For Australian musician Phebe Starr, music has been her life since the age of 15 in a small rural community, but nowadays, Starr divides her time between LA and Australia to maximise creativity and inspiration. Known for her electronica infused pop melodies, her music as likened her to artist such as Lykke Li, Florence + the Machine and Sia and her new single ‘Feel My Love’ draws on similar influences.
Phebe kindly took some time out of her day to answers some of our questions about her new single ‘Feel My Love‘, the arts and SXSW! Read below
Can you tell me how you got started in music?
I’ve alway played music. I grew up around it. My first Job at 15 was playing Jazz music at a Annuka beach resort in my home town, Coffs Harbour. When I left school I started to make demos and I uploaded my first track ‘Alone With You’ to Triple J unearthed and they started to play it.
In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, you mentioned how the arts is very disadvantaged in rural communities. Having grown up in a rural community yourself what were some of the challenges you faced and how did overcome them?
This is a hard question to answer quickly as it is complex topic. I would say these 3 factors are major challengers that rural people face.
Resources: There is a lack of funding for activities, instruments and education. My school didn’t have the resources I see in the city. We had one piano and music was taken mostly by correspondence. I didn’t even have access to a music teacher until I changed schools at 16. I don’t think I overcame this challenge however I adapted to it. I spent hours in front of my yamaha keyboard learning the piano by trail and error. I took help from anyone who would give it but it definitely wasn’t easy.
Accessibility : Living on a farm meant we had no Internet reception for a long time, which limited my communication and access to hear music or have my music heard. It wasn’t until I discovered triple J unearthed that I found some hope. Living rurally also meant I couldn’t see live shows regularly or diverse shows. There was one local pub that had live music. Everyone there played pub rock and was a lot older than me however they were incredibly supportive and I got involved. I was lucky to have a proactive mum who would take me to jam sessions with her friends. Now we have more internet in these areas things are changing however, I only started to release music after I left my rural town for the city.
Belief: Although artistic most of the people I grew up around were builders, accountants, trades people or people who played music on the side. So imagining a career in music was never pitched to me as a reality. Most of the time people would actually go out of their way to tell me it wasn’t possible. I made a note of every woman in music I heard of and I just told myself if they can do it so can I. Growing up Carol King was a huge role model. She is such a boss.
I would like to say that there is a way to overcome all the challenges faceing rural communities but in reality a lot of people are so disadvantaged or marginalised that they would never receive the opportunities they need for there voice to be heard. Triple J unearthed is probably one of the only accessible platform for young people to be heard but there needs to be so much more. There needs to be belief in rural communities not just in the arts. The fact that we aren’t hearing alot of diverse regional music shows that these areas are struggling to build healthy communities and that is an even bigger situation!
How did you your new track ‘Feel My Love’ come about?
I wrote this song about coming to terms with in-perfect love. I am an idealistic, a perfectionist, I’m highly critical of myself and those around me which can sometimes break relationships down. I guess I’m growing up and learning how to celebrate someone no matter where they are at in life. To celebrate myself and my inability to perfectly communicate the needs of those around me. Its a celebration of being a human.
J-Pop has been one of your influencers on your previous EP – in what ways does it influence your music?
I haven’t listened to a lot of J pop since the release of my last E.P “Zero” the E.P, however I am interested in music around the world. J-POP mornings every saturday on SBS was a favourite for a long time.
What are some things that influence you today – musical or otherwise?
I am fascinated by people and culture. I love pop music and I love music that is communicating ideas. If its hip hop or classical music I’m inspired by the relationship between community and art and how they dance together.
Do you think currently living in LA has impacted your sound and the way you make music? If so, in what ways?
100%. L.A gave me so much confidence in myself. Coming from a small town I’ve always looked at my art like I’m behind with what’s happening however, that changed for me in L.A. There are so many people trying to be successful or famous it challenged me and made me more authentic. Im proud of my story, Im not trying to be famous at whatever the cost, I’m trying to write music that means something to me and to others. I don’t think my sound has changed much, its just developed and become more honest.
The visual arts and fashion, seem to be very important to you as you have collaborated with artists and designers such as Anna Moberg and Emma Mulholland. How important do you think the visual arts is to music and how well do you think these two elements work together?
Well, we are all telling stories so they go hand in hand! The best music makes you feel, think and move so its only natural for that to evolve into other forms of art too.
So you been in the industry for quite a while, and you were quoted as saying that you created ‘Alone With You’ because you were over playing crappy gigs and making music that no-one heard. How did you continue to stay motivated through such a shitty time?
Hahaha, I said that? To clarify I was really frustrated when I wrote that song but it was a moment of authenticity, it was a response to my life. The best songs or the songs I’m most happy with come from that place. Its the truth, its raw and it’s a moment that captured how you’re feeling and those are the songs people relate to. There are so many ups and downs in life and in music. My rule is just to stay genuine ,write from the heart and celebrate each day whatever that looks life.
If you could give you younger-self advice when you were starting out in the music industry, what would it have been?
I would say ‘You’re alright kid, keep going’.
So you are headed to SXSW this year, what are looking forward to the most with playing those shows?
I have new music to share. I have a new band who are crazy talented and to be honest anytime I get to play infront of people is a massive privilege so I am very excited.
Are there any other showcases that you are excited to see while in Austin?
Oh so many, Australian BBQ and sounds Australia are my favourite. I’m also going to check out WFNM and see Astr. Im hoping to get to more but my schedule is ridiculously tight so we will see.
Phebe Starr’s ‘Feel My Love’ is available now – click here