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An Interview with David Starr

by Laura Hemenway, Mistress of Song

The lyrics for David Starr’s “Beauty and Ruin” (co-written with Nashville singer-songwriter Dana Cooper) are featured in the Lyrics Section of the SB Literary Journal’s Volume 4 (Stardust).

It is also the title track for his new project, (co-produced with songwriter and performer John Oates).

The album has a fascinating concept.  It is a collection of songs inspired by the 1972 novel “Of What Was, Nothing is Left”, written by David’s grandfather Fred Starr.  The book is a true Americana story of tragedy, family dysfunction, and denial, set in late nineteenth century Arkansas.

“Beauty and Ruin” features songs and performances from such great artists as John Oates, Jim Lauderdale, Wood Newton, Dana Cooper, Irene Kelley, Wild Ponies, Shelley Rae and Korntved.  There is a brief explanation of the project here.

David performed at a house concert in my home several years ago. His music made a great impression on me and I have been following him online ever since. So when he sent me the lyrics for “Beauty and Ruin” to be considered for Volume 4, I jumped at the chance. I caught up with David briefly in the midst of his busy touring schedule, and asked him a few questions about the upcoming release.

LH: “Beauty and Ruin” is the title track for your upcoming album. Tell us a little bit about the song’s concept.

DS: That song came to life as a result of my ongoing collaboration with my good friend Dana Cooper. He's a real troubadour and constantly posts photos of his travels on Facebook. We had planned to write a song for my new book-based project, but didn't have a title or direction yet. One of his online posts from New Mexico featured the phrase "so much beauty and ruin out here'. I immediately sent him a text message suggesting that should be our starting point. Simple as that!

 LH: What was it like to co-write the song? 

DS: Dana is a great writer. He's a real inspiration to me. He started the song once he'd read the book and we had that title. We later got together and put the finishing touches on it.

There's a whole lot of Dana in that one!

LH: I’m particularly intrigued by the first track on the CD, “Laura”…probably because that’s my name!  Is Laura a primary character in the book?

DS: Laura is indeed central to the book. She is both beautiful and tragic as a character. The song bearing her name speaks to her beauty, charm and elusiveness. The singer in this song feels almost robbed of his will by her allure and the fact that she is so out of reach.  Her arrival in the lives of the people in the book brings first beauty, then ruin.

LH: When can our readers hear the new album?  Can they hear it performed live?  Where can they order it online?

DS: The album and reprinted book will be available everywhere on February 21. It can be pre-ordered right now at I do plan to perform the songs live, both as a solo act and with various groups from different parts of the US and UK. I'm really looking forward to re-imagining these songs along the way!

LH: You are a tireless advocate for the performing arts.  Tell us a little bit about your involvement with the Grand Mesa Arts Center in your hometown of Cedaredge, CO.

DS: My wife Cindy travels with me often when I tour. She noticed a long time ago from the vantage point of a "back of hall" observer how much joy music and stories bring to an audience in small towns in the US and UK. Her idea was to develop a performing and visual arts hub in our small town where folks could attend concerts, dance events, plays, gallery exhibits and classes. We gathered a small group of like-minded locals and set about to remodel an old 1906 bank building into the Grand Mesa Arts & Events Center. I'm pleased to say that it's going strong and that the area has embraced it beyond my wildest expectations! The arts can lift us up; and we need more of that these days.

Laura Hemenway curates the SB Lit Jo section of Lyrics, which endeavor to treat song lyrics with the same importance and eye as poetry. She lives in Santa Barbara with her husband, songwriter Dennis Russell. She plays cello with the SBCC Orchestra, sings in the women’s vocal ensemble “Lux,” and is a “regular" at Palm Loft Songwriter’s Circle in Carpinteria. Laura has served as Music Director for Out of the Box Theatre, has played cello with the Santa Barbara Folk Orchestra, and has served on the board for the Goleta Valley Art Association. She is a painter and her work can be seen here. Her favorite activity is playing accordion and singing backup on gigs with her husband, Dennis Russell.

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