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Garrison Starr

A Conversation with Garrison Starr

Puremusic: Hey, how you doing, G?

Garrison Starr: I'm doing pretty good. How about you?

PM: Ah, life is good. It's really, really good. It's complicated, but it's the holidays.

GS: There you go, it always is around this time.

PM: So what kind of a year has it been for you, looking back? Has it been a good year or--

GS: You know what? You just said it. It's been a complicated year.

PM: Yeah.

GS: It's been an interesting year. And I'd say for the most part it has been pretty difficult. I mean, there have been a lot of rewards, but it's been a lot of hard work. It's kind of been a nose-to-the-grindstone year.

PM: Yeah. And that's what it takes. And it's amazing how much of that it does take. It just takes that most of your whole life long, especially if you're an artist type. There's no blueprint and there are largely no cushy situations.

GS: Exactly.

PM: But I love the way that you manage to keep it real. You're really a killer that way, the way that you live and write with the kind of emotion that really keeps these love songs and relationship songs real and meaningful.

GS: Man, thank you.

PM: I really think The Girl That Killed September is your best record ever.

GS: Thank you. I appreciate that. I totally agree. I'm excited about it, and I know we will find a way to get it out there. It's just such a different climate out there, and it's so much about thinking outside the box.

PM: Absolutely.

GS: You can't rely on the traditional avenues and ideas to break a record. You can't do it. Or to break an artist.

PM: No.

GS: In a way it's sort of like guerilla. You know what I mean? It's like every man for himself.

PM: Oh, it's big time guerilla action out there.

GS: It's sort of like warfare. You know?

PM: Yeah.

GS: There's people hiding in the bushes and like jumping out and scaring people, and it's crawling your way to get what you can get.

PM: Yeah. I think that "Unchangeable" is a fantastic single.

GS: Thank you.

PM: Is anybody listening to that? Playing that?

GS: Well, I mean, we're still talking about the radio thing, honestly. We don't really know how to approach that yet.

PM: Yeah.

[For the sake of continuity, here we digressed into some specifics of AAA radio and certain stations nationally that must remain anonymous.]

PM: Tell me about the label, Media Creature/12x12, and its founder, Sharal Churchill.

GS: Well, I met Sharal through [cohort, co-writer, and co-producer] Neilson Hubbard. I met Sharal through Neilson because Media Creature is a publishing company mainly. They started a label after they started the publishing company. So Sharal pitches for film and TV, and they do licensing. And they do all the things that a publishing company does. Neilson administers his publishing through Media Creature.

PM: Are they in L.A. or somewhere else?

GS: They're in L.A., yeah. So initially I had joined a publishing deal, an admin deal with her. And that happened last year, around March we did an admin deal. Then she and Neilson and I were eating in L.A. one day, and she was asking me what I was going to do with my record. At that point, I had shelved it--I mean, I was doing it myself, so it wasn't like I had somebody pushing a hard sell. But at the same time, it's my fifth studio record, I don't want to play that game anymore. To be totally honest, I feel like I'm too good for that. And I don't like what it does to my self-esteem to feel like I'm constantly having to work the circuit and try to convince somebody that they need to put out my record. I have enough of a reputation in this business, people know who I am, and I just feel like I would rather be in a position to have someone come to me. That's just where I am in my life, and I don't want to have my hand out in this industry anymore, the way it's always been.

PM: I hear you.

GS: So that's a decision that I made. I was at that place in my life, emotionally I was at that place. And Sharal said, "Well, why don't we put it out?" And I talked to Neilson about it for a while, and at first we were like, well, let's try to send to a few more people. I had gone back and forth in talks with an upstart label in Houston that didn't work out. I had to turn that down because we just couldn't come to terms. I had been in negotiations with them, and I had sent it out to a couple other people that I was interested in label-wise that I thought seemed to have a good catalog, and I know this person, and this could be good, kind of thing. And nothing panned out.

And I talked to Sharal, and she's like, "Dude, the business isn't the way it used to be, you don't have to do it the same way, and you shouldn't be afraid that we're not going to have like the traditional four months to set it up." She's like, "Let's just go for it." And so we did.

So that's kind of how it came about. I wanted to do something new and different. Sharal is so excited. I mean, she is just excited. And that's what I was looking for, someone who would champion the project and champion me. And Sharal has done that. And she's just excited about music, and she's excited about this record and she believes in it, and she wants to make something happen. And I feel like that kind of energy is what I've been looking for for a long time--like since I was on Geffen--well, no, that's not true, because when I was on Back Porch they were awesome, and they were so behind me and my record. That was a great label, too, but...

PM: Yeah.

GS: But I've been looking for that at least for the last few years, because I didn't feel that way--I mean, I felt so unappreciated at Vanguard for the most part. So it was nice to at least be in a situation where I felt like me and somebody else were on the same page and that we were looking to really make something happen with this music.

PM: Yeah--if somebody is not excited about your music and your record, you're so screwed.

GS: Yeah, totally, you're right.

PM: But I like this Media Creature's self-description: film, TV ads, games, compilations, lifestyle campaigns and special markets--because I mean, your music so belongs all over the TV and film--

GS: Yes.

PM: --they look at least like they're oriented in that direction--

GS: Yeah.

PM: --because Sharal was in music supervision for a long time and seems to have those kind of connects.

GS: Yeah, she does. I mean, and I'm telling you, she's an eternally optimistic person, which is kind of annoying sometimes, because I'm a pessimist and a conspiracy theorist--

PM: [laughs]

GS: --so she's really a good balance. She's such a good person for me because she's like, "What? What's your problem? What is it? I'm not down. I'm not discouraged. What is there to be discouraged about? We're doing great." And I'm always like, "Oh, we are? Great. Okay, whatever you say." She'll leave no stone unturned.

PM: Because the kind of artists that are getting their music in major TV shows and films, they're on your track. They're right in your family of song. And most of them are not as good as you, first of all--but that's another issue.

GS: Thank you.

PM: But I mean, you're making the right kind of music to get on the TV and to get in film.

GS: I agree. I think you're right. And I mean, I feel like this record--I feel like it's more--even though I love The Sound of You and Me, I do feel like this record is more acceptable than that.

PM: I do, too. I think it's more acceptable, I think that's a good word.

GS: Well, and I think that's because it's so much more kind of pop. I think that kind of makes it--it kind of leans it more toward some of the stuff that you're talking about, the licenses and that. And I really--that's kind of what I--that's a big goal for 2008. It's just to license the hell out of the stuff. And Sharal is on that wavelength. So I'm really hoping that we're going to--we've already got a couple of licenses pending, and we're hoping that if those goes through that's going to lead to more stuff. So we'll see.

PM: Yeah, because a lot of those deals are very lucrative.

GS: I know.

PM: I mean, some people we know landed some songs and did very well on various shows.

GS: Do you know Courtney Jaye? Surely you do.

PM: I do, yeah.

GS: Well, she's a good friend of mine.

PM: She's a great person.

GS: She and Kristen Hall and I wrote a song probably like a year ago called "Sweet Ride," and that just got licensed for Brothers and Sisters, which is one of my favorite shows. And I can tell you that it's good money.

PM: Well, that licensing stuff, that's just good.

GS: Grey's Anatomy is tough. I don't know, man, I'm working on it. I would love to get a song placed on Grey's Anatomy or Private Practice, because the same person licenses both of those shows, or she supervises for both shows. That's a tough one.

PM: Brett Dennen nailed a bunch of songs on those shows.

GS: I know. Once you get it, it's great. But it's tough to nail it. Everybody wants it.

PM: Yeah. Well, Sharal sounds like she's got some connects, and God bless her, I believe you belong there, and I hope she can get you there.

GS: Thanks.

PM: I was looking at the marketing part of your label's insider one- sheet when I came to a phrase like "picture and text widget pushed to opt in fans." I had to get my high-tech girlfriend to translate that for me. I didn't even know what the hell it meant.

GS: Oh, my God. I don't even know what that means.

PM: Well, apparently what it means is that if you sign in to some kind of a contest or promotion, that they've got a text and a picture thing that gets pushed to your phone.

GS: Yeah. Well, that's what we're about to start doing. We're about to start doing this mobile social network and technology thing. I'm not sure how it's going to work yet, but I know that she's been talking to this company for months. Some of the publicity we intended for this record hasn't really worked out the way that we planned, which has actually kind of worked in our favor. Because if the record sort of stays under the radar, we can do some new things next year, and it won't seem like, "Oh, well, we already heard about this three months ago."

PM: No, no. You can do a more formal release of it, and all that stuff.

GS: Yeah. And the way things are now, it's like, who really cares?

PM: Right. Nobody. It's good or it's not good.

GS: Right, exactly. We're going to do some of this stuff--like we're going to do a Borders tour. We're going to do a small one on the website, just see how that goes. And if it's successful we might try to do some more markets. Borders is giving us three dates for now, and they're going to get behind it and do some promotion and some marketing. So those are the kinds of things that Sharal is real creative about, reaching out to people and sort of making some interesting things happen. We're going to do that and try to kick in this mobile network social technology thing. She's having me like do podcasts and put them up on my myspace page, and just talking about things. We're talking about--you know Don Was has that My Damn Channel website?

PM: I just kind of got onto that the other day, that new Buddy Miller song Julie wrote, a friend sent me a link about that. I never even heard of it before. It's great, that My Damn Channel.

GS: I know. Well, it's spreading around. But Sharal and I are talking about doing something like that that we do about me. So we're kicking around some ideas about just doing some different things like that, because those kinds of things, like reinventing yourself in a way, really putting yourself out there like that, those are the things that are going to get people's attention. And this viral marketing is really where it's at.

PM: No doubt.

GS: Buying ads in Paste magazine and stuff, I just don't how effective that is these days, because people are all on the internet. So it's like trying to figure out how to make yourself a presence there. I hate to use this example because I'm sure it gets used all the time, but that Colbie Caillat thing, I mean, that was a myspace thing. Who knows what they did to create that kind of buzz? I'm sure it wasn't just that people randomly discovered her. There was some kind of push going on.

PM: Yeah, there was some cyber-muscle behind that somewhere.

GS: But they figured it out. Whether it was a program that goes and like hijacks people's friends, or whatever it was, they figured out a way to make a presence. And I think that's what you got to figure out how to do.

PM: Right.

GS: Whether it's on myspace or facebook or youtube, or whatever it is, you got to figure how to do that.

PM: Although I do not like that [Colbie Caillat] song, but whatever.

GS: Right.     continue

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