Top Aussie pop singer Starley hit her lowest point while sitting in the bath contemplating suicide. Here is why she chose to live.
Sitting in the bath in her darkest moment, singer Starley confronted the biggest choice of her life. That was five years ago and thankfully the now 32-year-old chose life over death.
“I am blessed to have that moment because it really changed everything for me. I was sitting in the bath thinking, ‘if I hold my head under here for long enough, all would be good’,” Starley said.
“I started to cry and I questioned myself, what else is there for me? That changed my life. With or without music, that moment made me realise that I wanted to live no matter what.”
That moment set her career on an upward trajectory as it inspired her to write her global hit, Call On Me.
Starley, who had previously focused solely on songwriting, took a leap of faith by sending a demo of the track to Central Station A&R executive Archie Magliulo. He signed her on the spot.
“I was broke and working for my dad making blinds trying to figure out my next move,” she explains. “I was looking up personal trainer courses and when he (Archie) came to me I decided to give it one last shot.”
That shot has developed into Starley now representing the new face of Australian music with the anthemic song topping the charts around the world and played on high rotation on commercial radio globally.
Her debut album, One Of One, is out this month and of course features Call On Me, which she says came out of “my own little dark world”.
“I made up this story in my head that I wasn’t good enough and that I was a failure and that brought me in to such a dark space,” she said. “When I was trying to get out of it, I was thinking of other people that go through things that they really can’t change so the song was for them to. That was my main intention.”
Teaming up with Magiulo proved the perfect partnership after years of knock-backs, during which the Sydney-born singer was criticised for her looks — her hair was too curly, she was too short at 168cm and she didn’t fit the mould of what a pop star should look like.
“It is not really about how I look,” she said.
“If I had a different hairstyle, or if I was 20kg heavier, it is not about that. It is about what energy I am putting out into the world. We are in the music industry and it is about the songs and artistry. I was quite heavily criticised in the beginning to the point where I didn’t have a photo of myself on my demo so when the labels would see me, they didn’t know what to do with me. An executive even said, ‘she is unf…able and if he didn’t want to f… me, he didn’t want to sign me’.”
“A 16-year-old hearing that is quite ridiculous.”
Interestingly it is Starley’s unique take on fashion that has put her on the radar in that world.
She has become “a friend of” high-end international label Gucci, which dressed her for the cover of her album, and has also been aligned with Reebok.
It was only recently that she felt comfortable exploring these creative relationships with brands.
Despite receiving plenty of partnership offers and party invites thanks to the buzz around her music, she didn’t feel it was right to accept.
“When I go there, I wanted to feel like I really deserved to be there and I wanted my album to be out. I wanted to be solid in what I was doing. I am too much of an over thinker. I love the art of music and I respect it so much that I just didn’t want to go unless I really deserved to be there.”
The album isn’t all dark. The 13-track album represents Starley’s life to date, her relationships and experiences, the highs and the lows.
“One Of One to me feels like the connection that we all have to each other,” she said.
“We are one person but we are all part of one massive organism. That is a huge thing for me because that is how my music got around the world. We all have our individuality, I have mine that I have finally embraced and it has taken me so long to get to this point. That is what this album is about, embracing who we are.”
Starley, whose father is Mauritian and mother is of Filipino and Japanese heritage, is usually based in Los Angeles but has spent much of this year based in Bondi due to the coronavirus.
Family is core to her being.
“We had all the best food at our house growing up,” she smiles.
“I love sharing my culture. My mum had three kids before she met my dad so we are all different colours. We are like a rainbow family. We are all so close, that was the reason why my mentality has always been about connection. I feel very blessed.”
“We came from a bit of a poor family, my parents worked two jobs and we didn’t have a radio in the car so I was like the band leader making up the songs to sing and my siblings would join in. My parents worked as hard as they could to give us as much as they could. My parents, I owe them everything.”
Her parents, she adds, don’t care about fame or fortune.
“They love that I am doing what I love,” she says. “They love hearing my voice, that is the main thing. But when I was on Jimmy Kimmel Live! or Good Morning America, that wasn’t a big deal to them. They love me so much, they want me to be happy in whatever I do.”