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Psychic Vampires and Sneaker Waves: Inside the mind of Nashville songwriter Tristen

“A sneaker wave is an unanticipated coastal wave. So you could be walking along the beach and a big wave can come and sweep you out into the ocean,” said singer-songwriter Tristen Gaspaderek.

“One little sneaker wave and your whole life could change.”

This has become a driving philosophy for the Nashville songwriter — known simply as Tristen — and was a central theme in her aptly-named 2017 album, “Sneaker Waves.”

“People try to find reasons why tragedies happen or why people pass away. Really it’s just that we lead very impermanent lives, and sneaker waves are all around us,” Tristen said.

Since her 2011 debut album “Charlatans At The Garden Gate,” Tristen has captured audiences with lyrics that incisively explore everything life has to offer — whether it be love, loss or the unexplainable.

“I don’t have any rules,” Tristen said. “I don’t reference anyone else when I’m trying to write lyrics, it’s just me thinking about the world I live in and trying to make it rhyme.”

The album’s lead single, “Glass Jar” — an ethereal 60s-pop throwback — was born from the same mentality.

“I felt like I was being put in a glass jar by people and being trapped by other people’s expectations,” said Tristen. “The kind of situation where you’re talking to someone and feeling rejection so no matter what you say it’s interpreted badly and you feel that.”

At times “Sneaker Waves” feels like a tour through Tristen’s complicated, profound and eccentric thought process. It’s not necessarily conventional, but that’s exactly what she is going for.

Rock rhythm guitar, organs, haunting harmonies, strings and more join alluring pop hooks and Tristen’s compelling lyrical narratives, to create an unexpected, yet captivating listening experience.

“Genre never really comes into play for me,” she said. “I think genre is a tool used to sell music and create captive audiences. But I love anything that’s art, anything that grabs me and I know that’s so subjective, but I don’t abide by any genres. I just love great songwriters.”

As a child, Tristen listened mostly to oldies radio, with a particular love for The Beatles. In middle and high school these influences evolved.

“In junior high I started listening to female artists like Fiona Apple and I was super into No Doubt,” she said. “As I started getting older and going into high school, I started listening to Bob Dylan and all the other cool stuff you have to be older to understand.”

Surprisingly, one of her longtime inspirations is country music, which was heightened for her after she moved to Nashville at 24.

“For me, country music is all about the song. So it makes perfect sense to be a songwriter and look to country music because country music is all about the story and the lyrics,” Tristen said.

Perhaps due to her early love of music, Tristen also found her knack for writing when she was very young.

“When I was 8 years old, I wrote my first song and it was about a woman singing to someone who’s left her,” Tristen said. “My mom was worried about what was wrong and thought ‘what do you know? You’re 8 years old.’

Somehow, Tristen still remembers the lyrics well enough to spontaneously recite them.

“As I walk down this road I think about the good times we had over the years It was fun to know someone like him, he betrayed me for someone else It was surprising at first but it’s true after all and it’s over now If you could see what’s done to me, he broke my heart.”

While a lot has changed since that first song, Tristen’s attitude is steadfast; she writes what she wants and how she wants it.

After all, in a world full of “Sneaker Waves,” Tristen knows there’s no time to waste on things you don’t believe in.

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Photo courtesy of Big Hassle Media. 

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