Holly Starr, singer, songwriter, and touring artist, is set to release her third studio project, Focus, on October 2nd (Save The City Records/Provident Distribution). Focus was produced by Chris Stevens (TobyMac, Mandisa, Jamie Grace), David Garcia (Group 1 Crew) and Chuck Butler (Royal Tailor).
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Focusing On God| Posted September 11, 2012
Fresh-faced female vocalist Holly Starr might still be considered an up-and-comer in the music world, but that hasn't stopped her from already collaborating with some of the biggest names in the industry. At just 21, she's toured all over the US and opened for big named acts such as LeAnne Rimes, as well as written with top-notch producers Chris Stevens and Ian Eskelin.
Having been discovered on MySpace by singer/producer Brandon Bee when she was just a teenager, Holly has released two albums that chronicle her growing relationship with God, and the daily struggles and victories that go along with it. Taking an organic pop approach to her music, she has been wildly acclaimed for her stylistic originality and lyrical maturity.
Holly's third effort, Focus, comes as her most personal project to date. Deriving from a season where ‘focus' seemed like the farthest thing to achieve.
"I want to be around to be able to disciple kids that I really love", she explains, "but because of this calling, I'm not constant in people's lives. Learning to balance all that has been a challenge for me, but it's been a huge blessing to see how when God calls us to something, He provides and He gives time."
The airy and acoustic "Let Go" opens the album nicely, and dives right into deeper subjects of faith with the mid-tempo tune, "This Love", which speaks about our broken lives coming face-to-face with the unfathomable love of Jesus. The grove-driven and eccentric pop track "Don't Have Love" serves as a nice follow up to the previous track, sharing that we can have all the worldly positions we could ever hope for, but without Christ, they all mean nothing.
"Father Eyes" opens with an instantly ear-catching acoustic riff, and progresses into one of the best songs on the record both musically and lyrically, talking about seeing our lives through the eyes of God: "I know it's hard to see through what this world will tell you / Cause misconceptions and false reflections will never be the truth / Just know you're not the only one who's ever cried for help / Jesus loves you in way that you cannot love yourself."
"Me And You" talks about getting away from distractions that pull us away from God, while "Stop And Focus" walks along the same lines, coming as a statement to step away from the chaos life throws at us and take some time to stop and focus on our relationship with Jesus.
The upbeat and bubbly "Satisfied" shares about finding true fulfillment in our faith, and showcases Holly's bright and versatile vocals. "Constant" is a fun and dance inspired worship song, it being the most musically unique song on the project.
Slowing things down as the project comes to a close, the final two tracks "I Believe" and "Grace For All" are personally penned ballads that almost sound as if they were pulled directly from journal entries, the ladder of the two being my favorite as it opens up about the undeserving grace God is constantly showing us: "He knew the greatness of my fall, still He broke down every wall / All my sins are washed away / He has grace for all."
Closing Thoughts When listening to Holly Starr, it's almost impossible to not think of fellow female singer/songwriters like Bethany Dillon and Sara Groves, who take similar simplistic approaches to their musical craft and allow their thought provoking lyrics to take center stage. Focus showcases Holly's incredible lyrical talent, and it would surprise me greatly if she's not one of the most sought after songwriters in CCM within the next several years.
While her last effort, Tapestry, offers a better musical variety in my opinion, this project is far from disappointing, and is the perfect find for anyone looking for music with stripped back production and intimate lyrics of confession and praise.
Focus| Posted October 01, 2012
Early last year I found out about Holly Starr and her album Tapestry. That album featured her upbeat radio single "Undertow" as well as the song that garnered the young artist a Dove-award nomination, "Psalm 23." The whole ten-track album was a mix of hard-hitting, deeply encouraging, and fun tracks. I instantly became a fan of hers after just one listen to her album.
Now, Holly Starr's new album Focus is here for fans of her Tapestry album to enjoy. Another ten-track, the album tells of Holly's experiences this past year with letting go and learning to trust God. But she doesn't stop there -- she shares the hope she has found in God with her listeners through irresistably catchy and hopeful songs.
The first single off Focus, released at the beginning of this year, "Let Go" opens the album with an upbeat acoustic guitar pop sound. This single speaks of how God chips away the obstacles in our lives to make us one who is all open for His leading in our lives: "I know that I've held on too long to everything keeping me from learning to let go/ I'm learning to let You move me closer to a heart that's open..." In addition, wonderful harmonies and backing vocals make it in an immediate sensation. However, the album only gets better from there!
"This Love" follows, slightly less upbeat, but with a very nice piano sound to it. At first, I thought the track was slightly redundant, but by the nice melody and the simple lyrics, it serves as a wonderful reminder of the unending love of Christ, and is especially for times of discouragement. "No one could ever do what Jesus did/ now there is nothing that could ever separate us from this love..." Holly sings gracefully.
My favorite two tracks off the record Focus, the second single "Don't Have Love" and "My Father's Eyes" follow excellently. "Don't Have a Love," first introduced through the awesome music video, is based on 1 Corinthians 13, stating that you can have all the world has to offer, but if you don't have love, it'll never be enough. The piano pop track builds nicely, especially after the first chorus, and the poetic lyrics make it one that you just HAVE to sing-along with! "Father's Eyes" is the most upbeat track on the record, offering hope to those who look in the mirror and see someone they don't like. The drums begin pounding in the chorus, making for Holly Starr's best track yet! Here is where Holly uses her expertise in taking her own experiences and sharing what she has discovered with her listeners: "He changed my life by changing my mind/ He healed all that was broken inside...I'm finding beauty for the first time looking through My Father's Eyes." The powerful bridge states, "I can see your freedom coming/ you'll be a slave to nothing when you see through My Father's eyes." Indeed, this track is very freeing and fun simultaneously.
"Me and You," plus the album's title track, "Stop and Focus" seem to be the centerpieces of the album, speaking of how we absolutely need our time with the Lord -- not just our devotional times, but that we need to "make Him the one and only one for Me" as "Me and You" states; or that we need to "stop right now and focus on You." Both songs have awesome melodies, that even though they are a bit slower, they are still very enjoyable and heavenly.
Based on a jazzy piano sound, "Satsfied" remembers how only God can fill our deepest desires, while "Constant" contemplates how God not only satisfies us, but His love never changes. The album closes with two slower songs, sounding like they are straight from her Tapestry album. "I Believe" has an emotional ring to it, speaking of the times of doubt and discouragement, but knowing that Jesus is the Truth and that His Word never fails. Holly Starr nails this message, along with her passionate and angelic vocals. "Grace For All," with a light piano pop tempo, ends the album Focus with a Gospel message looking back to the cross and the grace that Jesus gave us all through His sacrifice.
As with Tapestry, I was thrilled with the album Focus upon my first listen though even more so. Through this album, Holly Starr offers solid tracks full of excellent melodies, encouraging lyrics, and simply awesome beats. This album is more on the pop side than her previous album, and that is a really good thing. It fits Holly Starr's message wonderfully and will most likely enable her to bring her message to even more listeners in the coming years. Great job, Holly!
There I was, surfin' the Net, researching for a feature story that I was writing. I'd navigated to YouTube and thought that I had clicked on a video for one of Francesca Battistelli's latest. But a few seconds into the song, I realized that it wasn't Francesca. It was actually "Don't Have Love" by twenty-one-year-old, singer/songwriter, Holly Starr. "Holy cow," I said to myself. "This is absolutely incredible! But that stage name is kinda cheesy." Oops, as it turns out, Holly Starr is her real name. No, really. In short order, I located her website, as I simply had to have her record.
Starr's story is a cool one. After posting a couple of tunes on MySpace(Yeah, I'd forgotten too.) a few years ago, the Washington farm girl was spotted by producer Brandon Bee. Under Bee's guidance, Starr's debut release Embraced arrived in 2008. Produced by Dove Award-winner Rusty Varenkamp, her sophomore record Tapestry was released in 2010. During that time, she toured the U.S. — playing some of the largest Christian music festivals. And in October 2012, Starr released her latest, Focus — an infectious ten-song set produced by Chris Stevens, David Garcia and Chuck Butler.
Fresh, snappy, catchy, poppy — HOORAY — all of my fave adjectives apply to this one!
Starr's voice is delightfully unique and her harmonies are impeccable — layers and layers (and layers) of amazing, tight harmonies. And combining the vocal delicateness of JJ Heller with the lyrical transparency of Sara Groves, Focus is light years ahead of most records on today's Christian pop market.
Having co-written all ten tracks, Starr succeeds where many of her contemporaries fall short. In fact, these days, the Jesus-factor gets so buried beneath mountains of ambiguity that I'm often unsure as to whether the typical "Johnny Poptart" is singing about the King of Kings or the King of Beers. Hence, Starr scores big, in that I didn't have to invest any time discerning her message — it's perfectly clear. And that message is ALL about glorifying JESUS CHRIST!
Based on Proverbs 3:5-6, "Let Go" is one of the best of the batch. It's a bona fide earworm and completely on-point... No, there's nothing I own. All You've designed so beautifully sewn. Oh please, help me let go. 'Cause You're in control.
In the musical vein of Maroon 5, "This Love" is another engaging highlight... By His body broken, the grave is opened up. Hope is only found in what He's done. Our sin has been erased. Our God has saved the day. We are forever changed because of this love, this love.
The record's lead single, "Don't Have Love," is a modern retelling of Corinthians 13. Co-written with Chris Stevens, it is simply one of the finest pop tunes I've heard in a (very) long time... Love's never selfish. Love's never vain. Love doesn't criticize. Love doesn't blame. From the beginning, through every age, love is the one thing that's never gonna change.
Of the title track, Starr says, "Not only do I want to focus on God in terms of devotion and spending time in the Word, I want to be able to do that as I'm walking through every day"... Lord I really need to stop right now — stop now and focus on you. Even with the chaos all around — I'll stop now and focus on you.
Written by Star and Michael Fordinal, "Satisfied" is another catchy, true blue gem — perhaps the record's crowning jewel... You're the only one who brings my heart to life. You're the only one I know who can provide, joy all my days. Though the earth fades away, you stand the test of time. You leave me satisfied.
Almost hymn-like, "Grace for All" is a collaboration between Starr and David Moffitt. Honest and pure, it makes for an incredible and moving record closer... I will remember the heavy cross where Jesus bled and died. When no one else could pay the cost through death, he bought me life. He knew the greatness of my fall, still he broke down every wall. All my sins are washed away. He has grace for all. 'NUFF SAID!
Okay, so Holly Star is amazing, and Focus is a fun, high-energy record filled with well-crafted pop songs and loads of Jesus factor — but honestly, is it really a "perfect" record? Well, yes. IT ABSOLUTELY IS!
Found!| Posted October 10, 2012
I was searching for a album for my girlfried, and wiht joy i can say: i found!
The guitar with a sweet voice of Holly Star combine so well, that my girl liked alll of the musics in the album "FOCUS". I'm very happy by found this artist, and i wisn that God keep blessing! lol
Holly STar| Posted September 28, 2012
Great sound and great meaning to her music. Awesome new artist. Glad to see another new artist out there giving praises to god. hope to see more of her in the future. hope she gets more air time. ill definetly request her at our station
Great Album, Nuff Said| Posted September 28, 2012
Great pop music, catchy hooks and melodies, with positive and worshipful lyrics. I'm a guy so I'm really critical about female vocalists because I've grown up listening to male vocalists in all the rock bands I've listened to. I will go out on a limb and say that because girls can belt and have the ability to hit those high notes, doesn't mean the should. Belting and forcing vocals is the number one turn off for female vocalts for me. But that's not the case with Holly, she has a soothing voice and stays withing her comfortable range most of the time so when she does try for those high notes, it sounds good. All this to say, this is a great album by a very talented singer/song writer
Wow.| Posted September 25, 2012
I am completely blown away by Holly Starr's new CD, "Focus!" I can't wait to receive my copy in the mail in just one week! Holly Starr is one of the most amazing women I have ever met. I look up to her so much. GAHH! I can't wait!
Lovely| Posted September 25, 2012
I have been a fan of Holly Starr since her 2nd album came out and this one was just as good as that one, if not better. I really enjoyed the dance feel of lots of the songs but my favorites were definitely Focus and Grace For All. I love the thoughtfulness that she puts into her lyrics and into her musicality.
Well done, Holly!
Best so far from Holly| Posted September 25, 2012
Focus is definitely Holly's best album so far. With important messages in easy to follow rhymes, each song is both catchy and well-grounded in the gospel message. Holly's passion for the Lord is very evident in her music and lyrics. This is definitely a young artist to keep following and she matures and continues turning out great music!!