Today I share a great conversation I had with Jade Starling, singer/songwriter of the band Pretty Poison, who originated right here in Philadelphia. They are best known for their hit “Catch Me (I’m Falling)” which was a top 10 Billboard Hot 100 in 1987.
Read on for a behind the scenes look at her career and what she’s up to now. ~Noelle
How long have you been with Pretty Poison and what’s some of the history for those that may not be familiar with your story?
Pretty Poison has been together about 25 years. We’ve been together ever since we were kids and have had quite an extensive career. We kind of exploded on the scene here in Philly and in Jersey and then had some national hits with “Catch Me (I’m Falling)”, “Nightime”, and “When I Look Into Your Eyes”. We got to go national and international and have several pop hits and 9 hits on the Billboard dance chart. We just keep on keeping on. That’s the whole secret, I think, to longevity, is to evolve. For me, I always try to stay relevant and put out new records.”
How old were you when you became interested in music?
“I came from a musical household so it was pretty much since childhood. I had a very musical family. Everybody played and sang. It was a really supportive family effort when I decided to make it my career. My family was so behind me. That’s important; to have the strength and support of your family. That’s what gets you through as a kid, for sure. I’m very lucky that I’ve had that encouragement since I was a child. I started off doing pageants and things like that; dancing. At 3, 4, 5 years old, I felt this comfort and felt like it was my place to be in front of people and entertain people and put a smile on their face and bring them joy. I think that’s my calling in life. I feel like my purpose was to be a singer/songwriter and to meet up with Whey Cooler and start the band; really make an impact on the world. So far, I really think we’ve touched millions of people. I feel so blessed to be able to do what I love to do. At the same time it makes people happy and brings them joy. If I can bring a smile to someone’s face and singing along…. Music is very therapeutic.”
How did you meet Whey Cooler and get the band started?
“I auditioned for a group that he was in. It just ended up working out that we wrote a lot of great songs together over the years. He also produced my solo record, my latest album that’s out right now and has gone on to Billboards Top 20 dance hits, and we’re working on number 3.”
You two have been working together a long time, which is not hugely common. Why do you think you’ve been able to maintain that longevity?
“He has always been my best friend. And the fact that he’s such a talented musician and producer, I’ve always respected his opinion. I knew that if I was getting constructive criticism from him, that it was real. If it was good, it was really good and if it was bad, I knew that I had to do it again. What keeps us together as a group, as a unit, is the fact that we both have our significant others. He has his wife, I have my husband. We have a lot of support from our families. I just think that we’re lucky that we make beautiful music together. It just works.”
Do you play instruments as well?
“I was classically trained on flute and violin but I wanted to sing. I dabble and play a little piano and guitar but I’m not really using that as part of my stage personae. I’m really more of a songwriter.”
That’s tough in itself. Many of us would love to have any of those talents. Instead we just pretend we do while we’re in the car and the shower. Great acoustics in the shower.
(Laughter) “That’s true. The hairbrush in the mirror. There is great acoustics in the bathroom. You’re so right. I do a lot of rehearsing in the shower.”
Was “Catch Me” your first big hit?
“Actually the first hit was “Nightime” and that (“Catch Me”) was the second hit because it came from Virgin records and got a humongous push. It started out as an independent record and sold about 25,000 copies and was picked up by Virgin and went on to sell over a million.”
What was it like the first time you heard your song on the radio?
(Laughter) “That’s funny cause I was actually driving and it came on the radio, locally. And I swear, I was freaking out. I almost crashed my car, I was so excited. Of course, it’s exciting to hear your music on the radio. It’s almost indescribable, the feeling. It’s something that you’ve created that people relate to and touches people’s hearts and souls. I feel very fortunate to do what I do and be a creative person and that people enjoy it. A lot of people just do it cause they do it and that’s what they love to do. Of course I have a passion and passions run deep for what I do, but when someone enjoys it and relates to it, there’s no feeling better than that. I especially feel that with the new album “Captive”, that it takes you on an emotional journey. A lot of people that have listened to it tell me that they love the way it ebbs and flows and takes them on kind of an out of body experience. Music for so many people is an escape from our everyday doldrums. I feel that it’s been my saving grace throughout my life and like everything, there’s ups and downs. But I think that in the darkest times, music has, for sure, saved my life and continues to inspire me everyday. Music is the soundtrack to our lives. A lot of times you think back to special times in your life and a song might come on the radio and take you right back to that situation.”
What artists would you say had influences on you?
“There were so many artists that inspired me growing up. One of my first concerts my parents took me to when I was young was Fleetwood Mac and I was so in love with Stevie Nicks. I still continue to be in love with her and am inspired by her, one of my favorites. One of the best artists of all time. She’s just so magical and transcends all space and time, stays so lovely and just…has that magic. I can remember being bewitched by her when I was little. I think I was even her for Halloween one year. My little, Rhiannon, witchy costume.
And then of course Madonna was a huge inspiration to me when I was a kid. I admire the fact that she still gets out there and has these huge sold out tours. And she still looks so amazing. She definitely defies any sort of preconceived notion of people not aging well in this business. She looks amazing!
I just really try to take note from people that are in this industry and have managed to sustain a career for many decades. For me, I think it’s just really important to take care of myself and be healthy and eat right and work out, stay positive, be around positive and inspirational people. I try to listen to uplifting music. I know it’s a tough world out there, particularly in this industry. There’s a lot of negativity to deal with. But thank God I am a thick-skinned person and a happy and positive person. I think my passion for music, songwriting and event training keeps me focused and going.”
You mentioned working on solo material, but are you still performing with Pretty Poison?
“Pretty Poison is basically Whey Cooler and myself and we build a band around a tour. Yes, I’m still touring. I’m actually on a Freestyle Explosion tour this summer. They bill it as Pretty Poison’s Jade Starling. Of course I’m still out with a group and also doing my solo stuff as Jade Starling. My album “Captive” came out about six months ago and already has had 2 top 20 Billboard dance hits. The first one was “Imsomniak” and the second one “Think About U”. Now my third one is coming out and it’s called “Better and Better”. We had the pleasure to work with DJ producer, Stonebridge. Stonebridge is from Sweden and is internationally known. He’s a very big EDM producer and he also has a show on BPM (on SiriusXM). He debuted the new single last week (this interview took place in February) and it was phenomenal. I’m sure by the time this interview gets published, “Better and Better” will be available on iTunes. Of course “Captive” is available on iTunes and contains all the hits. It’s a lot of fun. I get the best of both worlds. I stay relevant by doing EDM (electronic dance music), working with a lot of current DJ producers and remixers and I get to do the classic hits. So my show is very exciting.”
I would imagine you appeal to a broader mass now, with EDM, and do different types of events?
“Absolutely. You see the hard-core fans that have followed us for years and years and now their kids are getting into it too. There is a whole new audience for my music and it’s very exciting. I’m also getting ready to do Winter Music Conference in Miami in March, where you’ll see all the big DJ’s. I’ll be a presenter at the National Dance Music Awards for the third year in a row. Last year, I was hanging backstage with Hardwell, Avici, all the big guys were there. It was really exciting. Another exciting thing about the “Captive” album was writing with Whey and working with some other outside DJ’s. In particular, we’ve worked with Lee Dagger from the British duo “Bimbo Jones”. He helped write at least 3/4 of my album. We did a lot by Skype because he’s in London. For me, the writing process of this album was a very unique situation. Working with the European guys, bouncing ideas night after night. It became very interesting to do it that way. I’m very grateful for social media and being able to stay connected to people. We also worked with a guy names Franck Dona who is from France. We wrote a song called “Everything In the World” with him, basically the same way. He’s a resident in Vegas along with another songwriter that we did four songs on the album with, Laszlo. The song “Better and Better” was co-written with him. He’s originally from Hungary. So I’ve had a lot of outside help and a European feel to this album. It’s exciting to me to venture new territory and work outside of the box.”
Would you say technology has changed the trajectory of your career?
“Absolutely. It’s kept me in touch with everyone, first of all. Second of all, it’s just made everything so much easier as far as not only keeping connected, but just all the technological breakthroughs over the years that have allowed us to be able to keep putting records out quickly. Rather than spend years and years on something, you can actually get things done in a couple of weeks or months rather than spending years. Not to mention all the money you save that way. It’s amazing. This is why kids are making records in their bedrooms! It’s just crazy but also wonderful. It’s a great technological breakthrough, for music itself. It hasn’t fared well with the industry. The record industry is pulling their hair out of their head cause there’s basically nowhere to go for them cause everyone can just do it themselves now.”
Do you feel like something gets lost in that though? That camaraderie and inspiration of being in a room making music with other musicians?
“I don’t see it that way because even if I was working by way of Skype with Lee, he was still in the room. He might’ve been on a screen miles and miles away but we still were feeling the same feelings. Of course there’s nothing like being in a room with a live band, cutting an album. There’s definitely no other feeling like that. But I still feel like we were connected and it was equally emotional as if we were in the same room. It was happening live at the same time and everything was articulated and worked out at that moment, and I just feel blessed to be part of this whole movement. The respect that’s still there for what we’re doing. In that same breath, doing new music being as exciting as it is, it has also impacted our classic hits and there’s irons in the fire going on right now and you’re probably going to be hearing “Catch Me (I’m Falling) on TV commercials, TV shows, movie soundtracks. We’ve been very fortunate. “Catch Me” was used in the last season of “Breaking Bad”, recently on “Ridiculousness” on MTV. It continues to reinvent itself. Really, it is a blessing. I feel very fortunate.”
People love the music they grew up with, so it’s great for people that loved your music to still be able to see you perform and enjoy new stuff too. I would imagine that’s tough to do in your business?
“It can be extremely difficult. There were years where we were going through a lot of legal issues and we were waiting to put out records. That’s the stuff that really tries to throw a monkey wrench into creativity. Lucky for us we just keep on keeping on. The inspiration continues to flow no matter what.”
What more can you ask for, right?
“Millions of dollars! (Laughter) We’re still working on that. And I should also mention that I’ve done a Kickstarter campaign and Indiegogo campaigns and my fans have really kept me going with crowd funding. I have to say that if it hadn’t been for the crowd funding, I don’t know how I would’ve done this. It’s very expensive to continue to put out records and hire independent promoters and shoot videos. Getting everything recorded and making the record is the easy part. The hard part is getting it played on radio. Getting it promoted in clubs. So the fans go to these campaigns we run and in return they get rewards and perks like signed memorabilia, T-shirts, rare recordings, photos, meet and greets, we might bring them backstage. It depends. There’s different levels. Whatever level they can afford to contribute to, that’s the level of the reward that they get. It’s been amazing. I’m just blown away by the incredible response that we got. That goes to show that the fans really do want us out there. That they really do come to the rescue. I’m starting up another campaign. We’re planning a Freestyle Explosion tour which will consist of a live band and dancers and a backdrop with a 3D visual element behind us. It’s very cutting edge but expensive to take on the road.”
You opened for Joan Jett at one point. This year she is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That hitting so close to home, literally, is that something you ever think about?
“Well, let’s get real here! (Laughter) I mean, of course we all think of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but just think; a band like Kiss was only inducted last year! And they’ve been in the business for like 40 years. There’s so many in the business that are worthy, much more worthy than we would be at this point. It is something that we dream about and would one day love to be inducted, but there really is so many amazing artists that have been around for so much longer. They don’t induct that many people each year. There’s only few and far between that do. It takes a long time. I’m still in the game making my mark. It could take me a lot longer to get there. I have, however, donated the black and white bustier I wore in the “Catch Me” video, the one from the cover, to the Hall of Fame. I don’t know if it’s on display, it may take a long time to be on display. Every year people make contributions in hopes that one day it’ll be displayed. The good news is that it was accepted, but it doesn’t mean it’s being exhibited.”
That’s cool. At least a part of you is in there for now.
“Yeah. There have also been years that we’ve been on lists of songs to be nominated for the Grammys. That’s certainly a closer reality, to win a Grammy. That would be amazing. I’ve been told by some people who work on the Philadelphia Walk of Fame board that we’re on a list to receive a plaque on the Walk of Fame in Philly! That would be awesome, to be inducted in the Philadelphia Hall of Fame at least.”
If you could work with any artist, who would it be?
“That’s tough. I guess out of DJ’s, I’d love to work with Tiesto. As far as an artist out there now, it would be pretty awesome to work with either Chris Martin from Coldplay or Matt Bellamy from Muse. They would be great people to work with.”
Any final thoughts?
“If you see that I’m coming to a town near you, please come out and see me. I always do meet and greets and love to get facetime with my fans. It’s important to me to connect with my fans. They’ve been there for me and I totally wanna be there for them. When you write to me on Facebook, I always personally answer it. It may take me a little, but it’ll be me.”
For all things Jade Starling and Pretty Poison, and to find out about her campaigns, go to: http://www.jadestarling.com
Also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram at Jade Starling.
Go to iTunes to purchase Jade’s new album “Captive” which includes her new single “Better and Better”.
Fun and exciting update: Jade will be performing at the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on April 11 outside of the Whitehouse!