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music featureAmidst adversity Tristan Prettyman reconnects with music and soars

After nearly eight years of recording and touring, singer/songwriter Tristan Prettyman found herself in a terrible position: She no longer had any interest in music. “I got really burnt out and I just took a break from music all together,” she says. “It was supposed to be just like a year or six months that ended up turning into almost four years.”

Luckily for fans, all of Prettyman’s disinterest in music evaporated the morning she went into surgery to remove the polyps from her vocal cords that threatened her career.

“The minute that my voice was gonna be gone I suddenly had these things to say,” recalls Prettyman. “I was like, ‘Holy shit! What if I’m never allowed to say anything again?’ What would I want to say right now?”

As it turns out, she has a lot to say.

Her latest album, Cedar and Gold, is a powerful and honest window into the turmoil of a life in staggering flux. After discovering the polyps, while teetering on the edge of quitting music altogether, Prettyman became engaged to pop star Jason Mraz, who abruptly ended their relationship a few months later.

“What sucked about it the most,” says Prettyman, “is feeling like you don’t have a voice and people don’t really know the full truth and you want to tell them. My fiancé was way more well-known than I was and people immediately [took] his side because no one knows who I am. … That also probably kind of fueled the fire to be really really extremely honest.”

While the album has traces of Prettyman’s original style—easy-going grooves powered by strummed and plucked guitar—there is a new command in her vocals and some intriguing explorations into new sounds. The album has hints of country with subtle pedal steel and a sprinkling of banjo, but it also has an infectious pop feel, some rock edge, and the unique energy to catapult the listener into multiple directions. “It feels really timeless to me; it feels genre-less,” says Prettyman. “It’s got all different sides of my personality on it and, you know, it feels honest and pure and real.”

Songs like “I Was Gonna Marry You” deliver stunning lyrical blows—“We were fine/Then all at once you changed your mind/I was gonna marry you”—but as a whole, the album is less vindictive than it is retrospective.

Prettyman seems to have grown from the painful experience, and while she may have suffered, she says she’s learned a great deal. “I needed these things to happen to kind of break me down, even though they were painful,” she admits. “Even though they were sad, they showed me not to be afraid of being vulnerable and not to be afraid to love again, or to go for it, to feel and make mistakes and fuck up and know that you’ll make a comeback, you’ll make it through and be stronger because of it.”

Cedar and Gold isn’t all heartbreak though. While she is able to express the pain of a serious breakup, Prettyman is equally adept at capturing the freedom that comes with the end of any relationship. She captures that feeling on the playful song “The Rebound”: a not-so-subtle story about flirting—and where it may lead—set at the banana stand of a Trader Joe’s.

“I feel like at the end of the day, everyone has a story, and everyone just wants to hear it,” says Prettyman. “We think things in our head that we don’t ever tell anybody because we think like, ‘Uh, is that too much? Is that too personal?’ And we’re so aware and protective of our feelings that most comments I’ve found about this record are like, ‘Thank you for making me feel like I’m not crazy [for] thinking some of the things I’ve thought or the emotions that I’ve had.’” 


Tristan Prettyman performs at 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24 at The Catalyst Atrium, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $12/adv, $15/door. Call 423-1338.

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