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Phebe Starr wants her music to express all her emotional baggage

Words by Anthony Graetz

PHOTOGRAPHER – MICHELLE PITIRIS
MAKEUP – SAMANTHA LEE
HAIR – BRETT MURPHY

“I want to make normal people feel uncomfortable.”

Australian singer and songwriter, Phebe Starr, is breaking traditional societal norms with her badass music, lyrics and style.

Born and raised in rural New South Wales, Starr wants to use her songs as tools to empower others.

“I want to inspire people to stand out and be different,” she says. “No one’s perfect and we’ve all got our own narratives to follow.”

Growing up as the youngest of five children to a single mother in a small county town, she cites her childhood as formative to her creative ethos now.

“All of my clothes were hand-me-downs or purchased from the local thrift shop,” she laughs. “At first I was a little embarrassed, but it really shaped me into who I am today.”

It wasn’t until Starr moved to Sydney where she really noticed her “differences” compared to other people.

“I just remember sticking out like a score thumb in my hand-me-downs,” she recalls. “It was the first time in my life where I wanted to be normal and to fit in.”

Starr began to use songwriting to pick apart the social pressures she was experiencing. ‘Alone with You’ was her first recorded track.

It was picked up Triple J and the song catapulted Starr into the Australian music industry. The single featured on the soundtrack to 2015 film, A Million Happy Nows, television series, Dance Academy and Offspring, and even featured in a Samsung advertisement.

“I was shocked to see the success of my first single,” she says. “To this day, I’m blown away with the support and acknowledgment I’ve received from Australian brands and companies.”

“It’s like, how do you know I even exist, let alone my music?”

Since then, Starr has released two successful EPs, Zero and Chronicles. Both feature an array of electro-pop songs which carry the underlying themes of self-acceptance, individuality and, quite frankly, being a bad-ass.

Starr’s latest project, TOUCH XXX, is a four-track EP which surrounds the rebellion that comes after a lifetime of being the good girl. Inspired by a recent break-up (as many great creations are), the EP is the answer to a question her then-partner, now-ex, asked:

“I thought you would have changed by now? I thought this creativity and songwriting was just a phase?”

Starr did what any singer and songwriter would do: firstly, she broke up with the guy and then she wrote a song about him.

“I guess that’s the consequence of dating a songwriter,” she laughs.

TOUCH XXX is not only inspired by Starr’s recent breakup, but touches on what it means to contest what is expected of you.

“There are all these rules in society which are placed upon us, but there is so much injustice that comes with that,” she says. “As a female, there’s been so many times when I’ve wanted to shrink back, and this EP confronts that head on.”

“By calling myself derogatory names and labels, I’m putting all the baggage out there. No one can call me a bitch if I’ve already called myself one – I’m taking the power out of these words.”

“I feel kind of liberated,” she laughs. “It’s like screaming out all your fears in a wide-open space. They don’t seem so daunting anymore.”

Starr now lives in Los Angeles and is set to release her first album next year, which she says is a collection of her entire life’s work. She is currently writing music for other artists in L.A. and has a bunch of collaborations coming out later this year.

“I have so many songs in me and I’m really taking the time to get them all.”

Through her songwriting endeavours, Starr will continue to challenge the societal norms placed upon us, and highlight how important it is to be different. Standing up for yourself and sticking to your creative roots is what she’s passionate about.

“Through singing and songwriting, I’ve realised that I need to be okay with myself,” Starr says. “Because by being okay with myself, it means others can be okay with themselves, too.”

Listen to ‘Ice Tea Liberace’ single here. The full EP of the same name will be released August 30.

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