Starley is absolutely killing it.
Throwback to @fusionfestival last month. I'm in writing mode at the second but can't wait to be out on stage again very soon!!! Catch me at @liveoutoficial Monterrey Mexico on the 21st of this month! The line up for this one is insane! Then of course, come see me open for @cleanbandit's U.K. Tour starting on the 29th. ????????????????
With a name like that, you’d be forgiven for thinking this Australian artist’s meteoric rise was cosmic; written in the stars.
But the Sydney-born, LA-based singer songwriter has been rabbiting away at a music career for the better part of a decade.
Her hard work was rewarded early last year when her debut single, Call On Me, dominated the charts worldwide. The bop went triple platinum in ‘Straya and was streamed an astonishing 500 million times on Spotify.
For all those hungry for another taste of Starley’s honey-suckle sweet, resonant vocals, you’re in luck. Earlier this week she released another tuna sandwich titled Love Is Love.
It’s the kind of tune that’d fit into your Saturday-morning-happily-making-a-big-breakfast playlist perfectly, but the message of the track cuts a little deeper.
The lyrics – like “you asked me if it’s your fault for letting me play with trucks when I was younger,” – illustrate the difficulties and breakthroughs of coming out as bisexual to a religious family.
PEDESTRIAN.TV phoned the rising star(ley) (sorry) to discuss the inspiration for the tune and to ask her what advice she’d give to anyone considering coming out to the people closest to them.
“I’m not sure if I’m the one to give advice,” the humble 30-year-old begins, but as our interview wears on, it’s clear that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“The song is basically about how I came out as bisexual last year. I had been in straight relationships my entire life. I realised, at some point a few years ago, that I actually didn’t mind either sex, that I like both. So I started exploring that area and fell in love with a woman.”
The woman in question is American TV host Hannah Rad, who Starley’s been in a committed relationship with for the past year, with Rad moving from New York to LA to be closer to her.
“I never thought I could be in a relationship with a woman, but when I met her, all of that changed,” she says.
“I told my family about [the relationship], and it was pretty tough for them to take. The song is the story that unfolds over the last year and my experiences.”
The lyrics of Love Is Love focus pretty heavily on Starley’s father’s reaction, who she says is her “best friend”.
“My father and I are very close. It was a lot for him because he just never would have expected that from me. I come from a religious family and I grew up in church. I think it was really hard for them to handle at first, and both of us went through a tough time last year, but we’re on the mend. I think love just conquers everything and being honest and upfront about everything helps a lot. But it was pretty hard.”
Starley explains that her sexual epiphany didn’t happen overnight. Instead – like many young people – she’d been curious about girls since she could remember.
“I think every girl has that thing when they’re growing up like, ‘ooh, I have a little crush, I might be attracted to women as well’, I think that happens to a lot of girls. If not 100%, it’s at least 80%, I think. But you have that little moment where you question yourself. I’d had that, and so had all my friends, so I didn’t really think I was actually into women.
“Then I guess, when I cut my hair things changed. I used to have long curls, I sort of looked Dominican. Then I cut my hair and dyed it and started rocking a fro and short hair, that kind of thing. And it was at that point that a lot of women started to hit on me. Especially when I was in America, it happened all the time. I’d be going anywhere and I’d get hit on all the time, so I started to be curious about things. I think that’s how it unfolded… they were really hot, so it made me curious.”
“A haircut is a way of expression and freedom. Hair grows back, so I think the more free you can be with it – cutting it, changing it, doing whatever you want – I think really gives off an energy that you’re comfortable with yourself.”
Having been with men for the majority of her life, we were curious about how the dynamics may have shifted in her same-sex relationship. Apart from greater emotional depth and freedom of expression, Starley reckons getting jealous over each other’s outfits is the biggest difference.
“You go to the store together, and especially if you have the same taste, you fight over the thing you both picked up at the same time. That honestly is a thing.”
“One time I went shopping with her, and she picked all the best stuff and because she picked it, I can’t wear the same stuff. And she looked really fly. I couldn’t find anything that day and I felt so jealous. I was like, this is so annoying. So there’s that.”
On a more serious note, we asked Starley what advice she’d give someone who was considering coming out to their friends and family.
“I’d say, there’s no right time to come out so you just may as well. Obviously, do it in your own time and your own pace, but there is no right time. It’s never going to be easy, it’s a very hard thing to do. Especially when you’re from a family that’s a little more conservative or religious. Take your time thinking about it, but when you do, don’t try and pick the ‘right time’ because there never will be one.”
“Then, have a lot of patience with your parents. I think just being as transparent as possible is what helped me; being open and transparent.”
Finally, Starley shared an anecdote of how the holiday season helped to bring her and her girlfriend closer to her family.
“I remember, back at Christmas, I was going to go back to Australia to see my parents. I wasn’t sure if my parents would be happy with my girlfriend coming with me because the way things were weren’t so stable. So I said to my girlfriend, ‘It’s okay, come with me, we can go to my godparents’ house, whatever’, and she said, ‘If your parents aren’t ready, that’s so fine, I’m patient with it, whatever feels good’ because she understood; she had been out to her parents for a long time.”
“In the end, my Mum did say, ‘No, bring her over,’ and when they met her and they saw her, I think that helped so much… because they love me. They love me so much and they want to see that I’m still the same person, I haven’t changed. Still for them it’s not the easiest thing for them to wrap their heads around, but I think because I brought them there and I was trying to include them in my life, that was really helpful.
“I’m not saying that would work for everybody, but for me, the transparency was really helpful.”
Honesty and transparency are key and if you can put all of that into a soon-to-be chart-topping bop? That’s just a bonus.
We asked Starley when we can expect an album but she was tightlipped… so until then, you can stream Love Is Love here.