Up and coming fiddler and singer/songwriter Jen Starsinic’s musical journey has, thus far, been quite impressive. After busking on street corners, attending the Berklee College of Music, and hitting the road with The David Mayfield Parade, Starsinic is ready to stand on her own two feet. Starsinic just released The Flood and The Fire, her debut record.
While you are most likely to see Jen Starsinic toting a fiddle or open back banjo, hallmarks of her old time roots, The Flood and The Fire is certainly not an old time record. While there are vestiges of vintage Appalachia throughout the recording, there are hints of country heartache, droning Irish folk, cello, and haunting pedal steel. Each tune represents an aching, a longing, and the snapshot the record offers into the musical soul of Jen Starsinic is startling; this young woman is most certainly a rising voice in contemporary Americana.
I recently caught up with Jen to chat about the new record, her influences, and getting her music out to her audience.
BRO – You have done session work for other artists, but this is the first time you have released a record that is your own. Describe the feeling that comes with releasing a debut record?
JS – Terror! Hah! Just kidding. But it is sort of a strange mixture of elation and exhaustion. When you go in the studio for other people, it’s ultimately about helping them make the music they want to make, so you just go in and try to play well and help them create their vision. Making your own record is a whole different beast. You envision this thing and then set about building it from the ground up. You write songs and then try to figure out how you want them to sound and how to make them speak the best, which is what I got to do with Brady Custis, my amazing producer/engineer/friend. It’s a truly beautiful process. It’s wonderful and scary. Being my debut record, they were all kinds of things I didn’t know and didn’t even know I needed to know. There were all kinds of tough decisions and risks and leaps of faith. It’s about trusting yourself, trusting the people you’re working with, holding on and fighting, and also letting go and moving on. It drove me a little crazy, but I’m so happy with how it turned out.
BRO – Toughest part about attending Berklee?
JS – I don’t even know how to answer this question! Berklee kicked my ass in so many ways, but it was one of the best things to ever happen to me.
BRO – Your roots are in bluegrass, but the tunes on The Flood and The Fire cover a lot of sonic ground. From where do you draw inspiration?
JS – Well, thanks. I’m glad you think so! A large part of the sonic ground on the record is due to the collaboration with Brady Custis, my producer and engineer. Brady grew up around the underground punk scene in Washington, D.C., and then he got into playing roots music as an adult. I was sort of the other way around. Between the two of us, we found a weird sweet spot, sonically. There could be banjo and folky songs, but also soundscapes and ambient pedal steel. We could keep each other in check and also push each other’s boundaries. I love the term “roots music” because I feel like it describes my relationship to traditional music exactly. I have roots in old time, and those roots are absolutely the essential foundation to all of my music. But, in making my own music, I really wanted it to grow into something new and true to my life and the lives of my friends, showing how they are now, the reality of the musical landscape now. So, as much as there’s bluegrass and old time in what I do, there’s also 90s radio rock and Icelandic ambient music and pop and anti-folk and Fleetwood Mac. I grew up both playing bluegrass fiddle and listening to The Wallflowers in the car with my mom, and I see no reason why those two things can’t coexist.
BRO – You are on the road regularly with The David Mayfield Parade. Any plans on getting out on the road with a band to share your music?
JS – I’m hoping to do an ever increasing amount of touring with my own band. It’s been a slow build for me as far as getting a band together and touring because of being so busy with the Parade and relocating to Nashville soon after we finished recording the album. But I love to sing songs for people, and the reception to the record has been so supportive and warm, so I’m carving out time to get out there and do it as much as possible.
BRO – We are featuring “Time To Lose” on this month’s Trail Mix. What’s the story behind the song?
JS – “Time To Lose” is about taking crazy leaps of faith in the vague direction of where you think you want to go and just trusting that things will work out okay. In my own life, I was moving out of my apartment in Boston and didn’t really know where I wanted to live next or where I was going to end up. I left a lot of major life changes to “we’ll see what happens next,” which hadn’t really been my style up until that point. It was both terrifying and freeing, and I learned a lot. But I think, at its core, “Time To Lose” is just a song about giving yourself permission to screw up and take chances. Most things aren’t straightforward and perfect, and that’s good. That’s how they are and that’s how they should be.
Being on the road with The David Mayfield Parade is keeping Jen busy for much of July, but she has some dates scheduled in August that include stops in Charleston, West Virginia, and Abingdon and Charlottesville, Virginia. Surf over to www.jenstarsinic.com to keep tabs on when Jen and her band might be coming to a stage near you and to find out how you can get a copy of her debut record, The Flood and The Fire.