Tristen: Big Dreams, Intimate Halls

By on February 14, 2017

by Joe O’GaraTristen 2017

Some musicians dream of playing in a big arena, in front of tens of thousands of fans, raising the roof off the place. Others prefer to scale their dreams down just a bit.

Tristen, an indie singer-songwriter from Chicago, prefers to play in smaller venues. She feels the audiences have a better chance to really hear her words and music.

“It’s always been fun performing onstage, Tristen admitted. “A lot of it depends on the energy of the room. I love playing in the songwriter venues. You can really hear and listen to the lyrics of songs in rooms like that.

“I prefer to play three nights in small venues than one night in a bigger one. I have a goal of continually playing theaters. One time I got to sing back up at the Ryman (Auditorium) and it was magical.”

Tristen pointed out that it helps to have a great sound system and an experienced person manning the sound board.

“A really great sound system makes a big difference,” Tristen said. “We are really at the mercy of the sound engineers. Sometimes it’s better to rely on a guy who has been working the sound board at a venue for years than your own man.”

Ten years ago Tristen moved from Chicago to Nashville to pursue her musical career. In 2011 her first label release “Charlatan at the Gates” came out, a collection of originals that displayed Tristen’s ability to write and perform intelligent, folksy pop material.

Two years later, Tristen’s next project “Caves” was released through a successful Kickstarter campaign. Like “Charlatan at the Gates” this album also garnered critical acclaim.

In June Tristen will be releasing her next album, “Sneaker Waves”. The album title is the term used to describe the unexpected “monster” waves that catch unsuspecting swimmers and surfers off guard, sometimes carrying them out to sea. “Sneaker Waves” was a project that Tristen and her band built from scratch right in the studio.

“We went into the studio with no concept except to follow the heart of the songs.”

The Chicago native admitted that she does not listen to her own material unless it is absolutely necessary.

“No way, I don’t listen to my own music,” Tristen said with a laugh. “Well, there are some songs we just brought back for this tour, so we did listen to some of my older stuff.

“When I am working on a record I listen to my stuff ad nauseam. I really try to protect myself from listening to myself because I want to have a fresh perspective on my material.”

At the time of our conversation, Tristen was busy preparing for a tour that would find her doing 36 shows in 53 days, travelling across the United States and Canada, as the opening act for Vanessa Carlton.

“I have a lot of things going on during these three weeks before I set sail,” Tristen said. “The main thing (is that) I am finishing mixes on the songs for my new album. Every day I focus on music.”

“For this tour it’s just my guitarist Buddy Hughen and myself, doing a very stripped-down show. And Vanessa is doing a stripped-down set too.

“I anticipate having a very good time on the road.”


The dates of the Vanessa Carlton/Tristen tour can be found on Tristen’s website



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