Judd Starr’s music, a masterful blend of pop, rock, and dance, is a reminder that while technology has ensured that anyone can make a record, very few can do it as well. The Los Angeles based singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist’s new album, Spirit and Skin, exhibits a level of skill befitting this lifetime musician who has had his music heard by millions on various network television shows and films, all the while creating the music he wants, his way.
A Los Angeles native, Judd has been playing music since the age of ten, when he began playing the beat up piano sitting in his family’s living room. Teaching himself by ear and writing songs almost immediately, by eleven, he was experimenting with recording. Inspired both by 70’s classic rock and early 80’s new wave (both of which influence his music), by seventeen, Judd was gigging regularly in Hollywood and recording his own songs.
In addition to writing and recording his own songs, Judd has been an in-demand musician for television, providing music for NBC, MTV (The Real World, Road Rules and The Little Talent Show) and the films “UFO’s and the Alien Presence,” “Jungle Village Turtle Time,” “Fairway To Heaven” and more.
But it’s with his own music that Judd has best expressed his own voice. His debut album, Luminescent, featured the hit “Firefly,” which reached #8 on the FMQB Adult Contemporary chart and was a YouTube success as well with over 100,000 views. MTV Networks licensed Luminescent across its entire platform of channels and the experience proved to Judd that there was an eager audience for his music, and provided the clearing for his new album, Spirit and Skin.
As Judd states, “With Spirit and Skin, I whole-heartedly focused on what I wanted to say both musically and lyrically. I didn’t want to write about boy kisses girl, boy loses girl, boy sad. That’s been done enough.” And indeed, the album displays an uncommonly smart and incisive perspective on modern American life. “What If I’m Fine” is an indictment of a culture where everyone is taught that there is “something wrong with them,” and the answer to their problem is only a pill (or a product) away. “We haven’t evolved much from the snake oil salesmen who sold magic in a bottle from a wooden wagon,” says Judd with a knowing laugh.
“Borrow You,” a song that Judd says was the most cathartic for him to write, deals with the absurdity of consumer culture in Los Angeles and its obsession with material objects. Judd’s lyrics are sharp and penetrating, but with an added layer of compassion. “I’d always wanted to write a song like that, but it was difficult not to be preachy,” he recalls. And the title track, “Spirit and Skin,” conjures the battle between the soul and the flesh and the occasional human desire to escape, not from a place but from our own selves.
Musically, the album is pop in the best way...well crafted, catchy and memorable, a reminder that music doesn’t have to sound unmelodious in order to be “real.” Judd explains, “The most difficult task in music is to write a concise, meaningful yet relatable song that compels a person to sing it and want to keep listening to it. If that’s ‘pop’ music, that’s what I want to be, whether it’s considered cool or not.”
After years of planning his life and career, Judd has begun to go about things differently. “I’d rather start living by the seat of my pants and do what inspires me in the moment,” he declares. “I’m writing and recording because I’m compelled to and the minute that compulsion is gone, so am I.” And it is in that spirit that Judd Starr has created Spirit and Skin, a work that communicates one man’s love of making music, his need to create it and the skill with which he does it. ~ Review by Ben Lazar / former A&R representative for EMI Records & CEO of Tenth Avenue Music.