Soul deep connections like ekstasis. Passion driven art connecting the artist with something bigger than herself. A passion driven calling connecting the artist with others on both sides of thin places. Light from the darkness. Light into the darkness.
This is the first in a series of short pieces focusing on new and emerging musicians. But it's about more than their music and more than their art. It has to be about more than music for it to be art, doesn't it? These are stories about that which comes from deep within and touches hearts while moving bodies: Deep calls to deep.
Inked across her ribcage, the word "Liberation" shines a light on a life that is set free. Liberation is the title of the forthcoming album from Interscope and Matriarch recording artist Starshell. Her breakout hits "Supaluva" (which features Kanye and Big Sean on the remix) and "Birthday Girl" have banged in clubs and on airwaves bringing her feel-good sound to a growing body of fans. To watch her perform is to see an artist who possesses a well-polished stage presence yet maintains the joyfulness of a teenager singing into a hairbrush in front of a mirror.
Her sound has been described as "fun", "light", "positive", and "free." When asked what genre she would place herself she said, "My music is pop music. But I was signed by Mary J. who is the Queen of R &B. But everything I write comes from my soul."
Can pop music be soulful? I suppose it all depends on where it comes from - and for what purpose it is created. Starshell's music comes from a place deep within and from a time long ago.
"When I was younger I wanted to be a voice," she shares. Note she said be a voice not have a voice. This full embodiment of purpose is one of the great lessons that this new artist will teach the industry and all of her fans. While growing up she modeled, acted, wrote poetry, appeared in commercials, and began to sing. But her true calling emerged in time, "As time goes on you learn your purpose."
Her purpose, her calling, and her voice would come after a devastating loss that she and her family suffered when she was twelve.
"My sister - she was beautiful. She was popular. She was everything a girl wanted to be in high school," says the recording artist born LaNeah Menzies.
And then her sister took her own life.
The song My Star co-written with NeYo on her upcoming release was inspired by her sister while the title track, Liberation tells her sister's story. Recently Starshell got the aforementioned "liberation" tattoo. She sees the word not only as a tribute to her sister, but as a reminder of her vocation of working for suicide prevention -- work that will help to "liberate (people) from the chains they think they have to live under."
LaNeah's older sister was named Starchelle. Years later when LaNeah was preparing for her career as a performer and recording artist, she would adopt a slightly altered form of her sister's birth name "Starshell" as her stage name. The name means "beacon of light."
"I pour my emotion into my art. And each song doesn't have to correlate to the tragedy, but it does have to bring light."
Yes, pop music can be soulful. The first lyric of her feel good track Birthday Girl, is of course "Lights..." And it shines through not only shedding positive light to entertain, but also to encourage listeners during a tough time.
A study last year conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) explored the correlation between suicide rates and national economic downturn. It pointed out that the suicide rate in America was its highest during The Great Depression of the 1920's. This study, which was the first of its kind, stands as a powerful warning to those of us navigating through the difficult economic season that we hopefully are on our way out of. In times like this we are especially in need of Good News - and Good Music. Starshell is bringing just that.
Here are a few more resources for those interested in learning more about ways we can work to prevent suicide. Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Active Minds, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), The Jed Foundation, National Organization for People of Color Against Suicide (NOPCAS), Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), Suicide Prevention Action Network USA, Suicide Prevention Resource Center, The Trevor Project, and the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program.