Grounded: Twenty years of GARRISON STARR’s Eighteen Over Me

September 23, 1997. Memphis, Tennessee. Garrison Starr is 22 years old, an Ole Miss dropout, and has just released her first major-label album. Starr is a seasoned performer, rising from her childhood bedroom in Hernando, Mississippi to stages all over Memphis. This is her third album. Straight out of high school, she released Pinwheels, an album she later describes as “the multi-platinum cassette tape from 1993.” Her follow-up Stupid Girl, a seven-song EP, attracted the attention of Geffen Records, and led the way to Eighteen Over Me.

Two decades later, let’s take a look at selections from Eighteen Over Me and how they have evolved over time.


As a followup to the decidedly folk Stupid Girl, Eighteen Over Me could have been Garrison Starr’s Newport. “Grounded” starts off with a bang – or at least a firm stroke of a snare drum that brings in the electric guitar and bass. Fans and critics made accusations of “selling out” to the Geffen executives. With a gritty, electric layer pulled back, though, Starr’s roots poke through. An acoustic version on 1998’s promo CD 24-7 makes it even more apparent that Garrison Starr was taking a step into the rest of her career.


“Superhero” has survived as Eighteen Over Me’s most popular song. Picked up by ABC for its coverage of the 1999 Women’s World Cup, “Superhero” is the plea of a kid – or adult – resisting the requirement to grow up. Issued as a single by Geffen (paired with a radio edit or the album’s title track, depending on which CD single you have a copy of), the song has been released several times since its first appearance. 24-7 includes an alternate edit of the album track as well as an acoustic version. Though recorded with a live band for 2007’s Fans’ Greatest Hits, Volume 1 and live on stage at Washington’s 9:30 Club in 2002*, the definitive version is the slight re-arrangement featured on Airstreams & Satellites from 2004.

(*Garrison Starr Live at the 9:30 Club is erroneously dated November 18, 2000 on CD and digital copies, but was recorded in 2002.)


With a quiet opening, “Passing” lures the listener into a false sense of security before biting with a sharp electric guitar riff. The lyrics “what can I do for you? / don’t you know who I am? / I am worthy / I am Jesus’ right-hand man” issue a challenge to the song’s subject, though there is a hint of self-reflection. The message is one of found self-worth, but it is up to the listener to decide if the brash electric on Eighteen Over Me or the raw acoustic version on 24-7 better suits the mood.


Eighteen Over Me is an album of vulnerabilities, and firmly in the middle, “Ugly” is haunting. It should be no surprise that the song has remained in rotation for two decades with only minor changes. The “clean” version from the album is surpassed by a more raw and exposed solo version recorded for 24-7. A near-identical arrangement appears on Live at Sun Studio with Jay Nash (2010, recorded in 2008), but the most powerful recording closes out 2010’s ReLive, a live album recorded in Nashville with band and strings. In stark contrast to the exposed and alone roots of the song, Starr is joined by a choir of voices as she declares “I’ll be ugly… so you don’t have to be.”


Two years before Eighteen Over Me, “Molly” first appeared on 1995’s Stupid Girl EP. Here, the tempo increases by half, acoustic guitar gives way to electric crunch, and the sweet southern folk in Starr’s voice takes on a slightly sarcastic tone, “Molly” is two minutes and thirty-two seconds of unanswered questions. The acoustic version from 2004’s Something to Hold You Over EP returns to the original tempo, but nearly a decade after the first recording, a more mature voice suggests that Molly should have known what she was getting herself into.

…a more mature voice suggests that Molly should have known what she was getting herself into.

So what has happened to Garrison Starr since 1997? Aside from the aforementioned Women’s World Cup placement for “Superhero,” her songs have appeared on shows such as The Hills and Pretty Little Liars, and she was invited to write original songs for CMT’s revival of Nashville. She has toured extensively supporting Steve Earle, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and as the headlining act. Five additional albums, four solo EPs, two live albums, and collaborations with artists including Jay Nash, Adrianne Gonzalez, Josh Joplin, and Glen Phillips have garnered Starr a passionate base of fans across North America and Europe.

Starr has participated in Rock ‘n Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles, performed at Girls Rising BeachFest, and wrote a four-part series for Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls entitled “The Stuff We’re Made Of” detailing her career and the challenges of reconciling the conflicting message of the church she grew up in with the actions of its members while finding her place as a gay woman.

Her latest EP, What If There Is No Destination, was released in June 2017.


Star Wars Celebration Orlando: 40 Years of Star Wars

If you asked me how Star Wars Celebration started this morning, you wouldn’t believe my answer.

Trust me.

With some fans waiting in line since yesterday afternoon, expectations were high. With Endor’s own Warwick Davis as host, this celebration of four decades in a galaxy far far away did not disappoint. Joined by Star Wars creator George Lucas, who sold his company and the series that made it to Disney in 2012, Davis guided thousands of fans through the history of the franchise and the many characters that have played a part. Heroes and villains of the series shared their experiences as part of the saga dat he impact it had on their lives, their careers, and the lives of the fans around the world.

Cast members including Hayden Christiansen (Anakin Skywalker), Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), along with fan favorites Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) paid tribute to Lucas, while Dave Filoni, executive producer of Star Wars Rebels, referenced their own master-apprentice relationship.

Surprise video messages from Liam Neeson and Samuel L. Jackson paled in comparison to an unexpected guest, as Harrison Ford, Han Solo himself, crashed the panel and recounted his chance encounter with Lucas that propelled him to stardom.

A touching tribute to the late Carrie Fisher was capped with remarks from her daughter, Billie Lourde, who, like her mother, recited Princess Leia’s plea for help to Obi-Wan Kenobi. The princess’s theme, along with other selections from the series soundtrack, were performed by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by composer John Williams.

As unbelievable as it sounds, this was only the first two hours of Star Wars Celebration in Orlando. There is plenty more to come.

Star Wars Celebration runs through Sunday at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

Convention Report: Flower City Comic Con, Rochester, NY

For several years, I have traveled around the United States and Canada, mixing with “my people” and weaving through the crowded passages that make up the show floor of a convention. In a crowd of thousands in Anaheim, California, I have met people from my very own city. In Niagara Falls and Toronto, Ontario, I have spoken to people who have traveled from Buffalo or Syracuse, New York. Why are these fans forced to travels hundreds or thousands of miles for these sorts of events?

Enter Flower City Comic Con. This may not be Rochester’s first convention – it isn’t even the only event this weekend – but for many local fans, this is their first step into a larger world.

For decades, comic book fans were a minority. Comic book conventions were limited to comic books. Over time, these events have been taken over by all strains of pop culture, from the classic comics to movies and television. The guest lists expanded from artists and creators to movie stars. With Star Wars: The Force Awakens shot on Kodak film and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 featuring a disguised version of our own East Main Street, it is fitting for Rochester’s sci-fi and superhero fans have one more venue to show their passion.

Flower City Comic Con brought stars ranging from Power Rangers to professional wrestlers, and comic artists responsible for the likes of Batman and The Incredible Hulk. Replicas of Doctor Who‘s TARDIS and Knightrider‘s Kitt were available for photo ops, as well as the 501st Legion’s Garrison Excelsior and Ghostbusters of Rochester.

Rochester is not home to the biggest convention I have attended, but I welcome any event that will bring the people of western New York into my city, and encourage the stars of the convention circuit to give Rochester, New York a chance.