A True Riot Grrrl

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Starfarm’s Spotts Keeps Mid-Michigan Moving

Music, like other fine arts, plays a crucial role in many lives around the world: A collection of sounds and sometimes words that feeds the soul and fuels the fire within. It’s something that has helped shape cultures stretching to the furthest civilizations. Most of all, it helps shape people.

For Whitney Spotts, music lover and lead vocalist of the band Starfarm, the obsession for music started early with the influence of her parents, who were constantly playing music. It wasn’t long before Spotts discovered her passion for singing. Classically trained throughout high school, college and graduate school, Spotts has a versatile repertoire of favorite genres – as long as she could dance to it.

“I got in trouble in first grade for singing operatically in our bathroom because it had really good acoustics,” Spotts said. “I think I was in kindergarten when my mom told them that she should get me in choir, and I was a dancer. It’s just always been music; I don’t know what it is. It brings me joy more than anything else in the world.”

The Lansing native studied at Michigan State University for her undergraduate degree. She also spent two years in London at graduate school, where she studied 20th century English literature and its intellectual context before joining her first band. Spotts credited her time in London as the best thing she has ever experienced.

Spotts had always dreamed of being a singer in a band, but that didn’t seem possible to her at the time because every female singer was a pop star. It wasn’t until the feminist punk riot grrrl movement in the 1990s when Spotts realized girls can be in bands, too. It’s something that helped push her over the edge to follow her dreams.

“Also, getting to know the punk scene in London really helped push me. It sounds silly but the thing about punk is it’s DIY,” Spotts explained. “You’re doing it yourself and no one cares if you’re talented; it’s the act of doing it that’s important. That helped strip me of some of my insecurities and my really bad stage fright I had to kick.”

Spotts was used to singing mostly in a choir with other people by her side, so when the time came for her to sing as a soloist, her fear of the stage would get in the way. Spotts explained that when she first started vocal lessons, she would stand behind a door for the first six months. Her love of music pushed her to conquer her fears. By working karaoke nights at a local Irish pub and watching seemingly countless people get up on stage, have a blast and sing their hearts out, Spotts pushed herself to get on stage and overcome her fear. Today she performs for countless people around the state every weekend with her bandmates in Starfarm.

The band and Spotts aim to have fun on stage and take pride in knowing their performances can give joy to someone. She joined the band Starfarm about 11 years ago and thoroughly enjoys rocking her neon colors with her tutus – not to mention the rad ’80s music and Adidas track suits the band rocks, as well.

“We used to play a wide range of music, but we started to narrow it down, and people love ’80s music,” Spotts said with a laugh. “We’re a party band that helps bridge the age gap.”

Although performing is a full-time job, Spotts and her bandmates all work 9-to-5 jobs. They are their own roadies, meaning they set up, perform and tear down. Everything that goes into a performance is done by the band. They also bring their own sound engineer to every gig.

“It’s a lot of work, but the music makes it all worth it,” Spotts said.

Spotts has enjoyed every performance she has been involved in; however, she noted that opening for En Vogue was one of her most memorable and awesome shows so far. She also enjoys the summertime because that means outdoor and all-ages shows as well as festival season.

Spotts said Lansing is where she found her niche. Between its fantastic artistic community and music scene, Spotts is proud to call Lansing home. Starfarm is scheduled to rock out at the East Lansing Summer Concert Series on July 12, the Nuthouse’s Nutty Fest on July 27 and Grand Ledge’s Music in the Park on Aug. 8.

After all, it wouldn’t be summer in Lansing without a Starfarm show.

 


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