Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee’s underground rock scene, Tristen has established herself as a prolific, versatile musician over the past decade. Whether touring in Jenny Lewis’s Voyager band, collaborating and touring with artists like Vanessa Carlton and Robyn Hitchcock, or releasing three solo albums to critical acclaim, she’s been busy. That means a lot of time on the road, including a stop at the Rose Bowl Tavern in Urbana this Thursday. She spoke with VCC about life on the road, as well growing up in Illinois and playing music for a living.
VCC: What’s the toughest part of being on the road and traveling?
I think I've gotten so used to it, it's a routine I've settled into, and it feels familiar. When I first started touring, around my first record Charlatans at the Garden Gate, I was in a Honda Civic and crashing on musician's floors, flipping a coin to get the couch over an air mattress, and eating peanut butter sandwiches so I could pay my band. But slowly over the years, we've grown and upgraded our comfort, and now it's pretty easy. Morale is so important, so we try to enjoy ourselves, eat and sleep well, so that we don't burn out. You realize that this IS your life, these moments and so it's important to stay healthy. You get used to foreshadowing your basic needs in a different city every day, setting that up and then packing it up again, everyday. You learn to simplify and eat when you can, sleep when you can. You have to find ways to create alone time, so you may disappear until soundcheck.
VCC: If not, where are some places in Illinois you have performed?
I grew up in Lansing, IL and moved to Chicago for college. I graduated from DePaul University, so I love the city and very much still feel like a Midwesterner, even though I call Nashville my home. I love the progressive politics of Illinois, the heavy unhealthy foods, the rejection of pretentiousness, and the mixed immigrant cultures of where I grew up.
VCC: What’s one thing people wouldn’t expect to experience as a touring
People that don't tour always imagine backstage as a big party, because they come to the show to party. But for most musicians, this is just a place to chill and get ready for the show. It's some semblance of stillness, in an ever moving life. In celebration of Illinois, I'll reference that scene in Wayne's World, where Wayne and Garth get to meet Alice Cooper backstage, and they think it's going to be a party, and really, it's just a chill space with heavy conversations.
VCC: How did you first find your love for music?
The family folklore is that I began singing as soon as I could talk. By the time I was 5, I took every chance I could to sing in front of people. My father would accompany me on guitar or record instrumental tracks for me to sing too. My father is a great musician; he always had a recording studio in our house and instruments lying about. When I was 14, I started playing guitar and immediately began writing songs. I never thought about being an artist, or a writer, I just loved to sing and had
something to say from a young age.
VCC: How would you describe your sound to people who haven’t heard your
I'm a songwriter at heart, so I try on many different styles.
My live band is four people, two electric guitars, drums, and bass; a rock and roll band. I consider myself a genre bender and mostly confusing to those looking for one aesthetic. I definitely care about words and lyrics, and that would put us in a folk category. Talking about music though, is like dancing about architecture. It's best for you just to have a taste.
VCC: What’s coming up for you in the near future?
I just put out a 7 inch single "Dream Within a Dream" in May, I have a new song coming out in a couple of months, and meanwhile I'm working on a new record, playing some select shows.
VCC: Outside of music, what’s one thing that you feel makes you Outside of
Outside of music, I feel very ordinary. I think that's hard for most people to reconcile. We want to feel special all the time; we want our lives to feel important, and when it's still and normal, we feel bored and depressed. But I like sinking into the life experiences that are very ordinary, and primal. I get so much joy from picking fresh tomatoes from my garden or hearing my baby gut laugh. I love watching a great movie, hearing a great story. These are very human, ordinary, and connecting experiences that I love.
VCC: Where can people find your music?
Everywhere. All streaming and downloading services, or you can order physical copies directly from me on my webstore www.tristen.com/store --- just google my name!
Tristen plays with Mermaid Heaven and The Primitive Lights on August 8th at the Rose Bowl Tavern in Urbana. You can grab tickets here.