From Milwaukee to LA might be a 2,000 mile journey and a big step to make at a young age, but having made it, dance/pop singer songwriter Harper Starling is undoubtedly a rising star of the USA music scene.
Starling has already had a number of top 20 Billboard dance hits including "Euphoria", which reached number one. She has composed with top award winning writers/producers, including; The Jackie Boyz “Carlos Battey” (Madonna, Jason Derulo, Justin Bieber), The Perry Twins (Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez), and Kasia Livingston (Britney Spears, Pussycat Dolls) and has opened on tour for Sheryl Crow. However, if building a successful career is not enough she has also done so whilst at the same time suffering from Tourette's since the age of eight.
Starling was born and brought up in the mid western City of Milwaukee. Located on Lake Michigan its long been more famous for brewing than Billboard entries. AWTY spoke to her about her background and career.
What was it like growing up in the mid west?
"I grew up in a suburb just outside Milwaukee called “The Bubble." We had lots of cheese (the food rather than the culture - Milwaukee's slogan is 'America's Dairyland') and American football! Everybody knew each other. There was always weekly neighbourhood get-togethers and we were a very musical family."
"I have one sister and many cousins and as a child we were always putting on shows for the family. We all grew up within walking distance of each other and shared the same group of friends. One of my earliest memories of the “shows” we put on was performing in the 'The Little Mermaid'. I was Ariel and I made my fin out of a Tweety Bird blanket ."
"At first, we didn’t know that I had Tourette’s, just that I had pretty severe tics. Kids would make fun of me and I didn’t even understand what I had at the time."
You were diagnosed with Tourette’s at the age of eight. What impact did that have?
"At first, we didn’t know that I had Tourette’s, just that I had pretty severe tics. Kids would make fun of me and I didn’t even understand what I had at the time. It was hurtful because those kids were ignorant and didn’t take the time to ask questions about my tics. Instead they just reacted in a negative way. When I was diagnosed, my family were really supportive but more than anything, we felt relieved that we finally had answers."
You’ve said that your Tourette’s disappears when you dance or sing. Are you aware of it not being there when you do those activities?
"At first I wasn’t aware, I just really enjoyed singing and dancing. I think on a subconscious level I always knew it stopped and that may explain why I was so passionate about music . In many ways I escaped from my Tourette's by immersing myself in music."
"I looked over to my sister and told her I was going to take a chance on my music and pursue my dream."
Chronicled in your song 'What if'' you gave up on being a physio-therapist to take on what some people would consider a much riskier music career. How did you come to that decision?
"I was watching Lady Gaga at a concert in Milwaukee. She was performing “Born This Way” on the piano and I looked over to my sister and told her I was going to take a chance on my music and pursue my dream. So, Lady Gaga was a huge catalyst in my decision to switch careers into being a full-time musician. I have always respected her vision and talent as an artist. A few months later, I moved to Los Angeles."
You were still quite young when you made that move weren't you? "I was 22 years old! It was a difficult thing to do both in terms of my career and about having an uncertain future. It was also hard not having any family or friends that I knew when I moved to LA."
Should other young women follow your example and what advice would you give them if they want to break through into the music industry?
"Stay true to your vision! Women are extremely intelligent and resilient so just keep doing you!"
Finally, you say you like Fried Cheese curds – what on earth are they? They're heaven! Think melted cheddar cheese in fried dough.
Harper Starling's UK Tour starts in Suffolk on 3rd June 2022 and ends September 22nd in Brighton.
Photos by James LaMarr
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