PGN: So you’re a local gal: Tell me a little about the family.
JS: My parents were working-class people. They were both musicians so I was introduced to music at a very young age. My brother and my father both played the guitar and my mother played piano. I actually started out playing violin and flute. It was great because they were very supportive of my music career. I was classically trained, but I always wanted to be a rock star!
PGN: I think it worked out OK for you.
JS: Believe it or not, I started out doing the beauty pageant circuit. This was when I was young and later, when the whole JonBenét thing went down, it really shook me to my core because that used to be me up on stage at those pageants. You just never know what people are thinking. As an adult looking back, I realized you have to be careful how you portray yourself.
PGN: You said you have a big brother — was yours as torturous as mine?
JS: [Laughs.] Oh, yeah. When I was younger he’d beat me up the way big brothers do. But hey, it toughened me up!
PGN: What was a favorite childhood moment?
JS: One of my favorite moments was winning a competition for the first time and the feeling of entertaining people and being applauded for it. I was about 5 years old and from that moment on, I knew I wanted to be an entertainer.
PGN: Who was a relative that had the most influence?
JS: I’d say my mother. She instilled confidence and strength in me and taught me love and respect of all people. A wonderful, wonderful woman.
PGN: A silly childhood question: What color was your room?
JS: It was pink! That was my color.
PGN: Something you did that got you in trouble?
JS: Ha! Which time? Let’s see. One time, I ran away from home with my best friend. Not because I was having a bad time at home but because she was. I even wrote a letter to my parents: “Dear Mom and Dad, I’m running away from home but it has nothing to do with you. Please don’t be upset, I’ll be fine.” The cops found us that night a couple of blocks from home. I learned that even trying to do good, you need to ask permission first!
PGN: That showed great loyalty to a friend, though.
JS: I was definitely a loyal friend, but I scared the living daylights out of my poor parents!
PGN: What’s your oldest piece of clothing?
JS: I used to do a lot of vintage shop and flea market combing, so I have a lot of pieces left from those days. I have some clothing that goes back to the Victorian era.
PGN: When did you start entertaining on a professional level?
JS: I started playing in a band around 15. I think the first time playing out at an event was 16 and I started in Pretty Poison when I was 17.
PGN: How did you get started with them?
JS: I saw an ad in a music store. There was a sign saying, “Band looking for a singer,” so I called. The band didn’t even have a name at the time. I auditioned and it clicked. We just magically seemed to come together. Whey Cooler and I started collaborating on songwriting and it just flowed.
PGN: I read that Pretty Poison was one of the first crossover artists and that you paved the way for a lot of artists like Britney Spears and Pink. What music did you listen to growing up?
JS: Rock. Rock and dance. In truth, I’m just a fan of good music, so whether it’s R&B or rock or dance or country, I’m just attracted to good music. I think coming from a musical household gave me an open mind to all genres of music. It’s all about the song and how it touches you and brings you back to a certain time in your life. As a songwriter, I’m all about music that draws you in.
PGN: Where do you get your ideas?
JS: I like to write things that inspire me and I like to live vicariously through other people. I may write a song about a situation someone else is going through and feel it through them.
PGN: That harkens back to you sharing your friend’s pain when you ran away with her.
JS: Exactly! And you know what? I think I know why I became such a huge LGBT advocate. When I was little, one of our neighbor’s kids was obviously gay. He was 5 and he used to paint his toenails and put on his sisters’ dresses. I just thought he was the cutest thing ever. [Laughs.] I think that was the beginning of my “fag hag” days: early childhood memories of cross-dressing friends!
PGN: You’ve performed at numerous Pride events; which was a favorite?
JS: In 1997, we played at San Diego Pride. We won for best float because I had 12 go-go boys dressed in red, white and blue thongs surrounding me. It was so much fun, I felt like royalty!
PGN: Other than the kid in your neighborhood, what drew you to the gay community?
JS: I think I always felt like an outcast, particularly in high school. My mother used to like to dress me up in nice clothes and I had my own style thing going on. As a result, I was picked on relentlessly. I was tortured by the other chicks. The girls just had it out for me and I got beat up just for the clothes I was wearing. I literally had them torn off of me. I’d come home with black eyes and my parents would go down to the school ... It was horrible. So I know what it’s like to be bullied for being different. It opened my eyes and my heart to everyone else who was being picked on or alienated, kept out of social groups just for being different. And I always felt comfortable in the gay community: I always felt like I fit in and the LGBT community has always been very supportive of me.
PGN: Since you write from experience, which one of your songs exemplifies your feelings about it?
JS: “Let Freedom Ring.” It was a gay Pride anthem. [Sings:] “We gotta love one another every sister and brother.”
PGN: You’ve been an outspoken ally since way before it became popular to befriend the LGBT community — even before Ellen and Melissa came out — and you had your own “gays” before Kathy Griffin. Were you ever afraid of negative backlash?
JS: I have never done anything that I didn’t feel heartfelt or committed to. There have been a few, shall we say detractors, but I don’t need them. If you have a problem with it, then don’t buy my records or follow my career. It’s not going to change what I do or how I feel.
PGN: And now you have new music coming out?
JS: Yes, the new single is called “Dance Revolution” and we play on the Occupy theme, but it’s about taking over the dance floor. We saw some folks picketing on Wall Street and they were shouting, “Get up! Get Down!” and it just morphed into a song for us. It’s available on Google Play. The album is called “Captive.”
PGN: I know your platinum hit “Catch Me I’m Falling” has been used in movie sound tracks.
JS: It’s pretty cool: It was in “Hiding Out,” “Kickin’ Old Skool” starring Jamie Kennedy and in Adam Sandler’s “Don’t Mess With The Zohan.” And just recently it was featured on the Emmy Award-winning show “Breaking Bad.”
PGN: What was it like the first time you watched a film and heard your song being played?
JS: Oh, it was super exciting. I got to go to the Hollywood premier of “Hiding Out,” starring Jon Cryer, who’s now in “Mad Men.” When I heard my song, I was completely blown away. Hearing your song as part of the soundtrack? So cool. I remember the first time I heard it on the radio. I was driving somewhere in Philly and I almost crashed the car! It was surreal. It was like, “Oh my God, that’s my song! And people like it!”
PGN: Speaking of cool, you wrote a song on Joss Stone’s last album.
JS: I co-wrote a song called “Proper Nice” with Whey Cooler.
PGN: You do a lot of traveling?
JS: Oh yes, we do dates all over the country. We’re getting ready to do another West Coast tour starting June 7, and we’ll be playing everywhere from Vegas to Mexico to San Francisco.
PGN: What was a crazy travel moment?
JS: On a flight from L.A. to Dallas and we flew through a huge storm. The overhead bins were opening up and everything was falling out, people’s drinks were spilling all over the place. The band got together and we were trying to laugh it off but it was pretty scary. When we got off the plane, I got down on my knees and kissed the ground!
PGN: A wild stage moment?
JS: I was in Chicago performing with a number of artists. It was an R&B show and I remember Jermaine Jackson was on the bill. I wanted to shake things up, so I started pulling people up on the stage to dance with me — much to the chagrin of the stage manager. I must have pulled about 100 people out of the audience and then it started getting a little crazy. Suddenly I noticed police standing on the side — I think they thought it was a riot or something. But it was fun: It made the audience feel a part of the show. No one got hurt, but it was a bit much. Especially when I realized that now that I had all these people on stage, I needed to get them off!
PGN: A favorite celebrity encounter?
JS: Oh boy, there have been a lot. I guess a favorite would be someone who is also a big gay advocate, Cyndi Lauper. I’ve had the pleasure of doing numerous shows with her and she’s always gracious and funny and warm. I remember at the last show I did with her in Philly, she wasn’t really letting anyone into her dressing room, but she OKed me and we chit-chatted for a few moments. During her performance she apparently started calling me from the stage, I think she wanted me to sing with her or something, but I was in the bathroom! Everyone started calling my name, but the bathroom wasn’t anywhere close to the stage so I didn’t hear it. By the time I got back, the show was over. But it was so nice of her to give me a shout-out. It was very cool.
PGN: Cyndi has a gay sister; do you have any openly gay family members?
JS: I do. I have a cousin who is gay. She lives with her significant other. But it’s really no big deal, I mean it never seemed strange to me, like “Oh, I have a gay cousin.” It just seemed normal. You love who you love. Whether it’s boys love girls, boys love boys, girls loving girls, girls loving boys, it’s just love.
PGN: Ever have a girl crush?
JS: I’ve had many girl crushes. Let’s see, who’s my girl crush now? [Laughs.] There are a lot of them too.
PGN: Who would you want to do a love scene with?
JS: Hmmmn, she’d have to be really hot. How about that girl from “The Hunger Games,” Jennifer Lawrence?
PGN: Any hobbies?
JS: I’m a physical-fitness maniac! I pump iron, I do Pilates, I work out all the time. And I guess my other obsession is Facebook! I love connecting with my fans. It’s nice to be in touch with people. I always answer my own mail. And I love to watch things grow, so I have a garden.
JS: Right now we have a couple of cats, though I love dogs too.
PGN: Who is “we”?
JS: My husband and I.
PGN: Is he a musician too?
JS: No, he’s not.
PGN: Is that a good thing?
JS: That’s a really, really good thing! Music takes up a good portion of my life. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the studio working on the new album and, at the end of the day, when I come home it’s nice to be able to talk about things other than music. He’s a navy guy.
PGN: Last question: if there were a holiday in your honor, what would it celebrate?
JS: Loving people. It may sound idyllic, but a world with no bullying where people are allowed to be who they are. Being kind. The Jade Starling National Day of Kindness!
You can catch Jade Starling April 13 performing live at the ’80s Dance Party with DJ Jimmy DePre at Adesso, located upstairs from Il Portico Ristorante, 1519 Walnut St.
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