Arts and Entertainment

The Starlings come to roost on Bainbridge

The Starlings began as an acoustic duo —Joy Wills and Tom Parker — and evolved into a four-piece band that’s hitting the road for a six-month national tour this May. - Coutesy Photo/The Starlings
The Starlings began as an acoustic duo —Joy Wills and Tom Parker — and evolved into a four-piece band that’s hitting the road for a six-month national tour this May.
— image credit: Coutesy Photo/The Starlings

Even not being familiar with the story of Seattle band The Starlings, at first listen I could already hear something midwest American in the cadence.

The enchantingly old-school country bumpkin-esque vocals, the single-note bluesy twang of slide guitar matched with a finger-pickin’ backdrop and the country-western-style, boom-chicka-boom on the drum kit — it all fits well within the realm of that folksy Americana tradition.

So it was of little surprise to learn that the seed of The Starlings was planted in Iowa, where singer/songwriter Joy Mills grew up.

“I had this burgeoning dream of doing music somehow, though I had no idea what that would entail,” Mills said thinking back on her decision to move west around the year 2000. “You never can tell how something’s going to manifest ... I have to remind myself to look back and see how far we’ve come and how far I’ve come personally.”

The Starlings are coming to Bainbridge March 29 to release their second full-length CD — a home-cooked dish called “Marveling the While” — before heading out in a second-hand school bus on a self-assembled national tour in May. They were last here December 2007 at the Pegasus on Bainbridge.

What’s Up recently caught up with Mills, the band’s singer/songwriter/tour manager/promotion machine, by phone from her current day job at Treehouse, a resource organization for foster kids in Seattle. She related the story of The Starlings, which began on the Seattle open mic scene where she met her future band mate and husband Tom Parker. Both singer/songwriters, Mills and Parker hit it off, forming an acoustic duo which later evolved into the four-piece band which released its first CD “Songbook” in 2006.

One of the most attractive things about this group is its grassroots-ness.

“(‘Songbook’) was definitely a birth in some ways,” Mills said. “Our producer, a friend, Chad Hinman really took us under his wing, and we did the same for him as a producer ... We embarked on this project together and that’s really how the band cemented itself.”

Picking up another kindred spirit originally from Iowa, Aimee Zoe Tubbs, on drums and Pacific Northwest multi-instrumentalist Jack Quick on bass, The Starlings gathered a small flock of attention, both locally and abroad, in its infancy.

Along with Americana nods in a few United Kingdom publications, The Starlings also spent eight weeks on KEXP DJ John Richard’s “Top Ten Northwest Bands” list and also appeared on the station’s live sessions, Audioasis, in the wake of their first album.

Emphasizing thin signature harmonies and lyrical imagery, “Marveling the While” — a title inspired by the works of John Steinbeck — is said to pick up right where “Songbook” left off.

But a personal note, one of the most engaging songs I’ve heard thus far in a sweep of The Starlings is a live take of a track off the “Songbook” album called “Rosie,” which you can hear a snippet of at the band’s myspace —

March 29 is Kitsap’s chance to see them live as Music Community Resources hosts the “Marveling the While” CD release at 7:30 p.m. at the Island Center Hall on Bainbridge.


The Island Center Hall is located at 8395 Fletcher Bay Road on Bainbridge. Tickets are $15 general, $10 students and seniors.

Info:, or call MCR (206) 842-5485.

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