Starkings’ journey from the boardroom to recording studio

1:08pm Thursday 8th December 2011

Former Aireborough Grammar schoolboy Mike Starkings was at the top of the corporate ladder when he decided to give it all up to be a musician.

As managing director of Coda, an IT software company based in Harrogate, Starkings travelled the world for meetings, supervised hundreds of staff and enjoyed a high-profile reputation after negotiating the sale of one listed company to another.

After months of writing and recording, Starkings has just released his album Real Surprise. It’s a real mix of music – from folk to rock to country – and it’s been met with rave reviews.

It was recorded in Leeds and Mike says: “It was the most stimulating thing I’ve ever done, finally having an output for my creativity.”

Starkings has been writing songs since he was a schoolboy and half of the album is made up of songs he’s written over the last 30 years, the other half are tracks he’s composed very recently. Slipping Away is a beautiful melody written in his last year at Aireborough Grammar.

After school, Starkings left the family home in Rawdon, where his parents still live, for Manchester University. Then he qualified as a management accountant. The next 30 years were spent making a name for himself in the business world. But he was born to entertain: ‘Wherever I was – America, Europe, Australia – I’d find the nearest piano or borrow a guitar to play at the end of a day.”

Mike used to take requests from his colleagues and loved seeing their surprise when he could play all their favourites at the drop of a hat. Aireborough Rugby Club frequently request their old scrum-half to come back as an entertainer and Starkings says he’ll always enjoy doing that.

So Starkings formed a band and resigned from Coda. But this involved singing covers night after night and the original idea of playing his own songs never materialised.

Frustrated, Starkings left and wrote the song I’d Lost The Plot about the struggle he went through. But through the band he’d formed a strong friendship with one of Yorkshire’s most versatile singers Lisa Mallaghan. Lisa is from Guiseley and she encouraged Mike into the studio and provides stunning vocals on every track of the album. Three other Yorkshire musicians were also involved – Simon McGrath (guitar, harmonica and producer-he’s also a lecturer at Leeds College of Music) Mark Walker (drums, keyboard and bass – at a level where he plays with the likes of Westlife, Blue, Alexander O’Neal and Kelly Rowland) and Danny Gough (superb trumpeter- again hailing from Leeds). It’s been a long journey, but the former chief exec’s finally got there. He’s already planning a second album and will be performing locally. Check out www.mikestarkings for details.

Esther Halligan


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