With the official release of her debut LP, Charlatans At The Garden Gate, arriving this week, Tristen Gaspadarek is poised for a potential breakout year. Her mix of pop, rock, and Americana influences has already created a buzz in Nashville, where she moved after leaving her hometown in the Chicago area, and it’s likely to catch on as she takes her show on the road for most of the year. We caught up with after her gig in Fort Worth, Texas, in a phone interview. Catch her San Francisco debut at Rickshaw Stop on February 2rd.
SF Station (SFS): How’s the tour going so far?
Tristen Gaspadarek (TG): Oh, good. We’re only on day five, so we are pretty fresh still.
SFS: Have you toured this extensively thus far in your career?
TG: For the last two years, I’ve been out for five to ten days a month, but for the next four months, it will be the most touring consistently. I’ve never toured out to L.A. and I’ve never been to San Francisco in my life.
SFS: What led you to Nashville instead of another music town like L.A. or New York?
TG: It was definitely a more affordable move, and it’s close to home so it’s really easy to live there. I think it’s more of a music town than New York or L.A. because that’s all there is in Nashville.
I didn’t really move down there with any ambition to be a studio artist. I moved there figuring I could write songs really easily and maybe there’s a job for me somewhere writing songs. In the midst of all that, I started recording my own music. One thing leads to another and I ended up making this record. The path sort presented itself.
[audio:http://ouramericanmyth.com/tristendl/Tristen_EagerForYourLove.mp3] Tristen “Eager for Your Love”
SFS: Was it a cultural change for you coming from the Chicago area?
TG: Definitely. Nashville is the South, so you’ve got all the great things about the South. People are really friendly and open to having conversations with strangers. It’s a really charming place and it’s kind of a small town, but if you are into music, there is a lot going on. There are a lot of musicians, and everyone migrates there, so you kind of get the cream of the crop when it comes to players. That’s really the upside.
As for as cultural change, there was kind of a social etiquette that I was unaware of. I can’t tell if that’s because there is a lot money in Nashville, especially among a lot of the people who play music, or if it’s just a cultural thing. It’s interesting because it’s pretty old fashion in a lot of ways with the dynamic between men and women. There is still a very rampant case of the Southern belle, which is pretty bizarre — the chatty female that doesn’t want to work but cleans up real pretty. There’s a lot of that going on around there.
It’s very rich in tradition, and people are kind of living in the shadow of what happened there in the 60s and 70s. You meet a lot really knowledgeable people who really know a lot of music, so it’s pretty awesome.
SFS: Is it a challenge to be in that environment, when sometimes people have those “Southern belle” expectations?
TG: I don’t think it’s a challenge; I think it is actually an advantage. I’m strolling into Nashville as a pretty normal Northern girl — pretty opinionated, educated, and outspoken. I was there for a year and a half and they put me on the cover of one of the local newspapers, saying it’s a new breed of female songwriting. It’s an advantage for me to be the way that I am. I’m not sure I would be as unique in New York or Chicago in the way that I am there.
SFS: Did you get involved with writing songs for other people and that whole industry there?
TG: I sort of tried getting into it, but I couldn’t handle watering down my lyrics, or compromising my ideas, or giving someone songwriting credits for a song that I wrote. It just seemed like a waste of time for me.
SFS: Where do you get inspiration from when you are writing songs for yourself? Are most of your lyrics autobiographical?
TG: I definitely draw from personal experience, but at the same time I draw from other peoples’ experiences. It’s a mix of everything, but it’s definitely what I think about things. I’m not just making shit up, but at the same time, not everything that I sing about happened to me.
[audio:http://ouramericanmyth.com/tristendl/Tristen_BabyDrugs.mp3] Tristen “Baby Drugs”
SFS: You’re songs are a little bit country, a little bit rock ’n’ roll. Where do you think you fit in?
TG: I don’t really think I fit anywhere. The whole idea of fitting in is up to the person writing about it. Some people call it country, and some people don’t hear that at all. I call it pop music. It seems like that is the kind of music I’m interested in, and that’s what I usually feel like I’m writing. But there’s a stigma attached to calling something pop, so people don’t want to do that either.
SFS: What are you plans for the rest of the year? And what are you looking forward to?
TG: I’m going to be on the road for the rest of the year, and I’m looking forward to making a new record, as well. I don’t really foresee anything really changing, just getting busier, hopefully.
Tristen performs at Rickshaw Stop on February 2nd. The show starts at 8pm and tickets are $10.
Tags: Q&A, Rickshaw Stop, Tristen