Lesbian indie-queen Garrison Starr tackles life and career head on
Feisty, focused and ready to take on the world, country-rock upstart Garrison Starr is the face of today’s young queer American artist. Though still in her 20s, Starr has already lived a crash-course on the ins and outs of the music biz, releasing four albums, including the recent “The Sound of You and Me,” on the independent Vanguard label.
Now based in Memphis, Tenn., the young Mississippian has shared stages with artists like Emmylou Harris and Mary Chapin Carpenter, as well as performing at Lilith Fair.
Preparing for her Dallas appearance on Friday, where she opens for fellow Southern singer-songwriter Edwin McCain, Starr parried some of questions via e-mail regarding fans, dealing with big labels and what it takes to make it as a woman in the music business.
Granada Theater, 3524 Greenville Ave. June 16 at 8 p.m., $16-$22. 214-824-9933.
You’re from a conservative part of the country. Do you think being out of the closet affected your career in any way?
“Out of the closet.” It’s such a weird phrase. I’m me, and I always have been. Until it became a religious issue for some of my friends and family, I never considered how people felt about the way I live. I guess it does make sense that some people out there won’t give me a chance, but I don’t worry about that they’ll eventually come around.
Does being a gay woman in a mostly male-dominated business make it tougher to succeed?
I really don’t ever think about being a woman in the music business or being in same-sex relationships until I have to. People need to know how to categorize you so they can know what you’re all about without really having to listen to your work. I’m focused on music and moving my career forward.
Sometime after your 1998 album, “24/7,” you walked away from a big record deal with Interscope Records. You then went to pursue the independent-music route. Why?
I left Interscope because they didn’t have my best interest in mind. What I got from the label was that I wasn’t going to be allowed to make a record until they approved the songs and the ideas. I refuse to do that any more.
How have you changed since then?
I wasn’t always totally present for my own career. I left a lot of decisions in other people’s hands managers [artists and repertoire] people, etc. I’m in a much stronger, clearer place now. I also feel more comfortable in my own skin than I ever have. That makes a big difference.
Is it easier to work with a smaller indie label?
The music business is always difficult. You have to know what you want. And you have to have a plan. If you have those, you’ll be all right.
Professionally, it seems like you know what you want and you go for it. Are you as assertive in your personal relationships as well?
Your newest record, “The Sound of You and Me,” deals a lot with romance gone wrong. Can you write that well when your life isn’t falling apart?
Oh, no. I’m much more likely to write about turmoil, tension and pain than happy times. But I think that’s because I’ve never really been truly happy for any extended period of time. I’m experimenting with some new things, though.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 16, 2006.