When Ella Starr was 8 years old she wrote her first song, a simple keyboard ditty about the need to take things slowly and enjoy life as it comes. Unfortunately, the rising R&B singer/songwriter has a difficult time following her own advice these days.
Now well into recording her new album, which she expects to release in the first quarter of 2014, Starr, 25, said virtually all of her time is dedicated to music, whether writing, recording, rehearsing or playing live. Indeed, shortly after wrapping up our late November interview, the singer jetted off to scope out the venue she was set to perform in later in the evening.
Starr, who was born in Mansfield and raised by a reverend father and a mother who works in telecommunications, never envisioned this career path when she was younger. The singer, like her mom, is both a talented vocalist and painfully introverted, so the thought of performing in front of any sort of audience used to send her system into shock.
“My mom stumbled upon me singing when I was young, like 7 or 8 years old, and she came in my room like, ‘I didn’t know you could sing!’” said Starr, who performs at Door 7 on Saturday, Nov. 30. “So she forced me to get in the [church] choir when I didn’t want to because I was so shy. Sometimes I still am.”
Writing, however, is something that has always come naturally to the musician. Starr, who described herself as “the nerdy type” growing up (“I would read three books every week over the summer [break],” she said), could almost always be found with paper and pen nearby, and she’d spend long hours after school writing songs, poems and short stories when she wasn’t parked in front of the family’s piano.
“Every day when I would come off the bus I would throw my book bag down and sit down at the piano for hours until [my parents] got home,” she said. “I’ve always loved to write, and I’ve always loved to make music.”
Even as a child the singer was drawn to grown-up subject matter; her songs centered on things like romance long before she had any experiences of her own to draw upon.
“I was always writing love songs even though I might have never been in love,” she said. “Or maybe I just thought I was.”
Starr continues to take a similar approach these days, though her songwriting has admittedly taken on a deeper complexity in recent years. The musician’s latest single, “Ain’t No Woman,” for one, finds the singer reminding a lover that, while there might be bumps in the road, these can easily be overcome by simply sticking together.
“It’s me saying, ‘At the end of the day I do my best for you,’” Starr said. “‘I’m 100 percent here for you.’”
Photo by Meghan Ralston