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Garrison Starr Biography

Last updated: 03/02/2004 07:50:54 PM

"For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to inspire people," confides singer-songwriter-guitarist Garrison Starr. "I want my music to reach people, and I want the experience to be positive. I want to show strength and offer hope, and address issues that provide answers - even if that means provoking people. If I try to do these things, maybe I can help someone in some way."

Born in Hernando, Mississippi, Garrison was still in high school when she began performing original material in coffeehouses and clubs around Memphis. She quickly developed a following. "I graduated from high school in 1993," she recounts, "and put out my first tape that year, a cassette of nine songs. It was called "PINWHEELS." My friend and guitarist Clay Jones produced it."

"By the time of my second release, 1996's EP "STUPID GIRL," my writing was becoming more universal. The songs had become just me saying how I feel in a way anyone could understand. I want teenagers and grandmothers, everyone, to be able to relate to my songs." Thematically, the EP was a response to Garrison's three semesters at "Ole Miss," the University of Mississippi, where she found herself surrounded by young people whose chief ambition in life seemed simply to fit in.

Garrison financed her recordings with the help of friend Mark Roberts and through gigs Ñ she was a veteran of the road by the time she turned 20. "When I'm onstage," she declares about this dearly-held topic, "I have to sing my soul out. What affects me most deeply is seeing a performer give all they have, pouring themselves out to the audience. When I'm up there, that's what it's all about. If I didn't play, I think my head would explode." Garrison also held a job at Ardent Records, the legendary Memphis label and recording studio. "I was a gopher there," she admits. "I ran errands, did mailings, made phone calls. But it was fun, and, of course, I learned a lot about the music business."

Recording her 1997 mainstream debut,"EIGHTEEN OVER ME,"during this time reflected the independence and confidence Garrison developed over the course of her self-released recordings and years of touring throughout the South. Her dismay at this conformist mindset - and its consequences - surfaced again on the album, most notably on the song Grounded. Yet, despite receiving broad critical acclaim, the album was an uncomfortable one for Garrison. "I wasnÕt quite in my skin, the songs came from a dark time, loaded with growing pains about my music and me."

Feeling disillusioned already at age 22, Garrison walked away from music, unsure about her musicianship and frustrated by a lack of creative control. "It was about 2 1/2 years ago, when things started to change. My long-time friend Clay [Jones] came out to write some songs with me. I was struggling with it, fighting every step of the way. Clay just told me that I was the only person who can get myself to an open place without anger or frustration. After that, the writing just came. Somethin' had to change to get the floodgates going. I guess that was the beginning."

Garrison put everything on hold to figure out who she was and where she was going. She recalls being on a plane from Nashville back to her adopted hometown of Los Angeles, looking out the window and seeing a whole new world. "It was amazing - sitting back and realizing that it really isn't about where you're going, but it's all about the 'getting there' that matters." Garrison clung to that moment and drew inspiration from it for her new album, "SONGS FROM TAKE-OFF TO LANDING." "Songs like Big Sky and, well, most of them on the album tell me that there's stuff I don't know, and it's ok. There's just a whole lot to learn."

Garrison is joined by some good friends on her journey - Steve Earle and Ray Kennedy lend their production support on two tracks (Serves Me Right and Heart of This Thing) and Mary Chapin Carpenter, for whom Garrison has frequently sung back up in concert and on The Tonight Show, returns the favor on Silent Night and Hardest Part of Living.

"SONGS FROM TAKE-OFF TO LANDING"is a post-alternative treasure celebrating the joy of coming-of-age. It is a lesson for anyone at any age, at any time.