From her start in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to today being firmly established in Los Angeles, rising singer-songwriter Harper Starling knows it’s all about taking chances. To much fanfare this summer, she dropped the visual for her big new single “No More What If." The track is unquestionably a dance-pop anthem designed to get the people moving, but there’s an important story being told, one meant to inspire listeners to trust their gut, take that leap of faith.
Starling chatted with Variance’s Ethan Ijumba to discuss her career, lessons she’s learned and the impact she aims to have in the industry. She touches on all of it. Be sure to read the full interview below and stream “No More What If” on all platforms.
EI: So from your upbringing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to now being an artist-to-watch in L.A., having been featured in numerous well-acclaimed music publications and releasing music that has reached Billboard chart success, how would you describe your musical journey so far?
HS: To sum it up, it’s been eventful, unpredictable, and knowledgeable. Every day I’m learning more about myself as an artist, what it takes to really be involved in this industry, and basically to expect the unexpected.
EI: Were there any specific struggles you faced in the beginning when you were trying to break into the industry?
HS: Yes, finding the right credible people that would guide me in the right direction for my music to be heard.
EI: How did you learn to persevere through the obstacles — have there been any major lessons or moments that have helped shape your career as an artist that still impact you to this day?
HS: A major lesson that I’ve learned from being involved in the music world is that it looks easy, but this is a lot of hard work and dedication. It’s helped shape me to be more disciplined and to respect those involved who are never mentioned at the Grammys such as writers, engineers, tour managers, etc.
EI: For those who may not be familiar with your sound and style, how would you describe it to new listeners?
HS: I’m definitely influenced by the current 80s-inspired pop music with heavy synths. Think Dua Lipa in terms of vocal approach, Freddie Mercury’s dramatic flair on stage, combined with my own Lady Gaga style dancers with a mission.
EI: With that being said, is there any specific way that you look to make an impact as an artist in the music industry?
HS: I think I’d like to bring fun into music again and impact my audience by incorporating that feel-good sound, empowering lyrics, and infectious melodic beat.
EI: Your new single “No More What If" has dance-pop elements that impressively incorporates storytelling-based songwriting as well. Do you find it challenging when balancing the upbeat tempo of dance music while writing about emotional topics?
HS: As much as I’d like to take full credit or elaborate on the instrumentation and storytelling, the instrumentation originated from my co-writer Cindy Valentine and our combined lyrical efforts on a story that was a perfect fit along with Niko adding to the beat and mix.
EI: In addition to dance and pop music you’ve been influenced by artists such as The Weeknd, Lady Gaga, and Freddie Mercury among others, are there other genres that you look to experiment with or explore in the future?
HS: I’d love to experiment with marrying a little bit of the pop with a flavor of hip-hop and some jazz.
EI: Is there any specific method or approach that you have in general when crafting a song?
HS: I do find that when writing songs, I prefer to collaborate with fellow musicians as opposed to working solo. Two minds are always better than one. When beginning a session, we (fellow songwriters, producers, and I) discuss topics or ideas that inspire us and we kinda spitball from there.
EI: On “No More What If” you teamed up with Cindy Valentine and Niko The Kid, between the both of them they’ve worked with the likes of Outkast, Ariana Grande, Britney Spears and beyond - what was the writing and composition process for you when working on the song?
HS: Before the songwriting session began, I had worked with Cindy on a few previous projects. During that time, she and I discussed our similar journeys of leaving home in pursuit of something more. One night at 3 a.m., Cindy came up with the concept and hook for No More What If from our discussions and when she played it for me the next day, I knew it was going to be the lead single. Niko heard what we had worked on, loved it, and put his magic into the mix.
EI: Is there anyone you hope to one day collaborate or work with in the future?
HS: I would be honored to work with Julia Michaels. She’s a very talented woman who has created some killer hits!
EI: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Is there more music in the works new listeners can expect from you in the upcoming weeks/months?
HS: Absolutely! A bonus Christmas release followed by an upcoming album for 2022. Oh, and did I mention another video?!