Feature Interviews - Music
Feature Interviews P to T > Tristan
by Jay S. Jacobs
PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Tristan Prettyman would rather be surfing.
Not that she doesn't love her current career as a
singer/songwriter, but she might just be talked into chucking it all for a
guaranteed endless supply of
great waves. She has been on the beach since she was a little girl
and surfing is one of the great passions of her life.
That would be our loss, because her debut CD
twentythree is a truly individual statement, a quietly devastating and
exhilarating acoustic celebration of being alive. The disk shines with wonderful
guest appearances by G. Love (who also appeared on her
well-respected indie debut EP Love), Jesse Harris & Lee Alexander
(both best known for their work with Norah Jones) and Prettyman's
folk-rock-hero boyfriend, Jason Mraz.
Despite suffering from a nasty, lingering
cold, Prettyman sat down with us to chat about her album, her career, her
life and the waves…
How did you originally get into music?
Kind of by accident, actually. The way I
remember it was that we had a guitar in the house and I would play around
on it, but I couldn’t really play. Then, just
over maybe a span of like five years, I would just keep going back to it.
It was something that I’d pick up, put down, pick up, put down.
Eventually, it kind of stuck.
The more I played, the more I
learned. Obviously the more songs I started writing. It’s such
a gray area for me. I just remember all of the sudden I was writing
songs. I was comfortable. I would record myself and go, God, do I really
sound like that? That’s horrible, you know?
As I got more used
to hearing my style and just hearing what I was doing, I became not so
shy, and I started playing in front of my friends and so on. It kind of
went from there. I did a song in a surf video and that whole community
embraced me and told me that I should go for it.
were also a competitive surfer. Were you doing your music at the same
time? How do you make the switch from surfing to singing?
I didn’t really ever compete in surfing…
I’m sorry; I thought I read that you had…
high school I was on the surf team. I used to compete in high school, but
it was never anything outside of that. That keeps coming up; it comes up
every now and then. But, you know, around the time that I was surfing in
high school and really into surfing, it was kind of the pick up, put down
area I was in music. Because when I was really into surfing, that was all
I was doing. Actually I do recall, we would have all the surf team
would get together – because all the surf team, all the guys and the
girls, we all just hung out with each other. So we would go to someone’s
house on Friday night and we would play music there, but nobody was really
that good. (laughs)
What’s a bigger thrill – a really great wave or a really good audience?
Umm, oh man. I’m going to go with the big
wave. I don’t know. That’s a tough question.
Love EP was independently
released. How did you get involved with working with G. Love?
Maybe two years ago I got a call to open up
for one of their tours. I don’t even know… they can’t even remember how
they got the CD, but I think it might have been Jack Johnson
[who had] given them the CD. They were looking for someone that was acoustic – one
person, one guitar – to go out. So I got this call to go out and open for
them. We all just became friends.
At that point I had a manager
that was just helping me -- that wasn’t really a manager, but just my
friend -- for the beginning. I was kind of looking to step it up a little
bit. I ended up really hitting it off with G. Love’s manager
name is Jason -- so he became my manager. I was kind of initiated into
the camp. We did a lot of tours together and whenever they had a
couple of shows here and there and needed an opener, I would fly out to
wherever and open the shows. So when it came time to make the
record, he just happened to be in LA, and he was like,
love to put some harmonica on something." So it just kinda happened.
read that after Love,
you were worried about signing with a major label. How did you
end up signing with Virgin for twentythree
and why did you feel they were the right fit for
That’s a good question. In the
beginning, because I kind of fell into music as an accident, I wasn’t
really too concerned with… I didn’t really have a goal or a point where I
want to make it to here, you know? It was just kind of like whatever
was happening was happening. I wasn’t really too concerned with
signing a deal or a label or anything like that. I was doing the
independent. We were doing really well, so I was just happy with
that. But, the labels started coming around and there was a good
bunch of them. I had a showcase in New York and every label showed
up. I just wasn’t meeting anybody that was sparking any interest.
No real reason… it was kind of like, I’m doing so well on my own,
why am I going to sign with you? Just because it’s the cool thing to
do? I just didn’t find anything that I liked. But then I met
the A&R manager, Josh, from Virgin. We just hit it off, you
know? Just the way he talked to me and everything was
different than everything I had experienced. He wasn’t so much
kissing my ass and like, "We’re really into your music." It just
didn’t feel fake. It took a good couple of meetings, and I think
one of the most important things to me was I can remember having a meeting
with them and I sat down and I was like, so what can you guys do for me?
They were completely shocked. They were like, “Wow, that’s usually
what we ask the artists, but all right.” It was really kind of cool
and I just really hit it off with them. I played a couple of times
at their offices and really dug their staff. It just felt right. A
lot of the decisions I’ve made have just been on gut feelings. If
something doesn’t feel right, I won’t do it. It just felt good and I
figured, you know, I’ve made it this far and I really haven’t tried to do
anything. I might as well just go for it and see what happens.
If it feels good, and if it doesn’t I can always move on to something
else. It ended up being really, really good though. It was
cool. And one of the things I was most impressed with was they were
more concerned with developing me as an artist over time than like; “We’re
going to make this amazing thing and then throw it out there.”
It wasn’t so rushed…
“Love, Love, Love” is not only about romantic relationships, but it’s also
about being home and having your friends and family around you. Now that
you have an album out and are running around doing tours and press and
stuff, does the make it even more special to you?
Oh yeah, for sure. I was really excited,
because that was the song I wanted to be the single and I was really happy
that everyone else agreed. It's the song that I really
love playing. It just brings me back to that
place where I was when I was writing just for myself. It’s nice to know
that I can always go there. And I have to go there a lot, which is cool.
for the Rich” was one of the darkest songs on the album. What inspired
you to write the song? Was there someone
specific you knew who was so seriously involved with drugs?
Yeah, it is. I had a
friend who I used to go to church with. He was the guy that all the girls
had a crush on. He was like untouchable, you know? But we became friends
and we started going to church and we got to know each other really well.
We just became really, really good friends. Then he started dabbling in
drugs and going down the wrong path and getting a little bit distracted.
There were so many of us that were worried about him and he had no idea.
So, the song just wrote itself, and then one night we were all over at his
house. I played it for him and he literally broke down crying. He just
realized… it was one of those moments where you’re like: What are you
doing with your life? It’s not like telling that person is going to
change them or make them be like, “Oh, yeah, what am I doing?” and stop
instantly. But, it was a reality check for him. Especially how I
finished the song, in the end of the song it says “watch this song
you down.” It was really crazy. I couldn’t play it for a long time,
because he used to come to a lot of my shows and he was probably
embarrassed by it and knew that a lot of people knew it was about him.
But, he’s doing much better now and I wanted to put it on the record
because it was an older song that I used to play a lot and it touched a
lot of people. I used to get a lot of emails or people coming up to me
who could really relate to the song, whether it be their parents or their
boyfriend or whatever. I thought… I have no idea how my record got so
I’m so used to writing very dark and kind of like sad-hopeful songs and
this record turned out so happy.
was one thing I noticed. In the album, when the songs turn to love,
the songs seemed to be divided mostly the happier relationship songs like
“Breathe,” “Always Feel This Way” and “Shy That Way.” But I also
noticed some of the time the
relationships are in trouble or dying like in “The Story” or “Electric.”
It’s kind of different, most love songs you hear, in general, tend to be
sad songs. As a songwriter, are you hitting a point where you find
happy relationships more interesting than troubled ones or is that just
where you are in your life?
Honestly, I have no idea
how it happened. For so long, I had so many people saying, “When are you
going to write a happy song?” I was like, I don’t want to write a happy
song, leave me alone! (laughs)
Everybody loves that sad song they can put on [during] that long drive and
listen to it. I think what happened was when we got in the studio,
really if you take all the songs and strip them down, they generally are
more like “The Story” and “Electric” and whatnot. But when you add
the accompaniment and I think just the band and I think because all of us
got along so well in the studio and had so much fun that that kind of
reflected on how the songs turned out. It’s like the songs were
already written, but then we put them in a new environment and it totally…
they turned into something else. I was quite happy with it.
That’s why I put “Song for the Rich” on there, just to kind of balance it
out to let people know that it’s not all sunshine all of the time.
The record’s got to reflect my reality and reality in general.
about Jesse Harris and Lee Alexander, both of whom have worked with Norah
Jones? How did you end up working with them?
Well the label wanted me
to do a little bit of co-writing in the very beginning, to just see how I
got along. I’ve never been a big fan of that at all. If you’re a true
singer songwriter, you should be able to write your own stuff. Have
enough to say and that sort of thing… So I was always against it,
kind of offended by it. (laughs)
I was like, okay, I’ll co-write if you
me pick the people I’d like to [work] with. I love that first Norah
Jones record. I know that Jesse did a lot of the writing on it.
I just love the simplicity of it. Naturally, he was one person I put
on my list. I had put a lot of people on my list that I knew there
would never be any chance of them coming, so then I could get out of
But Jesse listened to the first record and he was like, “cool, I’ll come
in and see what happens.” It was so funny, we sat down and I was
like, so have you ever done
He’s like, “No, not really, have you?” and I’m like no, I don’t
really like it. And he’s like, “Yeah, me neither.” So we just
ended up playing guitar for four hours. It was awesome. We
just talked and we’re really good friends now.
loved “Shy That Way,” the duet you did with Jason Mraz. Since you and he
have a personal relationship, did that make it easier or harder to work
Well, we wrote that song
about three years ago. Which is crazy, because, we wrote it in Vancouver...
were just in Vancouver
and we played it and it was so weird
to be like, wow, we
wrote that song three
years ago? That
was a long time ago. When we wrote that song we had only known each
other for not even a year. We were so
shy around each other. I think from the moment we met we were
attracted to each other, but neither of us knew what to do about it. He
had just released his record (Ed. note:
the 2002 disk Waiting for My Rocket to Come,
which included the hits “The Remedy [I Won’t Worry]” and “You &
I Both”) and was on a crazy tour. I
was trying to figure out what the hell I was doing with my life. So we
couldn’t really speak to each other. And then we wrote that song. We
found songwriting as a medium. We were like, okay, we don’t really talk,
I don’t really know you, but let’s write a song together. (laughs)
Get it out that way. I think recording it was a little more difficult,
now, because we’re dating now, so it was like, well, we’re not really shy
anymore… It became this sort of joke. That came together very
spontaneously. Most of the duets… me and G. Love did a duet as well and
that came about very spontaneously. Just got bored on the bus one night,
so… That’s how I prefer those kinds of songs to come together.
I love the cover of Britney Spears'
“Toxic” you do on in concert and have
on your site. What made you choose that song?
Yeah, it was my brother’s
idea. My brother lives up in Santa Cruz, so he comes home occasionally.
We were talking about cover songs, and I’ve always been really picky about
the songs I cover. He was like, “God, you should cover ‘Toxic,’ you’d be
amazing.” I just looked at him like he was crazy. But then I looked into
it and I realized it’s a really easy song to play and it’s not actually so
I thought it would be fun
to play something and see if people recognized it, you know? I think the
day I learned it I actually had a show and I played it that night. I was
playing with Gary Jules. I was playing it at soundcheck and he was just
loving it. He was like, “I love this song. This song sucks so bad, but
everybody knows the words to it.” It gets played so much, it was around
so much when it was popular that you just know it – whether you want to
know it or not. It kind of became this thing. At every show, someone
will be yelling out “Play 'Toxic'!”
Nowadays musicians have so many more ways to reach out to their fans,
like your journals on the official site,
and your MySpace page. What is it like being able to
communicate with the fans like that?
I love it. You’re asking if I… (laughs) I’m sorry,
I’m so spacing out…
That Robitussin can do that to you sometimes…
I had a radio this morning and I was like, what are the
words to this song? You’re asking about the fan relationship? I love
it. It’s definitely different for every
artist, but for me I’m so honest in my songwriting and I’m such a people
person and I have to do it because I was so unpopular as a kid. I want to
be popular, the girl that is friends with everybody. Because in high
school you have the popular girls and they don’t talk to anybody. So I
was like, if I want to be popular and people are going to look up to me,
then I want to be as friendly as I can. Just because I’m like that
normally. It’s cool, I’ve found with the journal entry and keeping it
updated, I give a chance for those fans that have been around since the
very, very beginning to really kind of grow with me, you know? And people
who are just finding out about the music. The journals have over time I
think become even more honest and more straight talking.
I read the last journal entry on your web site about how
you hate interviews that all ask the same things. I do know what you
mean; sometimes we do fall into stock questions. So I promise I won’t ask
the most memorable moment question, which I never would have, or the
favorite bands question, which I might have but just for background… But
just curious, looking at it from the other side, if you were a journalist,
what do you think you’d want to know about yourself?
I wouldn’t even know, because I know myself too well. And
I don’t even know myself at all sometimes. That’s the thing, there’s two
sides of everything. I can imagine for a journalist, you have to do your
job, too. But sometimes journalists interview people that they don’t
even… it’s just like a work thing, you know? There’s so many different
things for it.
Oh sure, I know. I recently interviewed a singer who
released her debut album and we were talking about the songs and she said,
“My God, I can’t believe you actually listened to the album. I’ve been
doing so many interviews where they had no idea what the songs were
about…” I thought that was amazing, I couldn’t imagine doing that…
Yeah, definitely. I did an interview with [a journalist from] Australia
this one time. This girl called, she was like, “So, I guess you just had
an album come out? I don’t know, I think that’s what my boss told me and
I’m supposed to be interviewing you.” And I just felt like, can I just…
oh, the line got dropped, sorry… I don’t want to talk to you if you don’t
want to talk to me.
It’s funny, I’ve written a couple books, so a few times
I’ve been on the other side, too, so I know how uncomfortable it can be on
Yeah, but it’s important to me to… I don’t want to be
like, everything’s amazing! I love my label! I love doing interviews!
I’m human. I don’t want to just candy coat everything because I’m
supposed to. And there’ll be times when I complain about touring or
whatever to my friends and I had my one friend – she’s so funny – and
she’s like, “You don’t appreciate any of this at all.” No, no, I do, but
you just don’t even understand. And she’s like, “If I were doing it I’d
be giving it my all and doing my best.” I’m trying to give people both
sides of it, I guess. It’s really just how I feel in the moment, which
can be completely different than tomorrow. After I wrote that thing about
the interviews, it was almost that I needed to get it out of my system, so
that I could get over not being into it and then get back into it.
I also read where in the entry what you wrote about so many
people your age feel like they have to follow the pattern; go to college,
get a job, move out, find a boyfriend, get married, have children… You
were talking about your parents and how you have found out that they
were totally different people
than you had always thought as you have gotten older. Where do you think or hope
you’ll be in life when you’re ready to record your album
That’s awesome. Where do
I think I’m going to be at? You know, some days I would like to think
that in ten years I won’t even be playing music and I’ll have another
career. It all just depends. I think each day you’re getting closer to
where you’re supposed to be. I’m so thankful that I have some of the
coolest parents in the world, because they’ve really taught me a lot.
I’ve learned a lot about how they’ve raised me and my brother. But I’d
just like to be happy in life. And just have a better understanding of
myself than I do now, I guess.
“Smoke,” you ask “Shouldn’t it be that easy to just be happy?”
So, what makes you happy?
Surfing and… I think a lot of girls can relate to this,
we’re always after – well, probably not every girl, but – girls are
generally after finding the boyfriend and getting the boyfriend and being
in a relationship. For me, now that I’ve found that, I’ve really been
able to focus on… it’s like, okay, that’s out of the way, that’s not the
thing that’s always on my mind. Like, yes, I have a boyfriend and I have
someone to hang out with and that’s really enabled me to focus on other
things, like traveling and the environment and learning about the world
around me. That sort of thing makes me happy. I feel like I’m a little
bit more focused now. I definitely like being happy with where I’m at in
music and being able to tour. Things are doing well with the album. That
sort of thing makes me happy. I feel organized. I feel I’m in the right
direction, you know? And of course, getting to come home and surfing and
hanging out with my parents and my friends. Knowing that when I go home,
it feels the same as it always did. That definitely makes me happy.
Almost every article I read about you mentions Jack Johnson as a
comparison. You mentioned you know him earlier. Other than the fact that
you’re both surfers and play acoustic guitar music, I don’t really see
that much similarity. Does it bother you that so many people make the
Yeah, it gets annoying. But I can’t blame people. Because
I think humans in general, we want to categorize everything. When
something new comes along, we want to be able to identify with it. And
say it’s like this! Or it’s like that! Really it’s funny, because Jack
is a friend of mine, and I’m just waiting for the call. Like, you know,
“we need to find you another person to compare you to.” (laughs)
It’s just hilarious. I crack up because my God, we both surf and we both
play the guitar, but I don’t think our music is anything alike. I don’t
consider my music happy surf music or anything, you know? Sometimes I
wish that it was. I love that kind of music. The thing, though, for me
is that’s why I look forward to making a lot of other albums. I wanted
this album to be the first step. I want to get better with every album.
I want some people not to get it at first, so that it’s this thing that
you get over time. Like over three albums and four albums you’ll really
get a sense of who I am as an artist. I’m so young and I’m still trying
to find my style. I’m still developing. I want it to be something that
withstands time, so that I can identify… just be myself. Not be like
Radio playlists are so regimented these days. Years ago,
you used to be able to hear rock, pop, country, folk and soul on the same
station and that just doesn't happen anymore. Do you think that can make
it tougher for a band to find an audience?
Oh, definitely. I’ve seen it on the road. Like James
Blunt is on the road with us. I play and he plays and then Jason plays.
Definitely he’s getting more play than me…
Yeah, I've been hearing
"You're Beautiful" all over the place…
And he’s getting more play than Jason. We just had a
couple of shows where he flew back to England and everyone’s
asking where he is. It’s just amazing. He is getting so much radio play
and the video is getting played. That reaches so many more people. When
you hear something on the radio, like four or five times a day, whether
you like it or not, just because you’re hearing it so much you’re going to
like it, you’re going to recognize it. We did a fair amount of radio play
with “Love, Love, Love” and the stations that picked it up really
supported it. It was either stations picked it up or they didn’t.
Unfortunately, there were more stations that didn’t pick it up… But it’s
the reason that I tour. Because who knows if that person that gets so
much radio play is going to be able to have a second single or where are
they going to be after that. I feel like, I love touring. Touring is a
way for people to hear your music. They’re kind of discovering it. I
think you get more of a real fan base that way. I think that if you tour
a whole bunch you can definitely acquire a large audience by word of
mouth. It’s more fun, because you’re giving people a taste of everything
you do. Not just people know you by just one song.
One last question and it’s more serious. On your
website you have a very prominently placed link for donations for relief
for Hurricane Katrina. Obviously, everyone has been greatly moved by the
tragedy, but tell me how the disaster affected you and what moved you to
do what you could to help?
Well, for me I had a lot of people, a lot of fans actually
writing to me that were in it. When you’re traveling… I think with
all the disasters that have happened in the last few years, from 9/11 to
the tsunami to those hurricanes that came through… and living in
California we’re so far removed from any of the disasters that have
happened lately. I feel like a lot of people that weren’t right in it,
you don’t realize how gnarled it is, you know? It only takes – you know
if everybody in the world donated a dollar, that’s a lot of money that
would help. I think this is important for everybody to raise awareness.
Certainly I have a lot of people who visit my website, so I figured, I
don’t get a ton of traffic, but at least it’s up there and it’s only a
click away, you know? I think it’s just important. That’s what living in
this country is about, supporting each other and having some kind of
freedom. Just helping each other, you know? I certainly donated a good
chunk of money.