Ellen Starski was born and raised in the woodlands of Western Pennsylvania, amidst the beauty of rural Appalachia. “Growing up, music was all around me – everybody in my family sang. My grandmother sang in musical theater and the violinists and banjo players of my family go back generations.”
Before launching into her own journey as singer/songwriter, Ellen Starski kicked around Nashville for a few years playing in the blues band Elle & The Fine Lines, and wrote songs and sang for her husband Shawn Starski’s solo project.
It wasn’t till after she had her daughter Maré that she felt the strength to really dig into her own inspirations – musically and lyrically. “I couldn’t have done the album without her,” she says of Maré. “She made me realize I had to be myself. She made me a little more bold, actually.”
“When I heard the song ‘Missing You’ which was the first one Ellen sent me, I was really impressed – by her voice, the lyrics, the powerful simplicity and the way the song built emotionally and dramatically,” says McCue. “I was intrigued, so she sent me some more iphone recordings They were very soft because the baby was asleep. Eventually she came over to my home studio and we recorded all the songs acoustically. I was blown away by her voice and the lyrics. She can sing like Janis Joplin - she has those kind of vocal chops - but here she chooses to sing like Ellen Starski. She has found her own voice. I just listened to the songs on and off for a couple of months and started to imagine all the instrumentation and arrangements. I heard violin and cello, banjo and dobro, piano and horns. We decided to go for it, creatively, which was wonderful.
The musicians were gathered carefully: Bryan Owings (Emmylou Harris, Tony Joe White) was a must on drums for his sensitivity and maturity. Deanie Richardson (The Chieftans) on fiddle – “she has more soul than any player I’ve ever heard.” Drummer Paul Griffith (Jason Isbell, k.d. lang) played on half the songs. Strings were provided by Jon Estes (Steelism) and Eamon McLoughlin (Green Cards). Carl Byron (Hot Club Of L.A.) plays piano and Wurlitzer while Jimmy Sullivan (Lee Ann Womack) handles the bass. Ellen’s husband Shawn plays guitar on Missing You and Honey I’m Not Him.
“I call her ‘one–take Ellen’”, says McCue. The vocals were recorded live with the guitar, bass and drums at Joe McMahan’s Wow & Flutter Studio in East Nashville. All of the songs were recorded in two days.