Interview: Tristen (Nashville)

Every single day, there’s dozens of new names and bands that come and go in a flash. It’s overwhelming, easily and near impossible to follow closely everything going on out there in music-but that’s the exciting thing. There’s always something new. But even more exciting is when one artist catches and hangs around in my headphones. I heard about Tristen briefly in the post-SXSW haze of “Did that seriously just happen?” and listened in. I remember her music being addictive in the simplest of ways; never overbearing, but just earnest songwriting. Stumbling upon her performing live at WSUM convinced me and others to give her more of our time, and her music has been one of the best discoveries of 2011.

For the holidays, Tristen is about to release Deck the Halls, a 7″ of her favorite Christmas songs. Crowd-sourced with Kickstarter, it’s a holiday primer before her December tour dates kick off (mostly with Justin Townes Earle). Many thanks to Tristen for the quick interview leading up to when she hits the road! Dates below.

What are some things that have to happen for it to feel like the holidays for you?

Family, cooking, snow and music. My favorite christmas album standing for the last 20 is A Very Special Christmas. The very first one with the Eurythmics, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, etc. Immediate holiday spirit.

Does your family have any traditions in particular?

Yes, we feast and exchange gifts. My mother decks the halls fo real. Catholics love Christmas.

You moved from Chicago some time ago for Nashville. What initially brought you there? How does winter in Tennessee compared to Chicagoland?

Winter is Chicagoland. I have to say I’m happy to be away from the gloom and cold. Nashville is sunny most of the year and warm through November which is good for my health and outlook on life.

Speaking of winter, you’ve been knitting scarves of late for Kickstarter pledges. Who taught you how to knit? Where does all this creativity come from?

I enjoy creative work, it’s fun making things. My grandmother and my great grandmother both knitted & crocheted toys and blankets for me as a child. My father is a musician and can build/fix anything, his sister a painter, my cousin a film director, grandmother is a piano/saxaphone singer player so I think it’s a bit part of my blood line and also a bit something I always long to be.

How was it getting into the musician community in Nashville? What was the first moment you realized this could be home?

I felt it was really easy to meet people here and find a strong community with a sense of allegiance to it’s culture and history. Nashville is not my home though; I am no land’s child.

The response to Charlatans at the Garden Gate has been enormous with SXSW, radio appearances, etc. What does it feel like to have your song played on an HBO series?

It doesn’t really make you feel anything. It made my mother cry.

Charlatans has this fantasy, or fairy tale feel to it. Where did you draw inspiration for that record?

I don’t know how that came to be, but this question pops up a bit. I wrote Doomsday when I was reading Grimm’s Fairy tales. I was listening to the Kinks a lot when I wrote “Eager for Your Love”. I love Kahlil Gibran and stories from the Bible. I like stories with a theme (go figure) so it happened that way.

Not to give away too much, but what can listeners look forward to with the follow-up?

A new batch of keyboard songs with performances from all the hottest babes in Nashville.

Before going to record, you’re about to go out on tour with Justin Townes Earle. What can we expect and what presents should people bring to help out with your holiday shopping?

Actually the record is just about finished. We cut strings and mix soon. I’m dong a solo acoustic tour with Justin Townes Earle in pure form. I’ll be playing my songs on the guitar. I’ll be making my gifts this year but I suggest that everyone support their local, non-corporate businesses any time they buy anything whenever possible. Damn the man, save the empire.

If you were stuck in a cabin during a record blizzard with snow piling up outside, icicles forming along the roof, and enough firewood to last through till rescue…what three items would you have with you to pass the time and why?

I’m glad you asked that cos actually I only own three things: a guitar, a piano & a computer.

Tristen Tour Dates
*w/Justin Townes Earle 

12/01 – MOTR Pub, Cincinnati, Ohio
12/02 – Grog Shop, Cleveland, Ohio
12/3 – Foothills Performing Arts, Oneonto, NY*
12/4 – Narrow Center for the Arts, Fall River, MA*
12/5 – Olin Arts Center at Bates, Lewiston, ME*
12/6 – The Rock Shop, Brooklyn, NY
12/8 – Daniel Street Club, Milford, CT*
12/9 – Club Helsinki, Hudson, NY*
12/10 – Royale Nightclub, Boston, MA*
12/11 – The Flywheel, Easthampton, MA
12/12 – Twisted Branch Tea, Charlottesville, VA

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