Poet, singer, and songwriter Tristen takes pride in her art. Originally from Chicago, now residing in Nashville, Tristen Gaspadarek’s music is a seamless blend of rock, synth-pop, folk, and country. Her evolution as an artist is evident in her sound and in her words. This winter Tristen released a book of pocket poetry called Saturnine and is gearing up for the release of her third full-length album.
Tristen is also set to take part in a two month long North American tour with Vanessa Carlton. The tour kicks off on February 22 at the Schrott Center for the Performing Arts in Indianapolis and winds up on April 15 at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, California. The tour makes stops in Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, New York, Vancouver, and LA, among other cities.
Quip had an in depth discussion with Tristen about her tour with Vanessa Carlton, her new single “In Winter Blues” and the current political climate in America.
Sherron Shabazz: The proceeds from your new song “In Winter Blues” will benefit the International Rescue Committee. Talk a little about the song and why you chose to help the organization.
Tristen: “In Winter Blues” is a holiday song. It’s actually a love song – a break-up song. I was feeling sort of let down with the election and I felt there was a specific thing that I could do, which was make music. That was a part of my skill set and I was trying to think of ways to reallocate resources to people who need it. The International Refugee Committee was founded by Albert Einstein and they have a long history of working to resettle refugees in the United States from all over. This was before some of the executive orders started coming in from the current administration. I felt it sort of growing in the last eight years. It’s a result of the propaganda against these countries that we’re bombing and these wars that we’re getting involved in. I honestly could have donated to Doctors without Borders, I mean there were a lot of people in my mind as far as who I would like to help or to redistribute resources to. That was just one of the many.
SS: You mentioned the current administration; being in Nashville I would imagine that the majority of people may be red voters. What’s it been like down there for you during this time?
T: I live in Nashville and it’s a city. We have a very diverse population here. Coming from a very progressive state like Illinois and, specifically, Chicago where as much as there is still segregation everywhere, still I felt like it was more of an integrated society as far as when you went to work and, in particular where I grew up on the south side of Chicago in Lansing. Having moved here, I think it’s more than just people are republican or conservatives, they have no opinion at all or they feel really uncomfortable even thinking about it. I think that’s a result of a culture that sort of made political discourse a taboo. I think that’s because ultimately, when you talk about politics you have to be confronted with your own privilege, you have to be confronted with the history of our country, you have to be confronted with the history of our world and so on… I think politics is this thing that kind of cracks the surface…
SS: What led you to writing your book of poetry, Saturnine?
T: Well I’m always writing for songs. It depends, sometimes I just have the song and the idea and I write the music. But when I’m on the road I’ll just use the notebook on my iPhone if I have ideas. I read that Neil Young said no matter what he’s doing if he has a song he stops what he’s doing and gets it down. So I got in the habit of doing that years ago.
SS: Do you feel like words are your only form of expression? Do you express yourself in other ways?
T: I’m a singer at heart. I started singing as soon as I could speak (my family tells me). The first thing I love more than anything in the world is being a singer. Over the years I figured out how to play instruments as a means to my second goal which was to be a really good songwriter. By the time I was a teenager I just wanted to be a really good songwriter. Part of that was words. I learned a bunch of instruments to try to become a better songwriter. Words were always easy for me. I guess with lyrics it was kind of an intuitive thing for me. I began to really love poetry in college. Also, I love music and great lyrics.
SS: How excited are you to be going on tour with Vanessa Carlton?
T: Very excited [laughs]. It’s gonna be great. I’m really, really excited. I’m gonna be gone for three months so I’m just trying to get my ducks in a row here so I can relax. Going on the road is funny because you kind of just have to check out of your life for whatever amount of time, so I’m looking forward to that.
SS: [Laughs] Looking forward to checking out of your life?
T: Yeah, home life. You know, you live in a town and you have friends, obligations, dishes to do, a home. When I go on the road I completely check out. I just try to keep it as simple as possible.
SS: When can we expect to hear your next album and what will your new sound be like?
T: The new record is going to be coming out in early summer. I’m not announcing it yet but it’s called “Sneaker Waves.” With my last record, CAVES, we had a very specific idea of how we wanted to do it – it was a concept. For this record the concept was no concept. We kind of let the songs decide. My house is a recording studio so I just kind of put it together trying to pick the best songs. I went in with 32 songs. It’s just a process of going through things and figuring out what you’re making. I kind of let this record have a life of its own. I didn’t try to interfere too much with it.
SS: What’s the meaning behind the title?
Tristen: The definition of Sneaker Waves is amazing. I was on the beach in Portland and they had these signs for sneaker waves. A sneaker wave is an unanticipated coastal wave that is much greater in force and height than the waves that precede it. These waves come up out of nowhere and they’ll just wash you away. I felt like that was a metaphor for death and I like the way it sounded so that’s why it’s named that.
Photo courtesy of Big Hassle Media