The Star Prairie Project Releases A Dynamic Fourth Studio Album, 'Shine a Little Light.'



From Portugal and the United States, various musicians of all genres band together to form The Star Prairie Project, who recently released their fourth studio album, 'Shine a Little Light.'

Led by singer-songwriter Nolen R. Chew Jr., one could compare the Star Prairie Project to the Beatles' consistent amount of radio-friendly hits. The Star Prairie Project found its name after the Star Prairie village in Wisconsin and the Alan Parsons Project from way back when. The Star Prairie Project explores various genres that anyone can enjoy, which the band demonstrates on their fourth studio album, 'Shine a Little Light.'


Beginning our venture into the new album, we're greeted with the introductory and title track, "Shine a Little Light," featuring Sandrine Orsini. As the song opens with a bright lead guitar and a smooth jazz/rock instrumental, Orsini makes her powerful and magnetic vocal appearance to perfectly set the album's tone. While singing a tale of loneliness and inner pain, The Star Prairie Project picks up the soul and leads us to the gospel-like chorus where Orsini's heavenly vocals wrap around our ears like a gift from above, encouraging us to keep a light of faith.


Moving onto track number two, "California," this song features no other artist, allowing us to get to know The Star Prairie Project's creative stylings this time around. As Chew drifts into the song with a smooth acoustic guitar and light percussion breaks, he begins to welcome himself into the land of California, feeling the breeze and describing his lush surroundings. We adore the easy vibe of this song; Chew paints all sorts of picturesque mental images that remind us why we love California while The Star Prairie Project backs him up like a sonic daydream.


Jumping into the third track, "Why Do I Love You," featuring Ivy Marie, this song is where we hear The Star Prairie Project venture outside of usual rock-based tunes. While Ivy Marie makes her youthful and passionate vocal appearance, The Star Prairie Project lays the foundation with electronic drum breaks, a smooth keyboard melody, and vibrating sub-bass. As Marie continues to chant her love for someone and question why it exists, The Star Prairie Project drenches our speakers in electronic radiance on the shimmering hook to keep our attention locked.

Listening to the next song, "Seven Day Storm," featuring Marcello Vieira Silva and Sandrine Orsini, this song opens like a heavy hitter with a gripping rhythm guitar, and twangy lead, and stomping drum breaks. As Vieira Silva makes his raspy and robust vocal appearance, he beings to set the scene of a powerful storm that leaves locals shaking in their boots. We adore Sandrine Orsini's warm background vocals, especially when she engages in this call and response on the hook with her distinctive gospel sound. The Star Prairie Project's instrumentals are nothing but exhilarating, and they truly carry the weight of this "Seven Day Storm."


Moving back into solo Star Prairie Project songs with track number five, "Lucky Day," this song opens exactly how the title feels, with a bright and gleaming instrumental where Chew takes note of the many blessings this day has gifted him with. We can't help but feel a sense of Springsteen-esque delivery within Chew's soulful vocals alongside The Star Prairie Project's powerful and refreshing instrumentals that soothe the soul with this sense of happiness and peace. We love this song's positive and optimistic feel, and we definitely feel lifted by The Star Prairie Project's soulful instrumental approach.


Bringing back Sandrine Orsini for track number six, "Loosen up Your Grip," this song begins much heavier than the others, and we're honestly surprised to hear this kind of gritty and metal sound come from The Star Prairie Project. As Orsini begins to melt our speakers with her emotional and distressed vocal delivery, she jumps into the flaming hook where The Star Prairie Project shows off their scorching hot guitars and pounding drum breaks to kick the song into gear. We love the heat of this track; it adds the perfect balance to such a diverse album like this.


Reaching the record's halfway point with the seventh song, "Everything Happens for a Reason," The Star Prairie Project begins the song with their downtempo electro-pop drum breaks, hazy guitar-like synths, and pulsating keyboard melodies. As Ivy Marie's pop-like vocals begin to rain down from above, she starts to tell a relatable and heartfelt story of everything happening for a reason while she better understands why a certain love fell apart. We must say how incredibly impressed we are with The Star Prairie Project's ability to transition from a metal banger into such a soft and delicate pop ballad.


Crossing the mid-way point with the eighth track, "Uncle Ted," this tune blasts off like a southern cranker with a blazing rhythm guitar, upbeat drum breaks, and a groovy rhythm guitar. As Marcello Vieira Silva begins to jump in with the utmost heart, passion, and energy, he begins to sing a strange tale of his weird Uncle Ted and his odd ways. Sandrine Orsini backs him up with incredible soul and energy on the hook, soaking us in her otherwordly vocals that truly leave chills down the spine. We can't get enough of the energy within this track; it's the perfect midday pick-me-up.


Slowing it down again with the mysterious and haunting ninth track, "Queen Isabella," this song opens with a distant melodic whistle alongside the soothing strums of a solo acoustic guitar. As the mid-tempo drums begin to tap through our speakers, a watery electric guitar begins to groan alongside Chew's raspy and distinct vocals. While he starts singing a mystical and enchanting story of a reigning Queen Isabella who dreams of leaving her thone, The Star Prairie Project continues to chill us with their haunting ways and major to minor shifts that keep our ears hooked.


Bringing back Ivy Marie for the album's tenth track, "Free Me," this tune kicks off with another contemporary jazz/rock instrumental, and Ivy Marie's echoed and reverbed vocals. This is the first time in this album where we hear Marie's vocals under a different genre, and we totally appreciate the easy-listening vibe of this smooth and relaxed contemporary alt-rock piece. While Marie sings of finding the truth and yearning to be set free from someone's tight grip, The Star Prairie Project continues to sing the story with their melodic and mesmerizing instrumentals.


Chilling our days with the moody eleventh track, "I Don't Want to Know," a piercing guitar riff sets the song's powerful yet melancholy tone while Marcello Vieira Silva begins to sadly sing of a horrible love affair and the many rumors his past lover has been involved with. Vieira Silva stresses that he doesn't want to know what's going on with his past lover while she attempts to confess her 'love' for him post betrayal. Sandrine Orsini does another hearty and powerful gospel soundscape on the hook, while The Star Prairie Project closes the song with the utmost chilling and melancholy guitar riffs.

The Star Prairie Project and nothing but The Star Prairie Project feature on track number twelve, "Look Around." This song kicks off with Chew's vibrant and colorful raspy vocals that paint several images of stars falling and other scenic visuals, reminding us why we must keep our eyes open. The Star Prairie Project has this way of serenading the soul, not just through Chew's passionate performance but through the band's entire soulful, weighty, and well-rounded instrumentals. This song is feeding us all the happiness, faith, and energy we can find.


For their last feature on the record, Marcello Vieira Silva and Sandrine Orsini team up for track number thirteen, "The Fall of Humpty Dumpty." The song opens with a sparkling keyboard melody and a heavy, melancholy rock instrumental. As Vieira Silva begins to sing the age-old tale of Humpty Dumpty, The Star Prairie Project transitions this nursery rhyme into a gripping and gritty rock hit with help from the exhilarating instrumental transitions and Sandrine Orsini's gripping background vocals. We truly didn't know we needed a modern-day rock version of Humpty Dumpty, but we're glad we got it.


Making our way to the album's final track, "One of These Days," this song features Ivy Marie as she closes the record with the utmost heart and emotion. As The Star Prairie Project opens the song with their delicate keyboard melodies, Marie begins to sing of wishing things would work out in her favor one of these days. We truly appreciate this vulnerable tune, it's not only the perfect way to close the album, but it lets us feel a part of something greater and more relatable. The Star Prairie Project maintains the same emotional and heartfelt instrumentals until they close the album on a passionate and refreshing note.




We're so impressed with the versatility and diversity of your recent album, 'Shine a Little Light.' When did you begin creating songs for this record? How long were you working on the project?


Thank you for having me back. It's always a pleasure to talk with BuzzMusic. Many of the songs that ended up on 'Shine a Little Light' were written and recorded before we released 'Rudiger's Revenge', some like 'The Fall of Humpty Dumpty' and 'One of These Days very late added. As it turned out, I had a group of about 25 songs in the can mix, mastered, and radio-ready after we released 'Rudiger's Revenge'. Since the songs on 'Rudiger's Revenge' were all songs I collaborated with Rudiger on, there was a backlog of songs I had been working on with Marcello Vieira and Ricardo Dikk. When we added Sandrine Orsini and Ivy Marie to the project we recorded some new songs adding their talents to the mix. You asked me last time we spoke if TheStarPrairieProject was headed in a new direction with the folk and Americana songs on 'Rudiger's Revenge'. I said no, not at all. We were going to go in a completely new and exciting direction. Well, 'Shine a Little Light is what I was hinting at. It's funny because 'Shine a Little Light' began as a mixtape. When I was in discussions with Phil G. the founder of Minds Behind the Music Records about joining his new label, he asked me to send him a mixtape of sample songs. I took a representative sample from that pile of finished songs and mixed them up. When he heard the mixed tape he thought it was a compiled album and absolutely loved it. So we just left everything just as it was and named the album after the lead-off song, 'Shine a Little Light''. Just one of those strange synchronicities.


Did anything inspire your group to create the album 'Shine a Little Light"? Were there any concepts or messages you wanted to get across?


I think we were at the point where my self, Rudiger, Marcello, and Dikk had been working together for a year and a half and had compiled three albums together. We were co-writing a lot of songs together instead of exclusively using my material. We were getting more confident and experienced working together and that led to bolder more adventurous songwriting, instrumentation, and production. We are never satisfied with where we are at musically even though we are very pleased with our work to date. We are always striving to take our music to another level. I was looking for female backing vocals for a song and Rudiger mentioned Ivy Marie whom he had worked with on a duet in the past, so we added Ivy's backing vocals on some of the tracks. That led to her singing lead on 'Free Me' and later singing and producing 'Why Do I Love You', 'Everything Happens For a Reason and 'One of These Days. I had no idea if the indie-pop tunes would blend in with the Americana and harder alt-rock styles we were becoming known for, but they added a completely new dimension to what was to become 'Shine a Little Light'. The same holds true for the addition of Sandrine Orsini to the team. Marcello, Dikk, and I were working on the song 'Seven Day Storm' when they mentioned adding Dikk's girlfriend Sandrine to sing some gospel choir vocals on the tune. They sent me a version with Sandrine's vocals and a version without and the rest is history. The first time I heard her voice I was blown away and immediately thought of a couple of other songs I had recently written that I absolutely had to have her sing. Those songs were the title track 'Shine a Little Light' and 'Loosen Up Your Grip'. Now we had the team complete for the 'Shine a Little Light' album and had grown and diversified in the process. As far as messaging is concerned I think each individual song stands alone in that regard, but the message as a whole is a reflection of our times... emotional, wild, unstable, yearning, searching...it's our day to day thoughts and feelings at this very dynamic time on our history.


What was it like working with Rudiger, Sandrine Orsini, Ivy Marie, and Marcello Vieira Silva, and Ricardo Dikk for 'Shine a Little Light"? What was your collaboration like with these talented vocalists?


It's a trip. What we do is so unique and exciting. TheStarPrairieProject is a virtual musical compilation. With all of the work we have done remotely, we have actually never met each other face to face in one sitting. Even though it seems like I've known these people my entire life ha! TheStarPrairieProject is literally a product of the times which makes sense for a recording project that emerged in its current form at the beginning of the pandemic. We are a state of the art and sign of the times product. The StarPrairie Project was born in the wild west of the digital streaming music industry where the end product is a digital music file bouncing around the metaverse. We're a long way away from the Beatles recording 'Let it Be' at Apple studio on borrowed eight-track equipment. I'm so fortunate to be surrounded (figuratively) by such talented musicians. They take what I start and transform it into a precious component of art. We reside in the same wavelength in the ethers. Our love for making music fuses our individual components into a common ethereal product which is the song. The project is blessed to have so many awesome vocalists, musicians, and producers. All who contribute to the song leave their ethereal finger print in the end. The whole is literally greater than the sum of its parts. I know at times we surprise ourselves when the song is finished. It's like, "We made that! Wow! It's such a rush! It's such a shame the business side of music is such a buzzkill.


Is there a song within 'Shine a Little Light' that's your band's personal favorite? Which song are you drawn to the most?


I think we all have our own individual favorites. It's hard to pick out just one since the album is a monster with 14 songs and the selection is so broad and diverse in both genre and styles. Having said that, 'Free Me' stands out as probably the most ambitious song in the collection. The song bounced around several times between Wisconsin, LA, Portugal, and Kentucky. It has a dreamy Fleetwood Mac and Dire Straights-type vibe. It was a very experimental bent to it from the beginning and we all had different ideas about what twists and turns the song would take. In the end, I am really pleased with how it turned out. The minute-long outro with the incredible guitar work of Rudiger and Dikk and the vampy, ad-lib vocals by Ivy Marie is incredible. I think 'Queen Isabella' is some of my best lyrical work and 'Uncle Ted' makes me laugh every time I listen to it and I'm intrigued by how many different ways the song's message is interpreted. The power of Sandrine's voice on 'Loosen Up Your Grip' is gripping in itself. Another example of the depth and breadth of the album.


What do you hope to make your listeners feel and think when experiencing 'Shine a Little Light'? What sort of experience did you want to give our audience?


I want them to have an adventure. I want them to wonder what's coming next and feel the dynamics of the diversity and versatility of the album. I want them to feel full but not totally fulfilled, left wondering what comes around the bend in the musical journey. I personally feel that 'Shine a Little Light' is the very best work of The Star Prairie Project to date. It's really a culmination of all the songs that came before it and a harbinger of what's left to come. I hope our listeners enjoy what we've prepared for them and appreciate all the love and creative energy that went into this body of work.


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