Last week, I spoke with Tristen, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter, to talk about her newest release before she plays Rose Bowl Tavern this Thursday. Hailing from Chicago’s south side, Tristen Gaspadarek grew up in a musical family, leading her to take an interest in music at a very young age. Gaspadarek states that she’s very open minded when it comes to her influences and this is evident in her music — from pop to the blues and everything in between, she keeps her music interesting by blending genre’s and infusing her love for poetry into her songwriting.
Smile Politely: First of all, where are you from? I’ve read that your music has been “made in” Nashville, is that where you live?
Tristen Gaspadarek: I’m from the south side of Chicago actually, but I’ve been in Nashville for 12 years, so this is my home.
SP: How long have you been playing and writing music?
Gaspadarek: Well, according to family folklore, I’ve been singing since I could talk, so by the time I was around five years old I was in talent shows and stuff like that. By the time I was a teenager I learned to play guitar and immediately started writing songs. I kept that up and after I graduated from DePaul University in Chicago I moved to Nashville to be a songwriter.
SP: Do you have family members that are also involved in music?
Gaspadarek: My grandmother plays many instruments and my father plays guitar and sings. When I was growing up there was always a studio in the house, so there was a lot of music stuff happening.
SP: That had to be a fun environment to grow up in. After listening to your music I’ve noticed that it has a lot of different angles. You must have had a lot of different influences. What were some of them?
Gaspadarek: I grew up in the 90’s so I was really into Fiona Apple, Cheryl Crow, and No Doubt – I’m a huge No Doubt fan. I was just really into that whole era of women in music, but when I was older, around 18 or 19 I got into Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and The Beatles. The Beatles are one of my favorite bands and my dad loved The Beatles too. My mom liked country music, so it’s cool living in Nashville and being surrounded by that too. I’m really into songwriting so it’s easy for me to find something to like in every genre.
SP: One of your newest singles “Dream Within A Dream” takes the Edgar Allen Poe poem of the same name and sets it to music, which is interesting. Do you find yourself getting inspired by poetry just as much as music?
Gaspadarek: Absolutely. They’re related to each other, like an orangutan and a chimpanzee [we both laugh]. Sometimes I’ll read a poem and think that it would make for a really cool song, and I did that on my second record, Caves, as well. What happened with “Dream Within A Dream” is that I read the poem and loved it and printed it out, then I had rehearsal the next day and so I just improvised a melody with it over the 12-bar blues. Eventually, we started closing our set with that song and people really liked it, so we recorded it and released it on a 7-inch.
SP: So, you’re playing in Urbana soon — have you been to Champaign-Urbana before or is this your first time?
Gaspadarek: I might’ve played there years and years ago, but for all intents and purposes, no, this is my first time.
SP: Well, I’m sure people here will like you. Champaign-Urbana has a pretty cool music scene. Where can people keep up with you and your music?
Gaspadarek: My website is where you can buy physical copies of my albums, and I’m also on all social media and music platforms.
Tristen performs Thursday, August 8th at Rose Bowl Tavern with Mermaid Heaven and Primitive Lights. Doors open at 8 p.m., $10 advance, $13 at the door.
Photo by Marcus Maddux.