Back to Home: An Interview with Tristan Prettyman


Way back in 2005, on the other side of the country, I was working in the music department of a Borders bookstore. One day, one of the label reps came in and handed me 10 copies of an EP titled Love. He started talking about the artist, this girl from San Diego named Tristan Prettyman, and I can still remember how enthusiastic he was when he told me I was going to absolutely love her.

He had no idea how right he was.

Flash forward to 2009, when I spent my first summer in San Diego, visiting with friends. I was 23 and decided that this was where my heart was, this was where I needed to be. I decided to get a tattoo to commemorate that moment in time, so I tweeted at Tristan and asked her for local recommendations.

Like most fans will tell you, this is the kind of person she is: the kind that writes back. She recommended 454 in Encinitas and I walked out with a tattoo commemorating my 23rd summer, with the words "Love Love Love" underneath it, because that song captured so perfectly how I wanted the rest of my life to be.

As silly as it sounds, that EP changed everything for me. For starters, I'm writing this post from my home in San Diego, a home that I may not ever have found if I didn't hear it first calling to me in Tristan's music. Throughout the years, the advice and musings she shared on her blog felt like letters from the big sister I never had. Thanks to her, I learned the importance of transparency, I learned how to be fearless in love, how to accept that everything happens for a reason, how to be unapologetic about who I am and what I want. As an artist, blogger and woman, she is my role model and inspiration. I have so much to thank her for.

Tonight, Tristan heads back home to San Diego to play one of the final three shows on her City and Sand Tour with Eric Hutchinson. And a few weeks ago, in anticipation of this show, I sent her an email asking if she'd be interested in doing a little interview for my blog. As soon as I hit send, I crossed my fingers and hoped that I hadn't sounded like a total tool. I rethought every line of that email so many times and eventually concluded that I had totally embarrassed myself.

Then she wrote back.

Not only did she agree to do the interview in between playing a hectic tour schedule, but she sent back such genuine, thoughtful answers to all my questions.  Well... I shouldn't say "all": even though I only sent her 11 questions, I could spend all day picking TP's brain.

Gracious, hilarious, honest, warm and utterly real... I present to you, Tristan Prettyman Maris.

So Mrs. Maris... your wedding was earlier this year and you looked like a total babe in that gorgeous red dress. How did you know that was the dress? 

I have always done things my own way, and I just couldn't see myself in a white dress. We went to South Africa last year and fell in love, and I remember the landscape, the browns, the warm colors at dusk...

When we decided to get married there, I just had a vision. Red dress, all of our guests in white. And then one night I was googling dresses and I found that Vera Wang had done a red collection for love and passion, and I knew that was the dress. It was the first one I tried on, and that was it.

You also shared that you did a Las Vegas wedding right before your big day...

Ha, yeah we had to get married before South Africa, here in the states, to make it official!

Last Christmas, we told my 90 year old grandma we would take her to Vegas, she loves to gamble. When we decided on South Africa to get married, I realized she wouldn’t be able to come. So we did an all-in-one Vegas trip. She got to see us get married with just some close friends and family, and we also gambled the night away! I won $1,515.15 on the slot machine! It was epic!

Congrats on your new EP Back to Home and the City and Sand tour! This was your first major tour without a record label. How has this new boss lady role impacted you as an artist?

The boss lady roll is the best! Wow. I mean it's been quite the roller coaster. Before tour, I was a stress case, I was a straight up mess. But now I am seeing how it's all working out and we are kicking ass.

It was really important for me to take this time without a label or manager and get my business in order. See how it operates and be hands on. Everything from making the new EP, booking the studio time, getting the artwork together, the CDs printed, the songs registered, to literally booking the tour bus, figuring out how much merch we needed, ordering it, and counting it all in. Hiring my band and crew, and dealing directly with my booking agent, promoters, interview & radio requests...

It's so much for one person to take on, but I really wanted to understand the inner workings of it all so that when I do hire my new team, I can really appreciate what their roles are. We have 3 shows to go, and I am like wow, we totally pulled it off! We actually just sold out of all our merch, which isn’t a bad thing, but I literally just had to call my dad like, “Can you please go to this place and pick up the new merch order? We need it for the last 3 shows!”

Everyone, not just my band and crew, but my family and friends have rallied to help. It's pretty awesome.

First of all, the fact that you shared all the stories behind each song on Back to Home on release day is like a superfan's dream come true...

Those descriptions on my SoundCloud just came about naturally! I am such a huge music lover, I thought, "What would I want as a fan?"

What was it like going back to being an independent artist after 3 label LPs? 

So I actually just hired a new manager, but before that he was advising me. I would bounce ideas off him, get his opinions on things. And I asked him, "So, how should I release this? Like should I do a blog post? Just release it on iTunes? Can I just upload the songs?" He was like,“There are no rules! That’s the best part about being independent!” And that was totally weird for me. I was like, “Wait, what?! Whoa…Yeah... No rules...”

I was on a label for 10 years so I am very used to a strategy and a structure, which is really great, but also somewhat limiting. I always want to just give stuff to my fans, so with the Back to Home EP, it was really fun and very freeing. I literally just wanted to give the music away, let people hear it and let them decide if they wanted to buy into and be a part of it.

Your last album, Cedar + Gold, dealt with a pretty traumatic breakup. How do you let go of something like that when it lives on in your songs? 

You know, it was kinda weird for a brief period, especially when I got engaged a year ago. It was very much: “Ahh, what do I do? How do I act? What the f, this song is so sad...” But I really enjoy singing songs from Cedar + Gold. They really are some of the best, most special songs I have ever written. Especially “I Was Gonna Marry You."

I have this beautiful 100 year old vintage engagement ring from my husband, and I just look down at it on stage sometimes, and think of how wonderful my husband is, how much he loves me. He would swim oceans for me, and not just me, but for my friends and family.

His love resonates with me on a level I have never felt with anyone else. It's exciting and scary and every day is such a wild adventure. I think, "Thank God... the universe totally re-directed me to my 'best that hadn't happened yet'."

Countless women have shared that they found a lot of solace in that album. But what comes after the grieving? Before you met your husband Bill, how did you know you were ready to start dating again? 

Ha, oh my god. At one point I was trying to date a 23 year old in the middle of the country and an ex that was hung up on his ex, and then another ex that came back into the picture. And for a year I was in this fucking triangle dating disaster that was going nowhere.

Then I met Bill and that was that. I wasn’t ready. But he was.

He was like, "You deserve so much more than these men that can’t make up their minds and don’t even know if they like you." I had never met a man that was just so sure about me. And not like in a desperate, creepy, annoying way. He's just literally this smart, handsome, funny, successful man in his own right, who came out of nowhere. I have always been the one that pursues, always chasing these guys that were one foot in, one foot out.

I remember coming home and telling my Dad, “I met this guy, and he’s awesome, but I don’t know, he’s willing to meet me wherever, and he always wants to make plans, he’s always available... he has a job!” And my dad goes, “You go on and on about how you want some guy to come sweep you off your feet, and you finally do, and now you’re complaining about it?”

It didn’t take me long to be like, “Yes, I deserve this!” and really know in my heart that I did. I was ready for a man to meet me halfway, I was sick of doing all the work. The timing just so happened to be right as well. Timing is everything.

As an artist, were you ever scared of being happy? When I was younger, I used to fear that happiness might be the death of my creativity.

Oh yes, all the time, and it always did feel like the death of my creativity. Like someone was turning the spout off. But when I met Bill, he inspired me and much to my surprise, I was inspired to keep the music flowing. He is my #1 supporter. He loves seeing me on stage, he takes pics at all our shows, he’s just as excited as I am about hearing the new songs I write. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive partner.

If you are an artist, of any kind, it really does take a special, patient kind of partner. It’s not easy to be with someone who is vulnerable all the time, always giving so much of themselves. And artists are pretty sensitive, so I feel really lucky that I met someone who can be supportive, but also gives me their honest opinion. I’ve been with people who try to compete with my career, or who get really jealous. So it's nice to finally have a balance.

I think it also helps that my husband has his own career going on, in a totally different world. He’s in tech, I’m in music. Such opposite ends of the spectrum, but it's exciting because we are both very interested in what the other is doing, we're always learning. And most importantly, we are each other’s biggest cheerleaders.

You've always been famously transparent and that's part of why you have such fiercely loyal fans. Do you feel more protective of your personal life now that you share it with someone else and eventually, down the road, some little Bills and TPs? 

Transparent is the only way to be.

I thought about protecting myself after Cedar + Gold, but that wouldn’t have been true to who I am. I live a normal life like anyone else. I have ups, I have downs. I went through a bad breakup. Then I met someone and I was happy.

For a while there, I felt bad about being happy. But I think that was just me needing to fully realize that, yes, I deserve to be happy. There is a quote that goes something like: You only end up with as good as what you think you deserve.

Also, my husband loves my fans. Actually for the first couple months of dating, I refrained from putting him on Instagram or talking about him. In the past, I would share with my fans some guy I was dating and then 3 or 4 months later it wouldn’t work out. So I was a bit protective with Bill, but then once the cat was out of the bag, it was out. Bill is sitting across from me right now, and he says “There is a big difference between sharing something on Instagram, a pic here and there, or a bit of personal life, and having a full on reality TV show."

For him, he loves my fans, and my fans have really embraced him. And I think for him, it's one of my most attractive features, another form of honesty. For me, I shared so much of my heartbreak with Cedar + Gold, why would I want to protect the good stuff? The happy stuff? Maybe if inside I thought it wasn’t going to work, I would keep it from my fans. But I am an "all in" kind of girl.

I have always felt like the more honest I am about what is going on, the less gossipy people get or nosey, cause its all out there.

The holiday season is here! What are your favorite traditions for the holidays? 

Every year my dad and I surf on Christmas morning. Bill and I enjoy getting a tree. We got such a Charlie Brown tree last year, it was hilarious. We usually bake cookies and have everyone over at our house on Christmas day. Which is nice, that we can now host my family. For us, it's like this great new thing we get to start together. Getting to collect ornaments and decorations, it's all a lot of fun. I just ordered an Elf on a Shelf lady elf in a tutu. I am so excited about it.

Five things that you want to do in 2015. Go: 

Co-write with Ed Sheeran, Pharell or Max Martin. Put out a new full length CD. Win a Grammy. Put out a live album, finally. Shape a surfboard from scratch…and somewhere in between maybe make a baby with Bill? Ha.

If you could interview one of your inspirations, who would you pick? And what would you ask them? 

Hmmm. Maybe Ani Difranco. I don't even know what I would ask her. Maybe about balancing being a mom and playing music. Or maybe about why she is such a frickin' bad ass. I don't know really. I would just want to sit down and have a cup of coffee with her and get to know her.

I would have 5 billion cups of coffee with Tristan if I could. But in the meantime, I'm just excited to see her play at The House of Blues tonight. If you don't have tickets, get them immediately and come shimmy with me.

And if you're not lucky enough to live in San Diego, go listen to all her music. It changed my life.

Let it change yours.