After I got out of the service I studied writing on the G.I. Bill at the University of Baltimore under some great teachers like the poet Kendra Kopelke and fiction writer Stephen Matanle. Kendra helped me find my soul. Steve gave me room put my dark side down on paper.
Meanwhile I was growing my hair, chasing girls, bombing around town on an old '69 Scrambler that my uncle dug out of his shed and my buddy Eric restored. I spent my summers framing houses on different crews out in the country and my winters going to school and stomping through Baltimore's poetry scene giving readings to anybody who would listen - and people did.
Then one night this (now renown) poet named "Joe", (Joseph Harrision III) pulls me aside and tells me "You're a good poet. You're not a great poet. If you come study from me someday you could be a very good poet." I did. And what I learned from him is just how high the bar is for good poetry. I wrote a lot less poetry after my time studying from Joe, but we still like watching the Ravens together.
Around that time I happened to meet blues legend Corey Harris at the Cafe Montage next to my apartment. This was before he was anywhere near famous. The day I met him he'd been busking all day in D.C. I'd never heard anybody like Corey before (or since). I wrote a poem about him and what he did with that old National guitar he used to play. A big part of me wanted to do what he was doing. Just singin' poems, and telling stories with a guitar.
Years later started writing my own blues songs, like "Whiskey and Women" and "Drownin' River Blues". It takes some living and some losing ,and I've done both. And it turns out the bar is just as high to write and produce a good song. Maybe higher.
I wrote my first country ("Sad But True") song in my early thirties. It helped me put my first marriage on the shelf and move on with my life, and it opened up a whole new world of writing to me. Now more than a decade later I've written over 50 "keepers" - some published some not.
A couple years back I formed a 9 piece roots band (John Patrick Starling and Drownin' River) and released Tell My Boss I'm Dead (Ruby Records 2016). It runs the gamut... blues, country, bluegrass, folk, rockabilly - even an Irish rocker.
"Sad But True" and it's bookend "I Can't Get Enough Of You" made it onto my first solo album By The Time This Gets To Nashville... It Won't Matter along with a bunch of other straight whiskey country ballads I wrote, and one sort of new country rocker ("Life without You").
I've got a whole other Drownin' River type album written, as well another solo album - and an album of country comedy (ala Ray Stevens) that I need to record or license - or both.
I own all of the rights to all of my songs (published and unpublished), so if you're looking for some good country, blues, bluegrass, rockabilly, folk or Irish songs to record please contact me through this site.
I got into this to be a songwriter, not a singer or band leader. Turns out I like those roles, but I'd like to hear a bigger name, with a better voice singing my songs.