A mad scientist in the music studio, this Starrah is rising
New York — Freshly minted Grammy-winning songwriter Starrah has long helped others be stars. Now it's her turn to shine.
The hitmaker for the likes of Drake, Rihanna, Maroon 5, Camila Cabello, Nicki Minaj, Halsey and Katy Perry is releasing her debut full-length album this week, a natural extension for the self-taught studio prodigy.
“I just really love hearing new sounds and experimenting with music,” she says. "I just feel like a little mad scientist in the lab when I put stuff together and just see what it does.”
The 13-track “Longest Interlude” — out Wednesday — showcases her command of R&B, hip-hop and pop skills, all delivered in an achingly personal collection she likens to opening her diary.
“I personally feel like the only thing that’s missing from a lot of music right now is just the raw emotion and honesty, like vulnerability,” she says. “Everybody wants to be cool. Nobody wants to be vulnerable.”
Starrah has tapped some musical royalty for producing help, including James Blake, Skrillex, Boi1da and Nile Rogers. She recorded some of the songs at Abbey Road Studios, where the Beatles recorded. She says it's all a bit surreal.
“The only time I heard about the Beatles was a music class so it’s crazy to think that I recorded my music in the studio that they worked, with Rogers — a legend,” she says. “It’s hard to wrap my mind around it sometime, but it’s really cool. It’s like a dream.”
She's co-written songs that have over 14 billions streams, among them Cabello’s “Havana,” Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You,” Drake’s “Fake Love,” Halsey’s “Now or Never,” Maroon 5 and SZA’s “What Lovers Do” and Perry’s “Swish Swish” featuring Nicki Minaj.
More of her songs include The Weeknd’s "Starboy" album cut “True Colors,” Rihanna’s “Needed Me” and Beyoncé’s “Already” from “Black Is King.” She also worked on multiple tracks for Madonna’s latest album, “Madame X.”
Starrah won a Grammy on Sunday for working on Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage Remix” featuring Beyoncé. She previously scored a 2018 ASCAP Pop Music Songwriter of the Year award — becoming the first woman in nearly two decades. She also landed a spot in Forbes' 30 Under 30 in 2019.
Not bad for a Black and LGBTQ woman in a male-dominated field who was working in public storage when she first got noticed. “To see her go from public storage to the Forbes list is something nobody can take away,” says her manager, Nick Jarjour.
She grew up as Brittany Hazzard in a small town in Delaware, the youngest of eight brothers and sisters. Music was always a big part of her life. She used to fall asleep to music and wake up to it the next morning. “When I was a kid, I just used to just play around with music all day,” she says.
Starrah experimented with online music programs like FruityLoops and Audacity, watching YouTube tutorials and learning how to loop instrumentals. “Anything I could do to try to learn how to make beats or learn how to make music,” she recalls.
Jarjour remembers first hearing Starrah while listening to a college radio R&B show. Her song, “Drank Up” came on and he immediately spent hours searching her SoundCloud profile.
“From the first second I heard her, chills went through my whole body and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” he says. “It is really astonishing to see how far she’s come, but it’s no surprise because she had that drive inside her from the beginning.”
Her appetite for music is broad. As a kid, she was raised on a sonic diet of Britney Spears, Eve, Ruff Ryders and Lil’ Bow Wow. These days, she feeds her “eclectic palate” everything.
“I don’t limit myself to what I listen to, honestly," she says. "One day I could be listening to NBA YoungBoy or Kodak Black. And the next day I’m listening to Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke or Coltrane or Skrillex.”
Trust and mutual respect are key whenever Starrah decides to help someone on their song, not the popularity of the artist, and she hopes for just “good vibes.” She’s currently working on Normani’s next album and the upcoming animated musical “Century Goddess.”
“When I’m writing for an artist, I feel like it’s important for me to sit down and have a conversation with them and see where they’re at in life and just what kind of music do they want to make,” she says. “I’m highly empathetic so I can pretty much put myself in that person’s shoes and write, if necessary for them, from their perspective.”
Despite her impact, she usually shuns the limelight, even preferring to distort photo portraits or partially cover her face. She says she values her privacy and didn't get into the music business for fame.
“If you think of anything other than the music, it’s a distraction to me. If you’re focused on a personality attached to the music, it just takes away from the music,” she says. “I just feel like that should be the focal point.”