, until the very moment when he recorded the album as an adult. Judd wrote, performed, recorded and mixed the entire album himself. This jack-of-all-trades is a Los Angeles native, currently living in Reno/Sparks Nevada, who's been playing music since the age of 10. Judd gigged extensively around the L.A. club scene with his band for about a year at the age of 17 until he decided that it was time for him to go solo.
Starr then recorded a solo demo that got much positive feedback and eventually lead to a recording deal offered by JCI Records. It was around this time that Judd began fine-tuning the recording, mixing, and production skills that translated into a few smaller projects for the Leeza show and Playboy Music.
His musical resume is almost as eclectic as his musical voice. He has worked for NBC, (on the award winning show Starting Over), MTV (provided music for The Real World, Road Rules, The Little Talent Show and currently working on Yo Momma) He has worked on the set of several movies including: UFO's and the Alien Presence, (1992), Jungle Village Turtle Time (1994), Fairway to Heaven (2007) and many more. With this much experience, it's no wonder that Luminescent hits the mark.
On Luminescent, Judd Starr successfully fuses alternative rock with subtle elements of country, and electronic music to craft the sound that is getting him much critical acclaim. MTV Music Coordinator, Carrie Hughes, says, "Judd has the ability to span all genres and his music captures the emotions we all feel but can't always express."
Judd Starr is definitely a great illustration of the DIY musician mantra of today. Luminescent displays Starr's versatility as a multi-instrumentalist by completely changing his tone and approach to fit the different styles of songs on the album.
Judd sings soulful ballads reminiscent of a young STEVE WINWOOD with the presence and conviction of JOHN WAITE that is brought out by his background vocals (also done entirely by Judd.) The album is a small chest of pop gems that blend smooth vocals and sensible, catchy beats that are accentuated by Judd's crisp production.
Taking it from the top and it's been quoted in your press that you still believe that even today, with your Hot AC radio hit 'Firefly' ready for launch, you are something of a hardcore pessimist. Please explain why you are the glass half empty kinda guy with this regard and if your personal life is also just as pessimistic, perhaps? "This started because some people misinterpreted the album title and artwork and assumed I must be this happy, go-lucky guy with a bright message of hope. I just thought that was funny and missed the mark. I was explaining that although there are hopeful moments expressed in the songs, I don't think the majority of my lyrics reflect that theme. That's all I was trying to explain. The songs aren't all about hope nor all about struggle. Just like real life, I think my songs reflect a mixture of both. My words deal with moments of despair and desperation and the attempt to come out of it."
"Nevertheless, somehow my explanation seemed to have morphed me into some super negative monster. (ha!) If anything, I'm usually encouraging to others, but hard on myself. So my "pessimism" is more internalized than externalized. I don't go around trying to bring everyone else down. You can call me an optimist in "working progress". In fact, since writing songs is expressing the purest part of me, if there is optimism in the lyrics, then that must be a part of me too. So in that sense, I can't be entirely "pessimistic"."
For the Average Joe who mysteriously may not have heard of you and was thinking of buying 'Luminescent,' how would you yourself describe your sound? "I sort of consider it "Alternative Pop". I don't think that's quite a category of music at the moment. I'm not "Alternative" because that word currently has the connotation of having a hard rock sound. Yet I'm not typical "Pop" in an R & B, rap, or bubble-gum kind of way either. I think it's a combo of both. Primarily, I think it's a fusion of a 70's and 80's sound. Most of my musical influences stem from those two decades."
Also, as your album title 'Luminescent' is an interesting choice, perhaps it originates from a more personal standpoint for you? Is there a theme to it, perhaps? "Originally, I was going to call the album "Self-Possession", taken from lyrics in the song "Phantom". It means to take full control of your feelings and behavior. I thought that fit because that's what I was doing in my process of writing and recording the album and promoting my music. But people thought that meant "consumed with oneself", "self-obsessed" or "conceited". I thought, gee...great....I can see a big picture of me with the words "Conceited Jerk" next to my face. Meanwhile, I realized that "Firefly" was really making a connection with people, so I took "luminescent" from the lyric in that song, "...guiding me like a luminescent ray..." It just tied perfectly in with the song, the firefly symbol on the cover and the burning holes in the artwork. Seemed meant to be."
Indeed ... so please do reveal to us today where the artwork for the CD originates? Whose idea was it to have this maverick firefly destroying your cover art and where was the back cover shot taken?! "In order to get ideas flowing, I hired a design company to help with the artwork. Completely on their own, without any input from me and without ever hearing the CD, they used the firefly imagery in their original artwork (it's not actually a true firefly....but it obviously represents a firefly). I took that as a sign that the song "Firefly" was destined to be my single and so I wanted to incorporate what they had initiated. However, their design originally involved some sort of "Da Vinci Code" type of artwork that I didn't like at all. It just seemed arbitrary, without any meaning."
"So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and took the burning hole pictures myself. I also took random abstract photos of different textures which were used on the back and the inside booklet. The idea of the maverick, fictitious firefly attacking the CD and artwork was mine. I thought it would be interesting to have this intriguing, magical symbol also be capable of destroying. It's kind of a metaphor for my musical aspirations. While music has been a positive force in my life, it has also been a huge distraction. Although I'm grateful for my ability to write and play music, in the past I've also viewed it as a handicap. Hence, for me, that's what that firefly represents."
"Hopes and dreams are great, but when they're not put into perspective, they can also potentially drive us crazy in our struggle to achieve them. The back photograph was taken by a Russian photographer named Slava Kolupaev who also took my portraits. He took that photo while visiting Brazil. (I think it was Brazil....) He was nice enough to sign a release for its use. I really loved that photo."
How easy (or hard) is it to create new music that both builds on and surpasses the extraordinary accomplishments within the industry that preceded it? "Actually, not too hard, only because I wasn't "trying" to create anything in particular. When I set out to do this album, I promised myself that I would do what was right and true for me and not for anyone else. This was my chance to just write for myself. Writing songs which were built upon a combination of influences. Those influences have already been permanently ingrained within me. If people liked it....great. If not, then I wouldn't have any regrets. The last thing I wanted to do was pretend to be something I wasn't and get negative feedback. I would only have regrets later. I didn't want that. I figured there are enough artists screaming, rapping, pumping out distorted guitar, etc. I just wanted to write real songs I was proud of. Songs with a melody and message that people (including myself) could relate to."
Growing up in a musical household, the son of a jazz saxophonist who gigged with Elvis and The Doors, I'm wondering if you can recall ever having met anyone famous back then at such a young age? "I was so young at that time, I wouldn't remember. My father was always really unimpressed with those people. He was a hardcore jazz purest. I told him he should have at least taken pictures with those guys and had them sign some autographs. When I was older, I did once have a chance encounter with someone he had worked with. He's been on two world tours, one with Bette Midler and the other with Raquel Welch (yah...I know....who the hell knew that Raquel Welch sang?) Well, I've met alot of celebrities on my own throughout the years, and on a fluke, I met Raquel. I said, "you worked with my father...". She looked me up and down and with a scowl said, "...oh....you don't look like him", or something really callous like that and she wouldn't shake my hand. I think she had a crush on my father and wasn't too cool to me. Oh well, who cares."
Please tell us more (in a quick fashion!) about what was going on in your life when these songs were being written and recorded:
'Falling Down Again' - "This song is partly about struggling with addiction, relapsing and fighting to stay on a clean path. It's also about making bad choices and having to live with them."
'Anything' - "About battling depression and looking for an "out". Anything to get out of that depression."
'Let's Play Commandant' - "The only semi-political song I've ever written. Truth is, there is a duality to it. It's also about being in a controlling relationship."
Even before the release of this album, you've allowed your music to be heard in many differing outlets - MTV shows, NBC shows, Cinemasounds movie theatres, etc. - but is there a danger of too much media saturation before the arrival of said product? Indeed, is there such a thing as too much media saturation being a bad thing when it comes to pre-promotion?! "If you look at the Mariah Careys and Justin Timberlakes of the world....yes. Just gets annoying. But when you're trying to make a name for yourself (like me), and you're not a household name (yet...ha), then I'll take as much saturation as I can get. Truth is, what I would interpret as a massive media blitz / saturation, wouldn't equal 1/1000 of the saturation of a Christina Aguilera or Rob Thomas."
Has work begun yet on a follow-up album to 'Luminescent,' perhaps? "No. I thought about it, but promotion is a whole project within itself. I really need all of my energy right now to respond to interviews, do radio shows, play gigs and make myself available as much as possible."
What '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today if asked ... and why?! "I love tons of alternative '80s tunes. (not so much the "Eye of the Tiger" genre of '80s....more like The Cure, English Beat, The Smiths, The Clash....wow....there were alot of "The" bands). To do a cover though, I really love "Under The Milky Way" by The Church (see!!! another "The" band). It's just so haunting and atmospheric."
Lastly, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins ... do you?! "Wow...is this a trick / inside question? If you're talking about the band who sang, "Earth Angel", I always think of the movie "Back to the Future" when I hear it. If you're talking about the animal....I love all animals. How could someone dislike a Penguin? If you're just asking to see how much of an idiot I am....point taken!"
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