Bayou City

If I Were Famous: Torpedoed Heart's Nicole Starch

Nicole Starch
Nicole Starch Photo courtesy of Nicole Starch
Because Houston is filled with talented, hardworking and likable music people, the odds are good that some of them might one day be mega-famous. We’re talking Beyoncé-like, better-get-a-bodyguard notoriety. From time to time, the Houston Press asks how our local favorites would handle such celebrity.

Recently, under clear skies at a day-long Satellite Bar rockfest, eating chopped beef sandwiches and knocking back cold Lone Stars, we realized Nicole Starch would be perfect for this series. For one thing, she’s the talented, hardworking and likable voice of Torpedoed Heart. Although the band is relatively new — established April 2016 — Starch has been performing for nearly two decades. She describes the act as Donny and Marie would: a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll. She's also charming and funny.

That afternoon, Starch shared stories about recently meeting the comedienne Aubrey Plaza, her career as an educator and how much she and her roommates love bacon (a lot, in case you were wondering). A stranger who sat at our picnic table was swooning just from eavesdropping. We told him he’d be further smitten once he actually heard her sing, which he and any of you can do this week. Torpedoed Heart joins The Grizzly Band at Darwin's Pub Friday evening, then Starch is back at Satellite Bar Saturday night for a set with a group of fellow acoustic artists, including troubadour Robert Kuhn.

Houston Press: You're returning to Houston as a megastar. Which venue would you select to host your triumphant return show and who is your opening act?
Nicole Starch: The Secret Group! Coolest new venue in town and for the openers, Sik Mule. I mean, their name says it all: bayou stomp rock with Watson’s screaming vocals on top. They bring great energy to any show and they’re just all-around great dudes.

With great fame comes great fortune. As a member of the wealthy elite, what is the first thing you buy yourself since you are wildly rich?
I heard that Zima is making a comeback, so I think I’d invest in a truckload of that plus a truckload of Jolly Ranchers because that’s a flavor combination that needs to be utilized by the mega-rich.

What is the first thing you would buy for someone else with your mega-riches?
I’d buy George Clooney for all my roommates.

click to enlarge L-R: Moskie Woskie, Garret Webster and Starch are Torpedoed Heart - PHOTO COURTESY OF NICOLE STARCH
L-R: Moskie Woskie, Garret Webster and Starch are Torpedoed Heart
Photo Courtesy of Nicole Starch
Local act — just one — you would sign to your label, since you obviously would have one as a global superstar.
Most definitely Muddy Belle. I’m partial to the percussionist since he’s Torpedoed Heart’s bass player. More than that is their commitment to professionalism. They don’t see their band as something they do as a hobby and they’re consistently working toward a goal. I’ve actually learned a lot from Jerry, and since Moskie has joined Torpedoed Heart, we’ve been adopting many of their practices. Plus, these guys are genuinely fun. They’re longtime friends and it shows on and off stage. Working with them on a label would feel like a creative partnership.

Name one Houston celebrity-type person who is not in music that you would make part of your business team and why.
Oh, man: Daniel Jackson. I just met him and adding him on Facebook was probably the best decision I’ve made in a while. He’s incredibly busy working social media for The Suffers, so honestly, I’m sure I’d never be lucky enough to have him on the Torpedoed Heart team, but darn, this guy is hilarious. And his photography is beautiful. He just did a photo shoot with the guys of Handsomebeast that looks like a psychedelic Abbey Road, perfectly featuring their oddball personalities against colorful Houston backdrops. Most important, Daniel understands the business, and, just like the dudes in Muddy Belle, he is a treasure trove of ideas and advice.

What local charity would you align with as a super-powerful, super-influential, super-famous person and why?
I definitely would want to work with Healthcare for the Homeless (HHH) here in Houston. They provide services that include dentistry, behavioral care and transition counseling to our homeless population. There was a great deal of anger among the music community during this year’s Super Bowl because of the downtown “clean-up” which involved displacing encampments, ticketing and arresting thousands of homeless. On average there are over 2,100 homeless jailed in Harris County on any given night, but that number more than doubled during the days leading up the game.

Sure, the argument is that at least they’re in a warm place with three square meals, but on a human level, the problem of homelessness is perpetuated by mental illness, addiction and social stigma. I have a friend, Carlie Brown McCutcheon, who works with HHH. She told me recently how it brings her to tears every time she leads a tour through the dental section of their downtown office because she knows how much it helps that one person to face the transition. The problem of homelessness is never going to go away, but HHH is making a difference in our city that doesn’t involve displacement and arrest, but restores health and dignity.

When people ask how you got so gosh darn famous, what would be your standard answer?
It all started when I won the blue ribbon at the Texas State Fair eating competition. I earned the nickname “The Worm” due to my ability to down ridiculous amounts of blueberry pie into a teeny little stomach. The Worm — I mean, all I do is eat, sleep and poop. It was all uphill from there. There was no mountain I couldn’t climb after all that blueberry pie.

You're asked to invest in any Houston-based company, enterprise or franchise. Which do you select, if any, and why?
For sure, Buffalo Bayou Beard Oil Company. If you know me at all, you know I love a good beard, but you up your ante with me if it smells like “Montrose” or “Lonestar,” two scents in their line. So yeah, I’d throw a cool million their way.

Answer either but not both of these questions: Who is the first fellow famous celebrity you'd seek an audience with since your fame would now have you rubbing elbows with celebrities; or, which exotic animal would you purchase as a prized pet with your big bucks?
Hands down, Ann Wilson of Heart. I’d ask her for a voice lesson so I could justify a cover of “Crazy on You.” She’s a bit of a hero — both for her vocals and her ability to finally stand up to the media and her management when it came to her physical shape. The woman is a powerhouse.

What do you think would be the worst thing about being ridiculously famous, and what would your plan be to manage this quandary?
I’m naturally a very shy and reserved person, so having everyone know my business would be very unsettling. (I can’t even write that with a straight face. I eat, sleep, poop and share all my personal business all the time.)

Nicole Starch & Torpedoed Heart perform 8 p.m. tonight at Darwin's Pub with The Grizzly Band, and 8 p.m. Saturday at Satellite Bar with special guests Robert Kuhn and Irrelephant.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.