“It’s pronounced like ‘arrogant,’ without the ‘t,'” grinned Kickapoo musician Arigon Starr. “People often mispronounce my name, but they never forget it!”
Proud, vivacious and full of energy, Arigon Starr continues to defy the odds of becoming a successful artist in the music business. Her debut CD “Meet The diva,” earned an enthusiastic response from Native, college and community radio stations — plus a prestigious Native American Music Award for “Best Independent Recording.”
Arigon’s blend of pop, rock, country, punk and funk reflects her upbringing as a military “brat.” “We pulled up stakes about every two years while I was going to school,” she said. “There’s an old country song that tells the story of a person who’s been ‘everywhere, man’ and that describes my life. I was born in Florida and have spent time in Tennessee, Maryland, New Jersey, Oklahoma, New Mexico, California — you name it.” The eclectic mix of scenery, music and people helped form her unique approach to to contemporary Native American music. “The music must serve the song — and help tell the story. Taking elements of different styles of music and mixing them up seems to me to be the most natural thing in the world.”
Musical storytelling is one of Arigon’s fortes. In 2001, The Native American Music Awards chose “Junior Frybread,” from her second release “Wind-Up,” as the Song of the Year. “Accepting that award was a personal triumph for me,” she smiled. “When I made the decision to leave my corporate job and become a full-time musician, I knew that I would make it on the strength of my songwriting. There are so many stories left untold in Native America. I feel honored to be a voice for the people.”
Arigon tells her “stories” as a performing musician on stages across the world, among them New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans, Las Vegas, London and Los Angeles. She certainly hasn’t ignored her Native audiences with appearances on the Hopi and Navajo reservations in Arizona, at the Cherokee Homecoming in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon and at the Milwaukee Indian Summer Festival.
It was on the road that she befriended country group BR5-49, who perform on several tracks of “Backflip.” “Those boys are my very unlikely musical soulmates. I grew up listening to the kind of music they play, which is country music from the ’50s and 60’s. It was the first time ever that my Dad and I liked the SAME band,” she laughed. “It turned out that one of the band members, chuck Mead, had gone to school with my cousin in Lawrence, Kansas. We instantly bonded over that — and trying to determine who was the most hardcore Beatles fan. Chuck has got me beat on that.” Don Herron (fiddle, pedal steel, mandolin and banjo) adds a “down-home” feeling to several of the tracks, while vocalist Gary Bennett wraps his warm, soulful tenor voice around Arigon’s music — especially the stunning “Mountain Windsong.” “Gary is probably one of the most amazing harmony singers I’ve ever heard. What he does is instinctive and from the heart. You won’t find too many singers like him,” said Arigon.
Returning from Arigon’s previous CD projects are drummer Nicholas Peters (a member of California’s Luiseño tribe), lead guitarist Jeff Ruiz and engineer/keyboardist Ben Moore. Making his first appearance on an Arigon release is bassist Tyler Grant.
Performed with love, humor, skill and compassion, Arigon Starr’s music continues to make bold strides into the future. “This is my most personal release yet. It’s funny how you sometimes have to go back in order to go forward. That’s what ‘Backflip’ is all about.”