David Starr makes use of all assets around him. The Colorado singer-songwriter’s new album Beauty & Ruin was produced primarily by good pal John Oates. The 11-song set, due out Feb. 21, features writing contributions from Wild Ponies, Wood Newton, Dana Cooper and more. Additionally, Oates and Jim Lauderdale appear on the track “Road to Jubilee,” whose video is premiering exclusively on Billboard today (Jan. 21).
“I didn’t know Jim at the time,” Starr tells Billboard, “but he and John had worked a lot together. John joked about how much fun they had writing together, late at night. John and I worked a little on the ‘Jubilee’ idea, long distance, and one day he called and said, ‘Let’s get Lauderdale over here and see what we can come up with.’ I really saw that dynamic between those two. We had a lot of laughs and got a lot of ideas fleshed out and John pieced it together from the parts we all threw in the bucket.
“Since then, I’ve gotten to know Jim a little bit. It was great to have him there, and I was really lucky I was able to get them both in the room for a couple hours to get the video shot. That’s no easy thing.”
Another major contributor to Beauty & Ruin, posthumously, was Starr’s grandfather, author Fred Starr, and his 1972 novel Of What Was, Nothing is Left. After Starr worked with Oates on his 2017 EP The Head and the Heart, he broached the idea of sending the book to a variety of writers to work up songs based on the story, and then turn that into an album.
“The idea wasn’t so much to retell the story in any way, just to draw on the images and the people and the places and the circumstances — the human frailties represented by people in the book — and write songs about them,” explains Starr, who recorded Beauty & Ruin at Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain’s Addiction Sound Studios in Nashville. “[Oates] said, ‘I love the idea,’ and he claimed [writing about] a town in the book called Jubilee. Everybody we sent it to was into it from the get-go.”
Though Starr is not an avid reader, he does feel a particular kinship with his grandfather as a fellow artist. “He wrote these books and took ’em to craft fairs and county fairs and distributed these himself in a way that’s unlike what guys like me do now — playing these coffeehouses and listening rooms and selling CDs off the edge of the stage,” says Starr, who operates the Starr’s Guitars store in Cedaredge, Colo. “It’s no different than what we’re doing now, though I didn’t get it at the time.”
Beauty & Ruin is part of what Starr considers “the second wind” of his recording career, which he credits to spending more time in Nashville and also becoming friendly with Oates, who also maintains a home in Colorado and met Starr through mutual musician friends. “Working with John has always been rewarding,” Starr says. “He sees things I don’t see, and he makes me sing and write better, so I’m grateful for that. I’ve played music all my life, but I feel like I’m just hitting my stride, doing it in a way I want it to be done. That’s a great feeling.”
Listen to “Road to Jubilee” below.