U.K.'s Starsailor Riding High In U.S.

The process of introducing a hot British band to the U.S. requires more these days than waving a couple of New Musical Express covers under the noses of American tastemakers. But with a program of liv

The process of introducing a hot British band to the U.S. requires more these days than waving a couple of New Musical Express covers under the noses of American tastemakers. But with a program of live and promotional work done not just weeks but months ahead of its stateside debut, Starsailor and Capitol Records have started a buzz that has led to three national TV bookings and a recent six-city headlining tour at this early point in its career curve.

Since the Jan. 8 U.S. release of the band's critically lauded "Love Is Here," Starsailor has followed a December 2001 headlining tour with another jaunt across the States with the Charlatans as a supporting act.

These are widely visible measurements of the concerted effort to make sure that Starsailor crosses to America without falling between the cracks. Even by early December, the response to the lead U.S. song "Good Souls" at triple-A and modern-rock radio outlets was hinting that the campaign was firmly on track.

The group -- from Chorley in greater Manchester, England -- played its first gig in April 2000 and was snapped up by EMI/Chrysalis (in the U.K.) by July of that year amid intense and widespread label attention. The band enjoyed a rapid rise in Britain during 2001, riding a wave of positive upfront publicity from influential weekly and monthly magazines.

But the crucial point was that Starsailor delivered on the media's promises with a series of increasingly successful singles in the U.K., reaching No. 18 with "Fever" in February, No. 12 with "Good Souls" in May and No. 10 with "Alcoholic" in September. By October, that exposure had paved the way for a No. 2 debut for "Love Is Here," with first-week U.K. sales of 58,000 for the Steve Osborne-produced set. A further single, "Lullaby," was released Dec. 10 and charted at No. 36.

Taking its name from Tim Buckley's 1970 album, the band openly refers to the late singer/songwriter as an influence, but lead singer James Walsh believes that Starsailor's potent but accessibly melodic signature will find its own place. "The music's got a pretty universal appeal, and it isn't colloquial either; it's pretty wide-reaching," he says. "Americans love emotion and people putting their soul into it."

The U.S. rollout began six months before the album's release last July, when Starsailor visited the States for scene-setting live and promotional work. A live version of "Tie Up My Hands" performed for Los Angeles public radio station KCRW's influential Morning Becomes Eclectic show in August was included on the recent U.K. CD single of "Lullaby."

"There was a lot of discussion about when was the right time for this record in the States," Capitol senior marketing director Doneen Lombardi says. "But looking at their assets, we realized that playing live is so important to understanding what they're about." The group is in the midst of a handful of North American dates, and Lombardi adds that yet another trans-Atlantic trip is planned by Starsailor for late February through March for a headlining club tour.

Here are Starsailor's confirmed tour dates:

Jan. 25: Toronto (Kool Haus)
Jan. 26: Montreal (Cafe Campus)
Jan. 28: Boston (Paradise Rock Club)
Jan. 29: New York (Irving Plaza)
Jan. 30: Washington, D.C. (9:30 Club)
Jan. 31: Philadelphia (Theatre of Living Arts)
Feb. 8: London (the Astoria)