Liz Anne Hill took about 15 years and a few busted romances to create the songs that make up her band Starling Glow’s self-titled debut album, a blend of modern pop musical styles that ranges from pop/rock to dance and indie. Starting with the club floor single, “We Are Infinite,” a Dave Aude remix that recalls similar anthems like Gloria Gaynor’s disco smash “We Will Survive” or Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance,” Hill takes flight like the birds she often references in her songs. Starling Glow proves equally adept on the new wave of the Blondie-esque “A New State of Mind,” the dance-rock synthesis of “Glass Heart,” the pugnacious Pat Benatar swagger of “Battle Song” or the full-on power ballad, “Empty Handed”.
A multi-instrumentalist, Hill grew up in Orange County surrounded by music—her mom played piano, her dad guitar and older sister piano, pipe organ and drums, while they all sang. “They told me early on, if I don’t pick up an instrument, they would kick me out of the family,” she laughs. “I was handed a bass at 10 years old and told, ‘It’s easy to play and you’re not very coordinated.”
Her earliest musical influences include blues/country artists like Bonnie Raitt, Shania Twain and Dolly Parton, while learning to play Jimi Hendrix and Steely Dan songs on bass. Her later influences include groups such as Death Cab for Cutie, Paramore, Anberlin, and fellow Orange County natives, Thrice. Growing up, Liz was a member of a variety of bands when she wasn’t horseback riding, the other passion in her life. “All I’ve known is being in rock groups, because I enjoy that collaborative thing,” she explains. “A lot of the bands that I grew up listening to were on small indie labels and played good music – I was into that. For me, playing in a band is all about building that energy and engaging people.” As for her eclectic musical tastes, Liz admits, “I’m a typical girl. One minute, I’m feeling one way, the next, another. I could be blasting Underoath on the way home and then chilling in my room to City and Colour”.
Grammy-nominated producer, songwriter and musician Billy Mohler—one-time member of L.A. band The Calling, who has also played or worked with Smashing Pumpkins, Macy Gray, Liz Phair, Kelly Clarkson, AWOLNation and skateboard pro Tony Hawk—was hired to produce the record and immediately recognized the fellow Orange County native’s talent. The record is being released through newly formed Indie Label Trailblaze Music Group, where Mohler is General Manger.
The album, despite some of its modern EDM touches, is rooted in the rock ‘n’ roll of her youth. “I know my father would’ve killed me if I didn’t have guitars on there,” she admits. “I wouldn’t do it any other way. There’s just something about feeling the vibration of an actual instrument on your body while on-stage having a conversation with your audience. The only reason I make music is because I feel things and want other people to feel them too. I’m so grateful to anyone who listens to my music,” she adds with typical self-effacing modesty. “Being able to perform these songs, get them into people’s hands and, hopefully, have them enjoy them for as long as possible would just be more than I could ever wish for.”
Liz Hill and Starling Glow are primed and ready to share their music with you. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Liz Hill for a little Q&A. In the interview, they explore her musical roots, the creation of Starling Glow’s debut album, the challenges involved in bringing it to lifeand much more!
Take us back to your earlier years. What are your first memories of music in your life?
My family was really musical- everyone sings and plays at least one instrument. I remember a lot of playtime from an early age was focused on music. My dad still has a guitar with my teeth marks on it from my toddler days! [laughs]
How were your biggest influences as both a musician/music fan and performer?
I listened to everything growing up, and having musical parents was amazing because they exposed me to a lot. We were always going to see concerts- Stevie Wonder, Prince, Heart, Sting and the Police, Bonnie Raitt- just to name a few. I didn’t grow up following big pop acts necessarily, although I did love me some Spice Girls [laughs], but instead, my parents wanted to expose me to incredibly talented musicians that did their thing and still made a huge mark in the mainstream music world.
They say a career in music isn’t a journey for the faint of heart. What made you take the plunge and pursue a career in the music industry?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a singer. It was just a natural choice being raised in my family. My parents never deceived me about how difficult a career in music would be, and with that in mind, it just made me want to work harder for my goal.
What can you tell us about the formation of Starling Glow and what’s the story behind the name?
My producer Billy Mohler was auditioning singers to work with on an album. The lengths I went to in order to get into that audition were pretty ridiculous; they involved a bribe, a dead guinea pig, and an alley behind an elementary school, but that’s a story for another day! [laughs] Either way, Starling Glow came about once Billy and I started writing together and decided that we had better think of a name for this project! His wife Becca actually suggested the name, and I loved it. A starling is a songbird, which seemed pretty natural. It just stuck from there.
For those who may not be familiar with your work quite yet, what can they expect sonically?
Unapologetic pop with a rock ‘n’ roll edge!
You have been hard at work in the studio. What were your expectations going into the process of creating the album?
I honestly had none. Haha as a personal rule I try not to have expectations about much. It’s better to just see things as they pan out. That being said, I’m very pleased with how the album is coming along.
What can you tell us about your typical songwriting process and how you bring a tune to life?
I’m absolutely all over the place when it comes to writing haha. I really don’t have a specific “process.” Sometimes a melody comes into my head, or I’ll just have a lyrical idea and run with it. Sometimes I show up in the studio and Billy and I build a song from a beat he’s been working on. I feel like the spontaneity keeps the songs fresh.
As an artist, where do you find yourself looking for inspiration these days?
Generally I write about things that are happening to me or those close to me. I’m often trying to capture a mood or feeling.
You have been working with producer Billy Mohler on the album. What does he bring to the table and what have you taken away from your time working alongside him?
He’s kindof a genius haha. We recently tracked/shot a video for a semi-acoustic version of “Ignite.” We were in the studio for less than 3 hours total, and Billy tracked every single instrument on the fly. He’s incredibly talented, and really has a great ear for what’s cool/edgy. His tracks always have a vibe to them that I could never replicate without him. Needless to say, I feel very lucky to work with him!
You have released a video for “We Are Infinite” and one is on the way for “Ignite.” What was it about these songs that made you select them as your introduction to the world, so to speak?
Both songs are upbeat, encouraging, and fun. I feel like in music, just like in real life, nobody wants to meet “Debbie Downer” on their first date! [laughs] There are definitely moodier songs and ballads on the record, but we thought it be best to start on a more positive note with “Ignite” and “We Are Infinite.”
When might we expect to see a full album release from Starling Glow?
Looking back on the process of bringing this album to life, what stands out at as the biggest challenge in creating it so far?
I wouldn’t call it a challenge per say, but it definitely took some time to hone in a sound. We recorded rock versions of all of the songs with live instruments, only to realize that we wanted to incorporate some more synth/pop sounds. It took a while to find the balance, but I’m very happy with where we’ve landed.
What is the biggest thing you learned about yourself during this intense process?
Wow, that’s a great question. I’ve always been in bands where the writing has been a group effort. This is my first solo project, and I’ve had to learn to trust my instincts a bit. I’ve also had to learn a bit of patience- the album has taken some time to complete but I know it’s worth the wait!
Is there something you hope people come away with after they catch one of your live performances?
Honestly, I just hope they have a blast. I have so much fun when I perform, my goal is to make sure that the audience feels that way too.
What do you consider your biggest milestone so far, in the band or otherwise?
Definitely “We Are Infinite” reaching #19 on Billboard Club Dance. It’s pretty nuts that our first song out charted on Billboard but now my goal is to beat that!
How do you feel you have evolved as a musician since first starting out?
I’ve definitely become a stronger singer. I actually became certified as a voice coach so I could coach myself and constantly work on my technique. I feel like I’ve also learned to streamline my writing- a lot of that has been with the help of Billy’s editing.
As an artist, have you ever experienced a SPINAL TAP moment, where something totally ridiculous happened?
Oh, absolutely! I got detained at the French Canadian border once. That’s a great story for another day! [laughs]
What is the best piece of advice you can pass along to someone who wants to pursue a career in music in the industry’s current climate?
Be humble, but be prepared to work harder than any of your peers.
What do you feel the future holds for Starling Glow both long and short term?
Going back to the “no expectations” thing haha, I have no way of being certain. However, we are working to finish the best album we can make, and once it’s out, I plan to bust my butt to promote and perform the heck out of it!
Are you currently involved with any charity work that we can help spread the word on? If so, how did you get involved?
Yes! I’m very passionate (we can safely say obsessed) with horses. I rescued my horse from slaughter, and I strongly believe in supporting organizations that are doing great work helping to save and rehabilitate animals and place them into loving, forever homes. Red Bucket is an excellent charity in Southern California that helps relocate abandoned and neglected horses.
What are you most excited about when you think about the year to come?
Definitely getting the album out and hitting the road.
Anything you want to tell your fans before I let you go?
Thank you so much for taking the time to ask such insightful and thoughtful questions! I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did answering!