by Joy Doss | photo by Heather Holty-Newton
Singer-songwriter Garrison Starr is…well…a star in her own right. The Mississippi native has been making music and magic for over two decades. In addition to having released 15 solo albums, playing Lillith Fair and touring with Melissa Ethridge, her songs have appeared in episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and Pretty Little Liars. Though technically placed in the Americana box, the purity of her voice is reminiscent in tone and quality of Susanna Hoffs and Sheryl Crow. And of course, the upfront guitar presence lends to that connection. Make no mistake however, Garrison may be reminiscent of these tender- voiced coquettes but that is NOT to say her music is derivative. She has a voice that is all her own, which shines through on her recently released album, The Girl I Used To Be.
The very first song is probably the strongest and most resonant song on the entire album. The Devil in Me hits different. After reading her bio, the pain and struggle that framed her younger years is evident and peppered throughout the song. She writes, “I lost my youth hiding the devil in me, broke in two fighting the devil me….” The journey to self-acceptance and self-love is not an easy one for someone who is “different” and trying to survive in a “majority” space that tells you different is not the jam. Whether it’s because you’re not blonde (or white) enough, skinny enough, rich enough or, in this case, hetero enough, it’s a maze lined with sticker bushes (as Southerners say) and littered with thorny brush. The song, co-written by 19-year-old Carly Paige, chronicles all of these emotions and complexities in one roughly 4-minute long missive.
The entire album is worth the listen, however. It is a very well-written body of work that traces the arc of her full circle and ponders existential questions around the evangelical conservatism of her youth (“How do I believe in something that don’t believe in me?” she asks in Don’t Believe in Me). Garrison, who has always written her own songs, has created a lovely album with lyrics that are plain-spoken yet at times poetic, delivered with a ringing sincerity and honesty When an artist feels their song, the listener feels it through them. It is refreshing in a sea of sameness and performative nonconformity. Of the album she says, “I used to be that girl who was trying so hard to please everybody, who was trying so hard to do the right thing in everybody else’s eyes. But I can’t be that anymore. I know what you want me to be, but I’m not that person. I can’t do it. I’m dying inside. I can’t hold back.” Nor should she. She has found herself and her tribe.
Visit www.garrisonstarr.com for music, show dates and merch.