Looking for a pick-me-up during the long, grey winter? Look no further than Starling Glow’s debut album, expected out in early 2015, which promises to bring some synthy, anthemic pop-rock to your playlist.
Their first single, “We are Infinite,” premiered on the Top 20 Billboard Dance Club Songs Chart and the follow-up, “Ignite,” was released in October 2014 (you can listen to them here). Starling Glow’s lead singer and songwriter, Liz Anne Hill, took some time to discuss with NA what it’s like to meticulously craft a debut album, how she risked getting lit on fire and why sweet potatoes are the shit.
How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it before?
I would say unapologetic pop with a rock-and-roll edge.
It kind of has an electronic vibe to it, too.
The dance version of “We are Infinite” was the first song that we came out with and it was such an experiment, because I’ve always done pop and rock. Almost as a fluke the label thought “We’re completely brand new; let’s experiment and put out an EDM remix and just see how people respond to it.” It was nuts, because that was actually the first song that we released and it charted. For it to chart on Billboard, my jaw hit the floor. But we definitely thought “Okay, that was a really fun experiment!” I’m sure we’ll do remixes again, but the focus of the album is definitely the pop-rock, not so much the EDM. But we do use electronic drums and stuff like that to keep the pop vibe up.
So is that the only song on your album that’s going to be EDM?
Yeah. It’s a remix by Dave Aude and he’s an EDM monster. We’ve had him remix a couple of other songs, and I’m sure at some point we’ll release them as B-sides or extras. But the main content of the album is more on the pop and pop-rock side.
It sounds pretty well-rounded.
I grew up listening to pretty much everything, so as much of a spasmodic listener I am, it’s been a challenge, but a good one—to try to balance having a focus as far as the music is concerned, but also being diverse enough to keep it interesting.
Do you feel pressured to fit into a certain label?
I’m so fortunate, because my producer is really open-minded, but at the same time it sucks when you’re brand new. There’s a balance of being artistic enough to be different, but being inside the confines of pop enough to be listenable or to be relatable. But it’s a fun challenge.
How did you find out that your first single (“We are Infinite”) debuted on Billboard? What was that like?
It was so funny because half of the label is on the East Coast and half of the label is on the West Coast, so I woke up to an email from the East Coast side saying that it was on Heatseekers (which means Billboard recognizes that something is gaining enough play quickly that it might chart). Even that…I jumped up and down and called my parents.
With the new album, do you write your own music?
I do. It’s interesting because Starling Glow is basically my solo project. Before I did a lot of bands and I’m used to collaborative writing, but usually I always write the melody and lyrics and a lot of times, the music too. In this project I’m super fortunate, because my producer is also an amazing writer. Sometimes he contributes to the melodies. He writes a lot of the music. Just recently we’ve also been considering even taking some co-writes with other really famous writers, which is like a dream come true. I have a hand in the creative process with all of the songs. Some of them I wrote all by myself and some are collaborations.
Did you write “Ignite?” Was that based on personal experience?
I was working three or four jobs actually at the same time, right before I got signed. I was a horseback riding instructor, working for my parents’ business, doing a bunch of odd jobs, teaching voice. I was working about 70 to 80 hours a week and would go a month or two without a day off. It was kind of insane. I was using my voice so much that I started to get vocal nodes, which is terrifying because if you don’t take care of them quickly they can cause permanent damage to your voice. So I was so freaked out and exhausted and crying all of the time. […] When I auditioned for my producer, I still wasn’t technically supposed to be singing. But it was such a turn around. Everybody has their shit. Everybody has gone through Hell and back in some way, shape or form. I can’t qualify what “trouble” means to anyone else. But to be in such a low spot, and then have literally my absolute dream come true […] I guess that was what the song came from, to try to inspire others.
Since this is your debut, has it been stressful trying to get everything together?
It would have been if we tried to stick to our original deadline. Originally we wanted this album out early [in 2014] and my producer and I had tried to stick everything to a more organic rock sound. All of the instruments were tracked live. We had the best recording musicians in LA do the album, which was a total dream come true. It was scary to take a step back and say, “Shoot, we hired some of the best guitar players, drum players, etc., but I think that we need to replace some of their stuff with more synthetic elements to keep the pop sound more authentic.” Finding that blend with live instruments—because a lot of the stuff you hear on the radio is completely programmed; there’s not a single human-played instrument on it—but at the same time we wanted to keep that. So it has been stressful only in the fact that it’s been such a long time in the process.
How’d you come up with the name Starling Glow?
It’s funny because naming is the hardest part of it. Coming up with a name that you have to live with is literally the most daunting part of a band! But thank God my producer’s wife is kind of the secret brains behind the operation. […] She came up with the idea of “starling.” I loved it, because it’s a songbird. Birds are cool. I like feathers. It totally worked out. But we kind of felt like there needed to be something more and also, I hate to say that it was a factor, but it’s hard to find things that aren’t spoken for already on social media. We knew that with “starling” there was no way that we were going to get it, so we brainstormed and thought “glow” was really cool. The album is upbeat; it’s uplifting. It has a shine to it. So we though Starling Glow was really appropriate. Plus no one had taken that name on the internet, so it worked out.
A Few Fun Questions:
What albums or artists are you currently obsessed with?
Hozier. Obsessed. He has that song “Take me to Church.” And I’m way late to join the party on this one, but one of my old horseback riding students is thirteen years old and obsessed with Ed Sheeran. He’s so talented. Those are the main two that are on replay now.
What’s a drink or snack you can’t live without?
Sweet potatoes. I know that’s so weird, but you can do anything with them. You can make sweet potato hashbrowns. You can make sweet potato fries. You can just microwave them and heat them on the go. You can make sweet potato chips. Sweet potatoes are the jam.
If you could play a show anywhere, where would you play?
This is going to sound really lame, but my favorite show that I’ve done was in New Jersey to a bunch of the coolest high school kids I’ve ever met, so I’d totally go back to New Jersey.
Any final thoughts?
The “Ignite” video is going to come out any day now. I’ve seen it and I love it and I can’t wait for it to be out. My label thought it would be really funny to not tell me anything about it, so I went into the video shoot blind. And you’ll see we basically shot a miniature action movie. On the call sheet there was a stunt coordinator and a pyrotechnician, so I had to face my fear of heights and getting lit on fire. It’s a good video!