Indie Songstress Tristen’s Guide to Authentic Nashville

From by Ken Scrudato
Indie Songstress Tristen’s Guide to Authentic Nashville

At a time when technology continues to rapidly alter the way we process music, singer-songwriter Tristen is a steadfast practitioner of the more traditional model. She releases a record every couple of years through decidedly indie channels – and she hits the road with her guitar and outsize personality to connect with her rather enthusiastic fans in the most visceral way possible.

She’s just released her fourth album, intriguingly titled Sneaker Waves. The songs are full of dreamy, uplifting atmospherics, shimmering melodies and clever lyrical wordplay (“Only the lonely would find themselves inside of your bed / I’m howling at the moon instead.”) You might hear hints of everyone from The LA’s to Cocteau Twins to Patsy Cline. (Check out the hypnotic video for “Glass Jar” – featuring Jenny Lewis…one of our favorite tracks.)

She hits the stage in Fayetteville, Arkansas on September 7, for the launch of an extensive US tour that will take her to 23 cities, ending up in Chicago on October 6.

She grew up in the Windy City, in fact – but now calls Nashville home. So, in true BlackBook fashion, we caught up with her for a chat, and asked her to turn us on to her absolute fave places to hang in her adopted home.

Your new album is called Sneaker Waves – what exactly does that title mean?

I was at Rockaway Beach in Oregon, and I noticed signs for “sneaker waves” as I climbed along some rocks on the ocean. [I learned that] a sneaker wave is an unanticipated coastal wave that is much larger than the waves that have come before it; and it has the power to sweep you away into the ocean with no notice or reason. I felt it was a metaphor for death and how impermanent things are, I was immediately drawn to the words. We always try to find reasons for why people die young or suddenly, or ways we can prevent our own death. We often live in fear of it, when really it is a sneaker wave that can take you at any moment, and so your time, right now, becomes more precious than ever.

Songs like “Got Some” and “Glass Jar” have a sort of exuberance to them. What were some of the overarching inspirations behind the record?

For Sneaker Waves, I really tried to focus on what the song wanted to be, so I went in without a concept. It’s always about finding the right groove and that’s really the interaction between the bass and the drums. For me, I always know and can feel when things are right – trying to explain why the music is right for the song has always been the tedious part. So my job is really finding the right people to come in, and guiding them as much as they need to be guided. I make sure the arrangements are really concise.

What brought you to call Nashville your home?

I moved to Nashville fresh out of college to follow my dream of being a working songwriter. I was always able to write songs fairly easily from a young age and so I wanted to be around other artists and musicians. I learned how to record by myself, so that when I wrote songs like ‘Eager For Your Love’ and ‘Easy Out’ I could demo them at the moment of inspiration.

How does the city inspire you, both personally and creatively?

Nashville has a very rich musical fabric and so moving there became an invaluable education for me. I was inspired by the musicianship and taste. Nashville is all about songs and tone and if you are listening, there is a wealth of wisdom you can tap into. I mostly love the people in Nashville; my friends are some of the most talented, brilliant musicians I’ve ever met, and we can commiserate over our troubles and party our sorrows away together.

Tristen’s Nashville Faves:

Buy a Record at Grimey’s

The most supportive, connected, legendary record store in Nashville, possibly the country. Grimey’s frequently has in-store performances by titans of music, and their staff has ultra great musical taste; they can turn you on to some real treasures. Many great touring Nashville musicians work there when they are off the road. Next door is Grimey’s Too, a book store with used media, as well.

Buy Vintage Threads at Hip Zipper

Hip Zipper is most definitely classic Nashville, and it’s the best vintage store in town. Located next to the legendary local rock club The 5 Spot, Hip Zipper always has a great collection and it’s very fairly priced.

Buy Books at McKay’s Nashville

If you don’t mind making the drive, McKay’s is massive and has loads of used media: books, DVDs, records and video games.

Eat a Delicious Lunch at Mas Tacos

Teresa Mason was the innovator of the food truck. She now has a great permanent spot in East Nashville, and Mas Tacos continues to please locals and tourists alike. She is the queen of curating a simple, concise, delicious menu.

Get a Damn Fine Cup of Coffee at The Post East

Although it’s not in my neighborhood, I frequently make the journey a couple miles away to The Post. This is my favorite coffee shop in East Nashville, tucked away from the beaten path, but a genuine local favorite.

Eat Delicious Vegetarian Food at The Wild Cow

Want a big salad after the BBQ crawl? Wild Cow is a vegetarian restaurant that won’t leave you hungry. Everything on the menu is delicious and nutritious. Make sure to have a smoothie. If you have to wait to get a table and it’s after 5pm, head across the street to the bar at Eastland Cafe for a cocktail.

Listen to Some Country Music at Nashville Palace

Skip the madness of downtown Broadway tourism, but experience real Nashville and great country music, cold beer and fried foods at the Nashville Palace. There is country music seven days a week, and a dance floor for you to practice your two-step.

See a Rock & Roll Show at Fond Object

I hope you are lucky enough to catch a show at my favorite spot in Inglewood, Fond Object. It’s a record store and vintage clothing shop that frequently hosts local and touring acts in it’s backyard. You can also check out Fond Object’s brand new downtown location, if that’s more convenient.


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