|Birth name||Shelby E. Starner|
|Born||January 3, 1984|
East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||June 22, 2003 (aged 19)|
Bartonsville, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Labels||Warner Bros. Records|
Shelby E. Starner (January 3, 1984 – June 23, 2003) was an American singer-songwriter and musician. She was born in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, and resided in Bartonsville. Starner first gained recognition in 1997 when her demo recordings caught the attention of executives at Warner Bros. Records who subsequently offered her a record deal. Her official debut single, "Don't Let Them" (1999), received a positive reception upon its release. She released her debut studio album, From in the Shadows (1999), later that same year but it was not commercially successful.
In 2000, Starner worked with members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers for her second album that was never released. Unhappy with Warner Bros. Records, Starner ended her contract and began searching for another company. During this time, she moved home to be with her family when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Starner was born January 3, 1984 in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania to Katherine Hass and Ray J. Starner. She had a stepmother, Susan LaRose and a stepfather, Allen Benn in addition to her little sister, Emily P. Benn and stepbrother Willie LaRose. Starner resided in Bartonsville. She began writing poetry and songs at the age of 11.
1996–1998: Career beginnings
When Starner turned 11 years old, her father bought her time in a recording studio. She was initially embarrassed but later enjoyed the experience. At 12 years of age, she wrote her first song she deemed "acceptable" called "Straight A Student." In it, she sang about a popular 17-year-old friend who died when he was drunk driving. In 1996, as a Christmas present, her father bought three hours of time at the studio where she later recorded four demos of her original songs. A lawyer and friend of family gave the demo to executives at Warner Bros. Records. In December 1997, 13-year-old Starner signed her first record deal. It consisted of a six-album contract worth more than $5 million. Her press representative was Liz Rosenberg, the then Senior Vice President of Publicity at Warner. She enrolled in a home school program for her freshman year of high school.
1999: From in the Shadows
Starner recorded a music video for her first single, "Don't Let Them." She released her debut album From in the Shadows, in 1999, through Warner Bros. Records. It was met with positive acclaim but was not commercially successful. It was produced by Craig Street and featured 13 songs. Starner's song on the lack of trust and loyalty in a relationship entitled "You," was featured in commercials for Dawson's Creek. Starner received coverage from Billboard, Newsweek, and USA Today and appeared on Entertainment Tonight. Newsweek praised Starner as a "pop prodigy." In February 1999, Billboard announced that Starner would go on a small concert tour through the US in mid-spring and that Monterey Peninsula Artists would be the booking agency. In April 1999, Starner began a mini-concert tour through the Far East and Australia, after which, a full US tour was planned. In Australia, she appeared on an episode of Hey Hey It's Saturday with host Larry Emdur.
2000: Second album and hiatus
In 2000, Starner began work on her second album with members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. She wanted to move into rock and roll but she did not release the album and chose instead to exit from her contract with Warner Bros. Starner's mother commented that "Warner Brothers wasn't creative enough to find a niche for her...She was a little mellow and thought of things a little too deeply compared to kids her age that listened to the radio." Starner and her family were initially intending on finding another company to start over until her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Starner did not want to leave her little sister and family after her mother's diagnosis. During this time, Starner was interested in Doctors without borders. Starner planned on enrolling at the University of Pittsburgh in August 2003 to study Latin-American studies and writing. She aspired to write a published essay on bulimia.
Starner worked at the Everybody's Cafe on Main Street in Stroubsburg during the months leading to her death.
Music critic Tom Moon praised her debut album From in the Shadows, stating that it contained "...powerfully revelatory songs, with lyrics that alternate between the scribbled journal entries of a tetchy teenager and the thoughtful, disarming observations of an adult." A USA Today article stated "folky debut album 'From the Shadows' got good notices last year (1999), but made little commercial headway." Starner's pop-folk voice has been compared to Jewel. According to Daily Mail journalist Adrian Thrills, her piano playing and angsty lyrics are similar to Tori Amos. In January 1999, Jonathan Bernstein, a film critic of Spin, wrote that Shelby Starner and Britney Spears "make up the front line of the next assault of girl-teen prodigies." Record producer, Jim Scott, stated that "Out of all the young artists I've worked with, she was the most spectacular: a great great artist." Starner expressed that Janis Joplin was her role model.
Health and death
Starner entered a treatment hospital for bulimia. Shelby continued treatment over the next two years. According to her mother, Starner learned how to hide her symptoms by reading websites promoting bulimia and anorexia nervosa as "lifestyles." Starner's body gave in to the detriments of her long bout with bulimia and due to electrolyte imbalances that caused brain swelling, stroke, and seizure, she died in her home on June 22, 2003. Attempts to revive her at the Pocono Medical Center were unsuccessful. She was 19 years old.
- From in the Shadows Released: April 6, 1999 Label: Warner Bros. Records Formats: CD, Cassette
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