Tristan Prettyman is a self-described optimist. She’s also not one to sugarcoat things. The 30-year-old singer/songwriter’s latest, Cedar + Gold, is a heartbreak album in the truest sense of the word. Over the course of the record’s 12 tracks, Prettyman lays out the sadness, the hurt, the anger, and the painful details of her recent split from ex-fiancé (and fellow musician) Jason Mraz. Penned following a four-year hiatus from music making, Cedar + Gold is undoubtedly Prettyman’s most honest and revealing record to date. It’s also the project that’s allowed her to rediscover her love for songwriting. This Wednesday, January 23, Prettyman takes to the stage at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club for a show in support of Cedar + Gold. Below, we talk to the singer about lost loves, new digs, and the importance of staying truthful.
Rumor has it you thought about quitting music prior to writing this album. Yeah, I was pretty done. When I got signed, I was 23 years old, and from 23 to 27, all I’d done was tour. I was burnt out. I felt disconnected from home. I had been all over the world and done all these shows, but I had no idea what it was like to be a normal 27-year-old. I felt like I needed a break, but I also felt weirdly disconnected from music. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. So I went and traveled and spent a lot of time at home and dated and did normal things, and it was great, but at the end of it, I started feeling numb. I was in this phase of waiting for something exciting to happen.
What changed? Well, I fell madly in love with my ex-boyfriend, and we got engaged, and then we split up. The minute that breakup happened, it was like the floodgates opened, and I was feeling ultra crazy shit. I was angry and sad and crying. I remember having a moment when I was super in it and really sad and I had this epiphany like, “Oh my god, I’m feeling again, and I want to write music, and I need to write something down.” It just started pouring out of me.
Were you aware of how candid the songs were when you were writing them? Sort of. I wanted to make a record that was an experience, a record that was super transparent and really honest, like no synonyms for things that were going on, just straight to the point. I felt like, within this relationship that I was in, there was all this beating around the bush instead of anybody just coming out and saying really what they wanted, and I got to this point where it was like enough is enough. I remember writing “I Was Gonna Marry You” and thinking, “Oh, shit. This is kind of crazy.” But the more I’d listen, the more I’d get used to it, and it became this cathartic process where I just kept going and going and going and digging deeper and deeper. It was really healing for me at the time. I like to joke the record label put me through therapy.
All that said, the album is really bittersweet. It’s not vengeful. I’m the kind of person who, if someone breaks up with me, I’m like, “Well, why do I want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with me anyway?” I can’t be mad, because he actually did me a favor by letting me go and meet the person who is right for me. My outlook on life is pretty positive. I’ve always been an optimist, so whenever I get into the state of being vengeful it just doesn’t really feel right. I wanted the record to honor the relationship but also be able to be honest about it. It’s that fine line of not letting someone walk all over you but also being logical about it, I guess.
Have you gotten any feedback from Jason? I have not. [Laughs.] I got an email once after he had heard some tracks—because his roommates are friends of mine—and it just said, “It sounds good. Let me know when it comes out, and I’ll blog about it.” And I just thought, “I don’t know if you’re going to want to blog about this record.” But that was it; that was the last I heard, and that was probably a year ago. It’s real honest, and there are real moments of specific times and events and things like that, so I imagine for someone else they might just want to forget about it.
Has it been difficult to play these songs live? In the beginning, it was a bit tough. Some of the songs were harder to sing than others, but the more and more I played them, the easier it got. I feel like now I’m at a place where I’m probably 95-percent moved on, and the songs are more about the fans now. I get emails and Twitters of people going through breakups and different situations, telling me that the record is saying everything that they’re feeling right now, and that to me is the ultimate compliment you can get as a musician. All I ever wanted was to make real genuine music and pick situations that we all go through and word them in this way that makes us feel like we’re not alone.
Tristan Prettyman plays an all-ages show at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Wednesday, January 23, at 7 p.m. For tickets and info, call (805) 962-7776 or visit clubmercy.com.