Singer/songwriter/producer/model/spokesperson Wendy Starland recently won $7 million in a landmark lawsuit for her role in the discovery and development of Lady Gaga in the mid 2000s. Here she talks with Peter about that, her belief that rock music is on the brink of a major resurgence, and her views on the different ways artists and performers must learn to relate to fans in the modern era.
It must be very gratifying to win a lawsuit like this. Tell us a little bit about the emotional ups and downs.
It feels great to be acknowledged for my work in discovering and developing Lady Gaga. It’s incredibly validating and I’m very grateful. There’s no question that going through this lawsuit was a stressful situation. I would imagine that it is hard for both sides. Going through an experience like this has forced me to recognize my own inner strength. Strength I didn’t know I had.
I knew that the truth was on my side and I felt fortunate that the jury was able to see that. Rob and I made our agreement in 2005. We are now entering 2015. The journey has been a long one. My attorneys at Dunnegan & Scileppi did an extraordinary job at helping me reach this milestone. I am so thankful to them for making the Herculean effort that was required to win this case. It would be wonderful if the verdict helped other people to remember that agreements are enforceable. Do business with people who are worthy of your trust. Be the living example that your word is your bond. It’s a tough business and people need to be valued for their work.
What would you say you recognized in Gaga when she was still a young unknown singer performing at The Cutting Room? What were some of the star qualities she had? Was it a situation in which you were looking for specific things and saw them in her, or was it more like you were just looking around with nothing particular in mind and she caught your attention?
I had a specific agreement with Fusari before searching for the artist. He asked me to search for a female artist under the age of 25 who had the characteristics to be the female equivalent to the lead singer of The Strokes. Someone who was edgy, bold, energetic, confident. Someone you can’t take your eyes off of. That was Stefani Germanotta to a tee. I attended about 50 live shows and searched for over 8 months before discovering Lady Gaga and introducing her to Rob. More importantly, Rob had to approve the artist I found, so there is no question that it met his criteria. He stopped looking for The "Strokes girl" as soon as I brought him Germanotta and signed her to his production company. We wrote songs together and strategized about the project. I could not be more proud to have played a part in the worldwide success of Lady Gaga.
There is a lot of incredible talent out there, however, talent alone isn’t enough. Being a great singer doesn’t matter if you’re not singing great songs. Having great songs won’t be obvious to record executives if they are not professionally produced. Consistently performing those songs extremely well is essential. Having an undeniable stage presence and never quit attitude are necessary requirements. Taking constructive criticism from others is required to get to the next level. Knowing how to market yourself and your press materials is key. These things don’t happen overnight. Every artist that becomes famous has a team, and needs to convince someone to believe in them enough to have others rally around them to achieve stardom. If I can be that person, then I’m happy to do it.
How’s the music scene in LA compared to NYC?
I love the music scene in both places. LA seems to have a bit more excitement around going to see live music. There is a large artist community here and people support each other. It’s really great to see, and I feel lucky to have made some lasting friendships.
Let’s talk about your own music. You have a new single out, Home. What would you like to tell us about that? That’s a great video with you on the hilltop with the LA skyline in the background and the streets of LA.
It feels good to be placing a focus on my singing career and am excited to share my new music and sound with the world. After having lived out in Los Angeles, the evolution of my sound has led me into the Rock genre. When I was living in New York and was surrounded by the loud sounds of the city: people, cars, subways, etc. I created music as a method to soothe me. LA has so much open space, and I’ve been inspired to fill it up with rock music, since my environment here is much more relaxing and low key.
I worked on my new album with award winning multi-platinum producer, Ivo Moring. The stadium rock sound we’ve created is not something I’ve heard before from any other female solo artist. The first single, “Home” is in stores now.
The video for the 1st single, “Home,” was Directed by Thierry Brouard, with aerial shots by Gary Reisman. I’ve licensed the the song to a London based label, MCR, and it will be released on a compillation album called That’s My Jam! 87.
My new album was produced by Ivo Moring, who has had several Top 10 hits, including his song that was #1 for twelve weeks and became the second most successful song in german chart history. He was also awarded “Hit Of The Year” in 2012, and has worked with Jordan Knight , The New Kids On The Block, Heather Nova, Darren Hayes of Savage Garden, Jennifer Paige, Sarah Brightman, Limahl, Sarah Connor, Lutricia McNeal, Chris Norman, Christina Stürmer, and Sandra and Coolio. In 2012 alone, his compositions were placed in 108 different radio charts. Needless to say, his talent is through the roof. He also happens to be an incredibly kind and humble person. I love the songs we’ve written together and believe that Rock music is coming back with a vengence. There are a lot of new and exciting things on the horizon and the next chapter is going to be amazing.
Tell us about your experience working with brands.
I love working with brands that I believe in, and that further reflect my taste as an artist. Music helps further define the brand’s audience while promoting my music, so it’s really a win-win situation. I am currently being featured in the new campaign for the jewelry line Anna e Alex, which has been in magazines such as Vogue and ELLE Magazine. They will be launching a promotion soon where their customers will receive a download of my new single "Home" with purchase at AnnaeAlex.com.
Since the majority of music today is downloaded for free, I’ve noticed that fans want to learn more about the artist personally - their lifestyle, tastes, and opinions that go beyond just their music. Artists have the opportunity to further connect with their audience in this way by pairing up with brands that they commonly use in their everyday life. It works really well when the artist and brand genuinely love and respect each other’s talent, and this is definitely the case with Anna e Alex who have created exquisite and unique hand crafted jewelry.
Wendy Starland is someone to watch; it will be interesting to see what the future will bring!