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"Win or Lose" by Kinnie Starr


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The world goes 'pop' in new Kinnie Starr song

The track Win or Lose is the first new pop song from Kinnie Starr since her 2018 album, Feed the Fire.

- Shaun Conner, The Vancouver Sun

View Article on Vancouver Sun

“Well the world went pop/and all heads turned at once.” The lines that so memorably open Win or Lose, the new song from Kinnie Starr, are also the ones that sparked the rest of the song. And yes, they’re about the COVID-19 pandemic.


“I love the study of microbiology and microbial health,” Starr said. “When COVID hit, it worked with my intellectual palette. I was like, ‘Of course, we’re totally due for a pandemic. Any species as it grows is due for checks.’ ”

The track is the first new pop song from Starr since her 2018 album, Feed the Fire, though she released a soundtrack last year to the Haida movie Edge of the Knife. She recorded Win or Lose first in her RV before sending it to producer Lin Gardiner. Both live on the Sunshine Coast.

“I scratched in a pretty basic form, but I knew it had a bit of a melodic lift that I felt was enough to keep the song,” Starr said. “When I sent it to Lin, I said, ‘Do you want to f— around with this?’ And she said, ‘Absolutely.’ ”

Gardiner opened up the song, the singer says. Then they brought in Marlow Holder to play bass.

“We’ve been playing together since the beginning of my career,” Starr says. “We used to have no grey hairs.”


Her career began 25 years ago, when her debut album prompted a bidding war between major labels. Among other accomplishments, she has released nine albums, performed in Las Vegas in the Cirque du Soleil show Zumanity, published a collection of poetry and illustrations (How I Learned to Run, 2008), and hosted a documentary, 2016’s Play Your Gender.

Originally from England, Gardiner is an engineer, producer and the founder of Boomsmack Records, a label she started to release some of her projects on. She moved to Vancouver in 2002 and then to Roberts Creek two years ago, to open Sound Garden Retreat, a recording studio with accommodations.

Along with Win or Lose, which Boomsmack will release on music platforms Jan. 29 (with a lyric video to follow one week later), the two have recorded a second song, Right Here With You. That too will be released on Boomsmack, probably in March or April.

Gardiner sees this as an exciting time in the music industry when an established artist like Starr can take chances on a small label.

“The challenges have been growing for 20 years. It’s like that joke: How do you make a million dollars in music? You spend three million. It’s true; it is hard to get your product out there and get heard. At the same time, I do love the enthusiastic DIY approach that a tonne of artists and labels have. Someone like Kinnie Starr, who already has a following, is well-positioned to take this chance with an independent release.”

For Starr, success looks different today than when she started out.

“I feel like the colonial definition of success is wealth and power,” she said. “An Indigenous perspective is how you integrate the health and wellness of your community in your work. So success with my material continues to be, is it reaching some people?

“This might sound a little glib, but I always feel that if a song is played in a household where the kids, grandparents and adults like it, that’s a win. I’m not saying I’m not interested in any financial revenue. But the goal is for the music to be received and feel well enough that people who hear it don’t want to jump off the edge of a cliff.”

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