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Tristan Prettyman moves from breakup to breakthrough

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It could have been a stylish Vogue spread. The cover shot of Cedar + Gold, the latest outing from melodic folk-rocker and former competitive surfer Tristan Prettyman, features the self-described tomboy dressed to the haute couture nines in stiletto-heeled boots, a revealing blue dress, her arms laden with turquoise bracelets, her eyes peering through mascara. It's a dramatic profile change that the singer embraces.

"From the beginning, I've always had this thing where I dress down," says the San Diego artist, who first broke nationally back in 2005 with her whimsical debut Twentythree. "I had this weird thing where I didn't want to get too fashion-y or girly because I was afraid it would freak my fans out. But a couple of years ago, I had a moment where I thought 'You know what? I can do both! I can be the surfer girl and go surfing in a wetsuit and not wash my hair for a week, and I can also get done up and wear a dress and have fun and just embrace my girly side.' And it's so fun — I was really missing out before!"

Prettyman, as the celebrity press has noted, is single again, following a turbulent nine-year relationship with fellow musician Jason Mraz. And therein lies Cedar + Gold's lyrical tale of a once-confident artist losing and then finding herself. The album's songwriting arc goes from breakup shock ("I Was Gonna Marry You") to self-recrimination ("Bad Drug," "Quit You," "My Oh My") to a subtle sense of closure ("The Rebound," "Never Say Never"). On the crucial cut "Say Anything," she says goodbye with "We won't break, if we let go / You and I already know / We were bound to be set free, eventually."

Up until Prettyman penned that elegy, things hadn't been going well. She'd lost her momentum after 2008's Hello...x, and was so sick of performing that she decided to travel — and surf — the world, hitting Bali, Australia and Hawaii, packing light and renting boards along the way. Then she hastily penned her next album, while she and Mraz's on-and-off-again romance was starting to cool.

The songs, she says, were terrible. "Then I found out that I had polyps on my vocal cords, and I ended up getting surgery. So that was another diversion from the universe that told me, 'You're not putting this record out 'cause you're not into it, so let's give you something else to do for a minute.'"

The morning before she drove up to L.A. for the operation, Prettyman sat down and wrote "Say Anything." It was essentially a farewell message to her beau. As in, if she lost her voice forever, what final thought would she convey to him?

"So I just wanted him to know that throughout everything, all the ups and downs, at the core of our relationship — at least from my end — there was love," she notes. "And when I wrote that song, I thought 'Holy shit! This is the level of honesty I need to write at, and I can't use analogies or candy-coat it — I have it get it all out.'"

Since then, Prettyman has had another breakthrough. "I'm totally figuring out what I want, and it's great. I'm ready to settle down, but I keep trying to do these long-distance relationships. And now I've realized they don't ever work. So I need someone that lives in San Diego."

scene@csindy.com

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