Singer Harper Starling beat Tourette’s syndrome with music (Interview)


Dance-pop singer/songwriter Harper Starling was born to perform. At the young age of three, Starling was dancing for crowds of 800. At eight-years-old, Starling was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome. With this diagnosis came intense bullying at school. Starling turned to music during this time in her life to help her cope.

As it turns out, her musical talent would take her a long way. Starling recently talked with Trendsetters about how she started her musical career and what her journey has been like thus far.

To start things off, could you introduce yourself to the readers and tell us how you got started making music?

Hello and thanks for having me. My name is Harper Starling and I’m a dance-pop artist and songwriter living in Los Angeles. I have always been involved in music whether it’s performing, dancing, or singing.  I started dance recitals when I was three and have been involved in plays, musicals, and operas since I was 13. It has always been in me to perform. I didn’t start writing music, though, until college when I asked for a keyboard for Christmas. I was watching Lady Gaga on YouTube and was inspired by her acoustic performance of “Paparazzi”. From there, I started jotting down lyrics and creating basic chord structures. It was a great way to get what I was feeling out of my head.


So you say that your music has a healing power to it, as you use it to fight Tourette’s Syndrome. Can you explain how your music has helped you cope?

I was born with Tourette’s, but the onset occurred around the age of eight. Tourette’s are involuntary tics due to an overactive nervous system. As a kid, having Tourette’s was very scary because you aren’t in control of your body and I kept having a lot of tests done to see what was causing my tics. Because of this, a lot of kids made fun of me in school and I found happiness in music and dancing. Low and behold, when I would dance or sing the tics would go away. From that moment on, I couldn’t get enough of music.


You almost became a physical therapist, but decided that music was something you wanted to dedicate your time to instead. What made you change your mind?

I received my undergraduate degree in kinesiology and went to graduate school for a year before I made the final decision to drop the program and pursue music full-time. While physical therapy is a great major, it was not what I wanted to do with my life. I don’t do the 9-5 stuff. I get bored very easily and the idea of doing the same thing day in and day out terrified me. I also knew that I did not want to spend the next 30 years of my life hating my job. Life is too short for that. So I made the decision to drop physical therapy and go for music. At first, my friends and family were nervous, but once they saw that this is what I really wanted, they were completely on board.


Your music is described as dance-pop with a splash of 80s. Who would you consider your biggest music influences?

There are so many artists that I’m influenced by. I think my biggest influence would be Lady Gaga. She is a performer through and through. She gives 100% every time she performs and she is never boring. She breathes music. You see how passionate she is about her art and how inspirational it is to her fans. I love everything from the visuals to the lyrics, music and dancing.

I am also very influenced by Queen, specifically Freddie Mercury. He was an icon and a legend. He paved the way for so many artists and really understood how to command a stage and take performance art to the next level. I wish I could have seen him live. The first time I ever saw a performance of Queen was the 15-year anniversary of Live Aid being broadcast on TV. I was so enamored with Freddie. He has thousands of people eating out of the palm of his hand. He was an artist in every sense of the word. 


Once you decided that music was something you wanted to pursue, you met Sigmund Snopek of the Violent Femmes. How has that meeting impacted you and your music?

I was so lucky to meet Sigmund. Once I decided to pursue music, I was introduced to him through a family friend. Initially, he and I were only going to do one or two songs together. Once I met him, I played some stuff that I had written and he loved my voice and style so much that he wanted to work on a full-length album. We worked together for a year-and-a-half making music and performing in southeastern Wisconsin. It was a great time and I learned a lot from him.


You were soon given the opportunity to open for Sheryl Crow at Summerfest. Tell us about that experience.

It was absolutely amazing! I have been going to Summerfest since I was a kid and it has been a dream of mine to perform on one of the stages. I have also been a huge fan of Sheryl Crow and always wanted to meet her. To have two dreams happen in the same day felt almost unreal. It was because of that show (when I opened for her) that I met a management company and had the chance to move to Los Angeles and work with other songwriters. It’s a cliché, but truly, this shows that everything happens for a reason.


Your latest single “One Call Away” is an awesome dance tune that will undoubtedly have listeners dancing along while listening. What is the inspiration behind this song?

I’m so glad you enjoy it and I’m very thankful and grateful for the love this song has received. “One Call Away” is about marching to the beat of your own drum and not letting other judgments and opinions get to you. Even friends and family who mean well, but may not understand the path you want to take. It’s about standing up for yourself and is a self-empowering anthem. I’m so happy that my fans enjoy this and can relate to the song.


With the new year just around the corner, what would you like to accomplish in the 2019 year? Anything you’d like to share?

I would love to go on tour in the year 2019 and do other collaborations with artists similar to myself. I also would love to visit Europe and check out the music scene over there. There is so much going on in the world and the sky is the limit.


Before we wrap things up, is there anything you’d like to say to your fans who are reading along?

Thank you for believing in me and my music. I am always thankful and realize how lucky and blessed I am to be able to do what I love which is make and perform music. None of this would be possible without your love and support. Sparkle on my Starlings!


To learn more about Harper Starling, check her out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!


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