Tristen recently visited Denver while touring with Vanessa Carlton and caught the attention of Mile High Feedback. She was gracious enough to indulge some of our burning questions and offered a greater landscape of life in Nashville, the experience of existing in the climate of a divided nation, and her creative process in poetry and song.
By Veronica Lee
Tristen first made her music mainstream debut in 2011 with the critically acclaimed LP release Charlatans at the Garden Gate. The album was called The Top Local Album of 2011 in Nashville and was listed as Top 50 Albums of 2011 by American Songwriter’s Magazine. She has since toured the country, released a second full-length album CAVES to similar accolades in 2013, and is gearing up 2017 with a new album, Sneaker Waves in July. Her indie-pop-symphonic harmonies are captivating and the philosophical and relational depth of her lyric writing are pure poetry.
Mile High Feedback: How has 2017 been so far for you and what are plans around releasing new music?
Tristen: I feel a new profound fear in 2017. The power of celebrity is no longer concealed; we have a reality star as our president. I’m horrified by the mirror that was held up to my country in the election. Is that us? There’s a newfound orthodoxy, or adherence to rules. There’s a lack of questioning ideas and really listening to the answer, rising in the right and left. As Gary Shandling said—we all need to listen more. I can’t help but hope that people can change their minds, that the disillusioned can organize in a meaningful way.
My new record Sneaker Waves comes out 7-7-17.
MHF: Are you still living in Nashville? What does that offer for you as a musician?
T: I’ve been living in Nashville for ten years. It’s a great place to make your records. It’s a great place to pick up a band. It’s also an unflattering hotel mirror- that one that makes you look a little shorter and wider than you “really” are. The living used to be easy. I’m not sure what lies ahead. When I moved to Nashville it was not gentrifucked. It was a small town. It felt really friendly and the people drove slowly. Now I like to call her Lady Crane. Love her though…
MHF: Can you talk about touring with Vanessa Carlton?
T: Vanessa invited me to open her US tour; we just finished up a couple days ago—eight weeks, 14.5 thousand miles, 285 hours of driving. I like to call it the chill velvet wine tour. There were a lot of sandwiches and lavender Epsom salt baths. It’s a kind of marathon running that can be really exhilarating and crushingly exhausting at the same time. Vanessa Carlton is a supreme lady power, a songwriter with melodies that could be only hers. They are sometimes really long, but they make perfect sense. She also shreds on the piano. I was so grateful to be there every night.
MHF: We saw at the Denver show you had just had some stitches in your hand! How are things healing?
T: I got in a nasty fight with the pit of an avocado while driving just outside Omaha. This lovely nurse at the urgent care in Lexington, Nebraska was so kind to stitch me up. It was a gnarly cut, but I’m thankfully back to playing guitar.
MHF: Do you usually play with the guitarist that was performing with you at Soiled Dove or was he an addition because of your injury?
T: That guitarist is the inimitable Buddy Hughen who has played on all my records and we produced Sneaker Waves together in our home studio in Nashville. He plays guitars, keys in the live band, and we play with Coley Hinson and Kaleb Kirby, on bass and guitar. The setup at Soiled Dove was stripped down to fit Vanessa Carlton’s tour; she plays as a two-piece as well.
MHF: What is the connection to IRC and why did you decide to donate funds from your single sales to them over the holidays?
T: The IRC is a humanitarian organization founded by Albert Einstein in 1933 that helps those displaced by war, persecution, or natural disaster. Amidst all the explanations of how foreign powers like the US, Russia, Iran, and Russia have come to intervene in the civil war in Syria, I keep wondering where all the civilians can go? One way to create change is to use your power to redistribute resources. I thought about ways in my life I could redistribute resources to help people, this was one easy thing I could do. I could donate profits from a song to the IRC. It’s not even enough, but it’s one small thing I can do.
MHF: How much of your songwriting starts as poetry or vice versa? Or is there even a distinction in the creative process?
T: Sometimes the words I write feel better being read in the quiet of a hot bath, on a train ride, by yourself and repetition seems to make the idea less concise. Other things fit a rhythm and melody so perfectly that it sings itself, it feels like a hook, and then it’s up to figuring out the music. Lately, I start by collecting words and then go back to those ideas when I sit down to write.
Check back for more information around the release of Sneaker Waves in July!
See the slideshow of Tristen at The Soiled Dove Underground with Vanessa Carlton!
See the review and photos of Vanessa Carlton at The Soiled Dove Underground!