WATERLOO --- Christopher Starr left his hometown several years ago and made it big as a music producer in Atlanta.
But the Waterloo West High graduate doesn't assume musical talent isn't coming out of Waterloo.
And this November --- nothing's been set in stone quite yet --- Starr is returning to prove that.
"I want to come back there and basically wake up the scene," he said.
So Starr is holding a talent search for singers and rappers, as well as singer/songwriters with instruments, and giving one lucky winner the chance to strut their stuff in front of producers in Atlanta.
He's aware artists have heard that before.
"Over the years I know a lot of promises have been made there --- they take their money, basically," Starr said.
This one promises to give a grand prize of airfares and accommodations in Atlanta, along with meeting producers and getting in a studio.
The show is going to be free for talent as well as spectators, at least the first time --- Starr plans more, possibly two per year.
"It's to get their hopes up and let them know this will really happen," he said.
When he was coming up, Starr and friend Warren Wortham, who now works for Hawkeye Community College's Martin Luther King Jr. Center, both formed hip-hop groups together in high school.
"He was kind of into the Prince-type material," said Wortham, a Waterloo East High graduate. "We've both been into the music thing, but he pursued music pretty heavily."
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Starr said that was part of his plan from the beginning.
"I always wanted to try to make something bigger than what I had going on (in Waterloo)," Starr said.
Since high school, Starr has been all over the map in his career --- learning about the business in Milwaukee, recording in Los Angeles and working with a record label in Minneapolis, where he learned the tricks of the trade he now excels at in his Atlanta-based CSP Music Group.
His first big break in Atlanta, however, was getting a track onto a 2001 Christina Aguilera album of 1996 demo songs, "Just Be Free," on which Starr is credited as co-producing and remixing the track.
The song, fittingly, is called, "Our Day Will Come," a cover of a 1963 song by Ruby and the Romantics.
"I was sweating night and day hoping they would select the song," Starr remembered. "I knew it was gonna take that to catapult the rest of what I wanted to do. When I did that, that's when all the other doors started opening up."
Starr has worked with artists like R&B artist Bobby Valentino, Atlanta rapper Gorilla Zoe and Mississippi hip-hop artist David Banner.
He also works with up-and-coming talent like burgeoning group Travis Porter, a hip-hop group based in Atlanta.
None of it surprises Wortham.
"Chris is the type who is not afraid to take risks," Wortham said. "If he can't get there directly, he'll find a way to get there."
Just like he'll be assuring musicians in Waterloo that they can make it, Starr wants to tell those who want to work behind the scenes in the music business that working hard will get them there as well.
"It is a really tough business to break into, but the more you stick with it, line yourself up in positions, put yourself in places where opportunities will be there for you, open your eyes --- that's gonna be the biggest key for doing that," Starr said.