Starley (Sydney) chats international fame, global touring and the MTV Woodies at SXSW

Chances are, if you haven’t yet become familiar with the name Starley, you’ll know what she sounds like. Her single “Call On Me” has transformed from a pop hit into a club chart demolisher thanks to Ryan Riback‘s remix last year and since, the Sydney native has been embraced by territories all over the world.

When we meet Starley at SXSW, she was gearing up to take to the stage with the likes of Rick Ross and D.R.A.M at the MTV Woodies – amid all the soundchecks and general SXSW chaos, she takes some time out to take us through the last year of buzz, hype and quickly generated momentum.

How’s the festival been treating you so far?

It’s been really good. Really hectic. But I’ve loved every second, sick.

Is it anything like you imagined it being?

I was kind of pre-warned by my manager that it’s basically a shit show. I was expecting the worst and I got a pleasant surprise when it wasn’t actually that bad. It’s been really hectic but it’s been fun.

There’s definitely nothing like it anywhere on the planet. Have you played many shows so far?

I played a whole bunch. I did the Sony party Lost In Music. I did a couple others. I did the Cook Out. The rest has just been rehearsals, because I’m doing the MTV Woodies tonight, which is a big one.

That’s huge.

Been a lot of rehearsals for that. It feels like I’ve done a lot but actually I’ve done more like rehearsals and interviews and stuff like that. It’s been cool.

It’s all the media commitments that come alongside it.

Yeah and the sound rehearsals. Sound checks are really intense. I’d rather they do that and get the sound right, because at these things you want people to hear you for the first time and be like shit that was sick.

Yes. You don’t want it to suck.

Hell no.

It’s a long way to travel. It feels like though coming over here, looking at kind of how you’ve gone on the charts, I always feel like America’s kind of adopted you before Australia. Did it kind of feel like that?

Yeah almost. If you kind of look at the Spotify numbers, the way it sort of happened. When I was looking at the history, New York was my biggest fan base and Sweden, actually. We basically started the radio sort of promos for “Call On Me” in America and it’s going really well. That’s cool. It’s Top 20 in radio right now.

That’s got to be a pretty amazing feeling. Have you heard it on the radio here yet?

A couple of times. But more than anything, I’ve got friends that basically they send me videos whenever they hear it, so I hear it more like that.

The third person sort of experience. What does it mean to you that this song has gotten such traction? It must be reassuring that you’re on the right track.

Definitely. It’s really humbling for me. I’ve been really just overwhelmed with how much love I’ve been receiving everywhere, all over the world. America’s definitely embraced me and it’s awesome because I’ve always wanted to be out here. I used to live in the UK and funnily enough, they’ve embraced me now as well, which is so funny because I was there for five years.

When I left and I went back to Australia, that’s when everything sort of happened. It started with my little label, Central Station, in Australia. I’m really proud.

The music that we’re hearing from you now, how far back does that go? You mentioned living in the UK for a while. Were you writing and creating music while you were there?

“Call On Me”, I wrote about two years ago. I basically was looking for the right production on it. I moved back home to Australia and I wrote it. I was going to quit music altogether. I thought, “I’ll give it one last shot and become an artist rather than being a songwriter.” I thought, “I’m just going to give it a shot because I don’t think anyone can sing this song and do it justice and feel it in the way that I feel it.”

It’s been awesome. Finding the right producer was the thing that made it come together. Then yeah, everything else is history.

That’s what I was about to say. So much of it felt like the stars aligning. The right people coming into the song at the right time. How is that leading into what’s coming next for you musically?

It’s really awesome because it basically sets me up to have a lot more sort of infrastructure, a better infrastructure than what I had. I was working on my own before. Now I have the support of people. I have a label. I’m signed to Epic. Licencing deal in America. I’ve got other labels around the world working for me. But America’s really been a big part of it. Epic have really helped me a lot. It feels great because anything I need now it’s a lot easier to make it happen. Which before it was just like, “Oh fuck, I’m doing everything on my own.”

You go through those battles and you go, “Why the fuck am I doing this?” Being on the other side of that now, do you look back at that and go, “I’m really glad that I kept pushing on?”

Oh yeah, for sure. I’m kind of feeling like right now, I feel like I’m going to pinch myself and wake up. It’s really one of those things where I’m living my biggest dreams from when I was a kid that I didn’t even think could possibly happen to me. It’s amazing.

After SXSW and playing with Rick Ross tonight, what’s next for you?

After this I am heading on tour with Clean Bandit. It’s me. I’m supporting Zara Larsson‘s direct support, so I’m the first up of three. Zara Larsson then Clean Bandit and we’re touring the whole of North America. We’re going to be everywhere. I’m doing Jimmy Kimmel as well I think in a couple weeks time. I’m making my album and going to release another song pretty soon. Yeah, just keeping busy.

Tell me a little bit about your live set up and how’s that’s developed as well.

It’s really cool. I’ve got just two guys. I’ve got my two main guys. They’re both multi-instrumentalists. They have a bit of track as well, because I’m a dance artist essentially so we have to have a bit of track. Also I do classic songs that are converted to dance records, so I’ve got to have the real instrumentation in there. It’s pretty simple at the moment.

Tonight at the MTV Woodies, is the first time I’m going to have a set up with dancers and everything. That’s a full kit situation. But my normal show is two guys and we kind of bring the energy anyway, so it’s sick.

Has that always been how you’ve wanted to kind of progress that? I imagine when you started out it was just you.

It was just me. I think mainly I always wanted to have real musicians, no matter what. Then I want to kind of leave room to build. I don’t want people to come to my show and be like, “Oh I’ve seen that last time.” I want it to just build up and feel like they’re growing with me. Because I’m not a huge A-list artist, I can’t bring out 20 people in my band.

One day you will be able to.

And one day I will. People can see me progress and be with me on that journey and that’s what I really want.

Some of the music I’ve heard from you, I’d love to see that with a 20 piece band. It’d be amazing.

Oh, that’d be my dream.

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Starley is currently touring the USA. For dates and more details head to her Facebook Page. Photo by Larry Heath.

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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.

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