Deep in the heart of Texas is a town known for live music, cowboys, and the blues. When I think of Austin, Texas, I really don’t think of pop music… until now. Allow me to introduce you to Tristyn Elizabeth. After a couple of years of paying her dues as a singer-songwriter at many of the open mic events in Austin, she has emerged from the studio with her first real studio effort, an EP entitled Kiss Me in the Rain. Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, she has used her time in the studio to transform herself from a singer-songwriter into a more polished pop artist, without abandoning her roots. I actually know Tristyn, after being in her ward for a couple of years in Georgia. I recently connected with 21-year-old Tristyn to hear her story about her development as an artist.
How did you get started in music?
My dad is a songwriter/producer type as well and he’d always be writing or playing or talking music all the time. That was a huge influence all my life. I remember when Britney Spears and N’sync and Backstreet boys were huge, I’d blast it in the living room and sing and dance to it with my siblings and imagine growing up to be a singer. I started writing sometime in high school. It started when I would listen to songs on the radio and it didn’t fit how I felt. There wasn’t a song I could sing from my soul I guess, I was in high school and I was dramatic. So I started writing music on my guitar. All the songs I wrote were kinda bad and embarrassing. Over time they got better with re-writes and new life experiences. I wrote better ones when I went off to college. Also, when I was in high school my dad would need vocals for various projects and songs and I’d record on those. That’s basically where it started.
Outside of the things you just mentioned, who are your biggest influences now?
The huge voices like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood and amazing songwriters like Adele, Taylor Swift, Christina Perri and Sara Barellies.
You write your own songs – walk me through how you approach writing.
There’s no approach really. I honestly believe all my songs come from God. They come to me in very different ways each time. Sometimes I’m just sitting there thinking, other times I’m singing, and more over time it comes when I actually sit down and try to write. But even then, the lyrics and sounds just kinda happen. I know it sounds ridiculous but it’s true.
Has being LDS had an impact on your songwriting or your career?
Definitely. Anything that is this important to you and is as much of your life as my religion is will always have an impact. Growing up all I wanted was a celebrity or artist to be huge on the charts but still be morally clean and have and maintain high standards. That is one of the reasons why nothing on the radio fit my situations. I didn’t drink, smoke, have sex, wear next to nothing, use profanity or what ever. I decided I wanted to be one of those that would rise up and still have standards. I think about it when I write, when I promote, what things I promote of others, how I act, dress,and speak. Everyone is leaving an impression all the time and you never know who’s watching. Even if I wasn’t a singer/songwriter I’d be the same, I’d know that how I act and am will affect later opportunities with people. I’m not saying I’m the world’s role model but I can try to be the best role model I can for the people I know are watching me, whether its out of admiration or simply waiting to find flaws, faults,and mistakes.
How did you get connected with your producer, Jon Evans?
When I moved to Austin I met a cool kid named Skyler (who later became my husband) who knew a producer in the ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He normally didn’t work with fellow members or family but he had done a vocal project for Skyler’s sister Allie when Jon’s wife was in the Young Women’s Program for the church. Skyler gave me his email and I attempted contact. I never got a response…I was so tired of drama and disappointments and I was just about ready to give up on music. One day when I was at work I decided to send him a clip of the song “Writing in the Sand”, a single of mine that was done with the help of my dad, Bill Dent and Matt Mylroie. (editors note, I really didn’t do anything other than listen and give suggestions, but thanks for mentioning me!) I didn’t really think anything would come of it but I got a response pretty quickly actually. We met and talked about what I wanted. It just took off from there. Later Jon told me that he usually never responds or works with people until at least 5 email attempts, but he said he had made an exception for me!
Tell me a little about the process of taking the songs from your original idea with just guitar and vocals to creating a finished track in the studio with Jon.
Lots of talking. Jon is a very talented artist. He plays and writes many things for his own band Launch Point and he wrote and played a lot of the instrumental tracks for mine as well. We talked about each song, how we saw it, what I was trying to say with the song and what instruments I’d like. As we got started he’d try something and I’d see if that’s where I thought the song should sound like and he’d make changes to coincide with what we discussed.
Your dad has been writing, recording, and producing music for years – how does this work for you? Do you still seek his input and suggestions on ideas, or do you prefer to go down your own path?
I prefer to go my own path. He has been working on his career for years but sometimes our opinions clash.
What’s next for you as an artist?
Getting this album out and promoted. I’m also trying to raise funds by selling music and merchandise, and I have a kickstarter campaign started as well (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tristynelizabeth/funding-the-full) to help fund the cost of producing a full length album.
Where can people hear your music or see you perform?
I perform locally here in Austin, TX at various Open mics. I am currently looking into opening for other artists here. The music can be heard on YouTube, itunes, my website www.tristynelizabeth.com or my Facebook band page.
Tristyn has generous samples of the songs available on iTunes. I will also be publishing a full review of her EP on Linescratchers soon, so check back.