Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bloggy Chats with Tristen

I had such a great time chatting with Tristen before her set at the Mohawk last night. For those of you who are loyal readers you know that I don't, normally, do interviews. Partly because I'm too lazy to transcribe interviews and partly because I don't like the formality of the, promote your record, tell me things you've told 100 people already format. However, I am SUCH a fan of Tristen's Charlatans at the Garden Gate that I decide I needed to hang out and chat with her. We talked for a half hour in the Mohawk's green room and I tried to narrow down that chattiness into a read-able interview. Although, you have to understand that I'm just the type of person that it literally becomes a chat, which is hard to transcribe. If I continue doing interviews I vow to have 10 questions that have 2 sentence answers, which I could ask anyone so that I can spend the rest of the time chatting. You can find the full interview after the jump.

Tristen - Special Kind of Fear video via YouTube

I noticed you produced this newest album with a little help, have you always done that?
No, the record that I put out before was me at home recording by myself. When I moved to Nashville I didn’t have anybody to help me, so I just got basic recording equipment and started to learn how to record. But, for years I’ve been leading a band and I had worked closely with people to make records and co-produced all the other stuff earlier than that so I was used to it.

Well the production sounds amazing considering it’s a self-produced record.
Well there’s a few things involved in that. The first thing is that I had been recording demos of songs for so long that I, sort of, came into Nashville already knowing to trust my instincts on a lot of things. Then, I’d been recording by myself for so long, over a year, lots of songs, that when it came time to actually make a record with Jeremy Ferguson he was really covering more of the technical aspects of it. Which, is a part of sound production, obviously, but as far as the arrangement, and the musical ideas and getting the players together that was me and so that was more where more my production came in and writing a lot of the melodies and the string arrangement and all that stuff.

What was the thing that made you decide to do music professionally?
I think it was I had to choose at that point, when I graduated college. I had to choose to either, pretty much, give-up trying, I had half-assed it for so long that I was like, you know, I understood at that point that I wasn’t going to be able to half-ass it and keep going. It was like, I had to choose ‘cause my other option was to go to grad-school and do social-sciences research and all that stuff, which I find very interesting as well but I just decided that, you know, I was young and I wanted to move somewhere and that I could write songs pretty easily; I sort of had a knack for it. I mean I never had a problem finishing writing a song when I wanted to write a song it was more like me putting all of that focus in one thing.

Did any of the 15 songs you wrote between the ages of 14 and 20 survive? Are there any you still perform?
Hell no! HELL no! They are vaulted, they are far away and I hope nobody ever hears them. It’s like bringing out your high school yearbook.

Do you find the Nashville scene competitive or collaborative? I noticed that one of the songs on your record you co-wrote with Caitlin Rose.
Yeah, we wrote a few songs together. I wrote a song on her record. We’ve co-written a few songs together and we ended up using those songs. There’s this whole culture of co-writing that happens in the publishing world and I’m kind of a part of that. But, I think as far as co-writing goes for me, I was really into it if I liked the person as a songwriter already. So, if I met somebody that, you know, I felt like they’re really awesome we should try writing together that happened very rarely. I’ve only written with three people since I moved to Nashville.

Are you part of Nashville’s songwriting, publishing machine?
Absolutely not.

Would you like to be?
No way.

You don’t want to write a song for Reba?
Oh God, if Reba wanted a song that would be a totally different story. But I’m not going to get in the machine to write the songs because the machine is very homogenized, it’s watered down, it’s very specific what they want you to write and usually you’re writing with shittier writers than you are. So, you’re like, ‘Hey, yeah, you’re established and you make a lot of money, you had all these cuts, great resume. Now, let me write this song for you and you can get half the credit.’ It’s very political, I’ve known people who’ve done it and I never got into it because I was always so busy writing and recording my own material.

Tell me about the artwork for the LP.
Julia Martin. Julia Martin is amazing by the way, you just have to check her out separately. Look up Julia Martin and look online she has a lot of paintings but she’s, in general, just completely amazing, totally unique, she does a lot of creepy people. I mean, I’m really doing a bad description of it but it’s really amazing. I met her, and fell in love with her, and her brother was my drummer for awhile. So, I said, ‘Here’s my record can you do a painting?’ And she listened to the record and painted the cover and I loved it. Everybody’s like, ‘Is that you?’ I’m like, ‘No’. It’s just a cherub, it’s a little nymphet, I don’t know if you’ve ever read Lolita but it’s like a little, creepy nymphet.

The album has a lot about love and loss and seems really personal. Is it personal? Or is it imagination?
I think it’s all those things. I think it’s personal and then at the same time, I really like analyzing people and situations and things and so that all plays into it. I’m a communication, and relationships, family-communication all that, that’s like my major in college so I’m really interested in how people relate to each other, archetypes. I’ve been on a real archetypes kick, where I’ve been writing songs that are, like, about certain kinds of types of people. I’ve been on that kick for awhile, so some of those songs made it on this record and some are in-limbo. We’re going to make a record this summer. We recorded, like, 25 songs and we narrowed it down [to 11]. Some, never even made it to be called finished and then some were finished that I just didn’t think fit or there was something off, so they never made it. It was supposed to be 10 songs but people really liked BABY DRUGS, I was gonna cut that song.

Tristen - Matchstick Murder video via YouTube

Do you have a specific genre or wheel-house that you would put your music in?
No, I say neo-traditionalist-pop because my friend, Patrick, described it that way one time and I thought that’s cool.

I suppose I just want to call it Americana or alt-country simply because you’re based in Nashville.
Yeah, and people want to do that but it’s really not a country record and I think after you hear my next record you’ll really realize it’s not. There’s some country tinges in there, I’ve been listening to a lot of country music since I moved to Nashville but it’s not really country music. We’re beyond genres at this point. There’s nothing new really happening in music. There’s no new messages, just new messengers. I’m really genre-less as far as what I focus on. I like good songs, I like them in all genres and I listen to a lot of different kinds of music. I don’t listen to a lot of modern music but I’m obsessed with the new BEACH HOUSE record. We’ve listened to that record five times on this tour.

If you missed Tristen at the 'Hawk last night, fear-not! She'll be returning to our fair city for SXSW and she'll be touring this whole freakin' country throughout the year. Keep an eye on here F*c*book page to stay apprised of all of her latest happening.