Starla are an acoustic duo performing primarily original material along with cover versions. The duo consists of Claire Hayward as the vocalist and Daniel Mitchell-Brown on guitar, piano & production. Formed in Chesham in 2010, Starla are non-precious, or egoistic in their approach to music and their ethos is simple - writing & performing music they enjoy listening to, because they are compelled to - not driven by a desire for money or fame. Starla's only dream is that people will get the chance to listen to their songs and gain enjoyment from them. Their aim is to present their own sound combining their eclectic tastes; to not purely copy the original with their cover versions but to offer their own interpretation of the songs - playing covers of songs they enjoy - not just what the crowd wants to hear.
The duo are best presented as alternative, acoustic, rock with gothic undertones and indie influences. Claire and Dan's influences include too many artists to list but their musical taste covers a range of styles including; acoustic, classic rock, gothic rock, metal, 1990's british indie, and 1980's pop.
The Journey Before Starla
Claire began song writing from an young age, which involved her experimenting with words and poetry (carrying a small notepad around with her at all times.) She started piano lessons but did not carry these on, although she would sit at the keyboard and use it to play tunes she heard to sing along to.
Claire performed in the school choir and began to learn through this that she had a lower range to her voice, this led to her performing in various school productions. Claire then began experimenting with harmonies with one of her friends. It was shortly after this that she began to discover a range of different styles of music which inspired her to want to express herself. Claire then found herself singing melody lines and starting to write down lyrics that described her inner most thoughts. She began the process of putting these into a format to write a song.
Claire recorded her first song in 2001 titled "don't leave me here" Claire continued to write songs until deciding to enroll on a music production course after sixth form, it was here where she met Dan. As part of the course Claire recorded another one of her songs titled "when will i become" with Dan inputting on the production and mixing. Unfortunately Claire left the course, deciding the production side was not for her, and went on to pursue a new job and career opportunity - losing contact with Dan for 5 years, before finally getting back in touch and reigniting her passion for music - having her first experience of performing as part of a band and receiving her first taste of vocal coaching from the multi-talented vocalist of prolific local band Shellshock.
Dan was a bit of a strange child :-) and as a very young lad would spend hours sat in his room with a cheap microphone and a shoebox cassette recorder recording himself presenting imaginary radio shows or singing songs. When he was around 7 years old a family friend bought him a tiny Casio keyboard which he used to play nursery rhymes and theme tunes on, as well as making up nonsense songs (a notable memory being a song sang to the demo track - titled "my mouse is dead.")
Music was prominent through Dan's school days. Beginning with the school choir and learning the cello at middle school before having a handful of guitar lessons at secondary school before quitting like a typical boy approaching his teenage years. Dan then returned to his keyboard roots with a year or so of piano lessons but as with many children got bored of having to attend lessons rather than kick a football. This was followed by another short spell learning the tuba.
Fast forward a few years and Dan became a huge fan of music and going to gigs - starting with a passion for classic rock, 60's and bedroom indie. This led him to buy an electric guitar which reignited his interest in playing guitar. This was closely followed by blowing his student loan on an acoustic guitar before dropping out of college. A blessing in disguise perhaps as he then became a security guard, where he would meet Gareth Leadbetter who would accompany him on the biggest part of his musical journey - as his band mate and songwriting partner in their duo/trio (and briefly 4 piece band) "Coot" which morphed into "Project Coot" (which also contained Keith Woodman, another great musician met during his employment as a security guard - and who helped teach Dan many tricks of the trade.)
It was recording an E.P with Gareth with a Tascam 4 track recorder that connected Dan back to those much earlier years and made him realise he enjoyed recording music and lead to him studying music production at college where he met Claire.
After Claire dropped out of the music course the pair lost touch for 5 years before Claire dug out Dan's old phone number in the vague hope it would still be in use. It was and the pair met up a few times and they felt like they had never been apart. This led to them becoming a couple and moving in together.
Using his skills from college Dan bought a P.A. system and he and Claire ran an open mic night at the local pub which forced them to learn cover songs together to fill gaps in performances. Claire became the vocalist for D'arcspire (a band, with stunningly written songs and with beautiful hook lines) which contained 3 or their now joint friends. This occurred with the band just a month from a big outdoors gig to several hundred people - a mammoth task for someone who had never performed on a stage bigger than a pub's open mic night!
As the country fell deeper into recession and the pubs tried to cut costs the open mic was cancelled and Claire and Dan ended up moving to Cheltenham which is where they are now - reducing their work hours in an attempt to focus more time on their music and performances.