PLAYING NASHVILLE: Ellen Starski Demands “More” Independence in New Song

Photo by Anna Haas

Ellen Starski has a way of creating dynamic female characters, a gift she channels into her new song, “More.”

Premiering exclusively with Audiofemme, “More” centers around a woman who is determined to claim her independence after a series of failed relationships. Starski’s husband Shawn came up with the song’s melodic groove on his guitar one day while sitting in the kitchen, the lyrics of the first verse instantly coming to Starski’s mind as he played. She later took the idea to her producer and manager who recommended that she work with co-writers to complete it, connecting her with Michelle LeBlanc. Starski rounded out her songwriting trio with one of the most important people in her life – her father, Henry Deible.

When Starski’s parents came to visit her in Nashville, she invited her dad to help her and LeBlanc finish writing “More,” crediting him for adding an “extra layer” to the songwriting process. “He’s very poetic,” Starski describes, recalling how she used to read the love letters he sent to her mother during college. “I think he’s a main inspiration for the way that I write.” But the singer herself struck gold when she identified the defining line in the chorus that helped shape the core message of the song. From that spark came a protagonist who “just needs more for herself and is not willing to settle for anything but what she needs,” Starski details.

“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to see/I’m not sure what I’m supposed to hear/I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say/Still I need more/So I stand here without you,” Starski sings with her whimsical voice, referencing the ancient Japanese proverb “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” “I feel like that’s almost a clash with the way that this person is stepping out and becoming everything that she needs to be, because those are the things that they tell you [not to do]” she describes of the lyric. “But it would kind of deter a person from being everything that they can be because you have to be able to speak your mind and see your truth and hear your truth.”

“More” is featured on Starki’s sophomore album, Sara’s Half Finished Love Affair. The peculiar title is inspired by two of Starski’s favorite songs that are both named “Sara,” one recorded by Bob Dylan and the other by Fleetwood Mac. “Sara became a character through all of the music that I appreciate. A ‘half finished love affair’ is something everyone can relate to and something I have been through personally,” Starski explains of the title. Accompanying the album is a story about a fictional character named Sara that Starski says was born in her subconscious. In the story, Sara is a time traveler who voyages across the world with her one true love, but ends up losing him along the way. While on her journey to find him, Sara and Starski meet in three distinct places across North America that Starski has visited: Nova Scotia, Montana, and Key West. Starski will share a new piece of Sara’s story with each single she releases.

“I didn’t realize it, but she was coming out in these songs through stories about everything – relationships that I’ve been through, all these different bits and pieces of my life,” the ethereal singer explains, adding that the people she met in each of these three places helped inform her alter ego. “Sara is a part of who I am.”

“More” will officially be released on March 27 and Sara’s Half Finished Love Affair drops May 8. And as the world hangs in the balance of the COVID-19 pandemic, Starski’s parting words offer empathy and encouragement. “Everybody take care of each other. It’s a crazy time, everything seems so uncertain, and it’s good to be getting music out for people while we’re all in quarantine,” she concludes. “I just hope it helps people get through it.”

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