Tristan Omand is not just another guy with a guitar. And he is certainly not just another singer-songwriter. Tristan Omand is a folk singer in the purest sense of the term. Driven by a deep understanding of the history as well as his own personal love of the folk genre, Tristan writes and performs music that combines human experiences with finely crafted sounds.
Story-teller is another word that comes to mind when I think of Tristan. Like the folk singers of old, Tristan’s lyrics rely heavily on stories and universal human experiences. Songs like “Somewhere Between India and Idaho” and “When I’m Low” off of Tristan’s latest album, Wandering Time, are particularly shining examples of his storytelling abilities.
I saw Tristan perform the night I went to interview him. After a delightful hour-long conversation with this wonderful young man, I stuck around and waited for him to perform. I was extremely glad that I did. Tristan is the kind of musician who excels in a live setting. He makes the audience feel like part of the show, and performs his music not only on his instrument, but also with his whole person.
At the end of the set, he let me keep a copy of Wandering Time on vinyl. While I also own the album in a digital format, I have been listening to it on vinyl almost exclusively since that night. As you will see in our conversation below, Tristan is a connoisseur of vinyl and collector of old music. The more I listen to his album on vinyl, the more I feel like he wrote it for vinyl.
Of course, in these modern times, a strictly vinyl delivery system for music is impractical, and while his full discography is available digitally on bandcamp and some also on iTunes, I would encourage the reader to not only get Wandering Time in its digital format, but also to purchase one of the very few remaining vinyl copies of that album.
I am wholeheartedly excited to continue listening to Tristan’s sound evolve and to watching him gain much deserved success. As is my privilege with this column, I am absolutely delighted to introduce to you, dear readers, Mr. Tristan Omand, folk singer.
For his album, Wandering Time, please click → HERE. ←
For a list of his upcoming shows, please click → HERE. ←
Making Music: Wandering Time and Others.
Matia: “So you said the place you and Adam [sound engineer] recorded the record had a natural reverb?”
Tristan: “Yeah. Really cool ambient sound. It responded really well to the songs and to my guitar. It was a laid back atmosphere. I brought my rug from my house and my desk chair and my music stand, and had my lyrics and instruments around me. The front door was open and the breeze was coming through. The sun came through the window and I just sat down and played the songs. It was awesome.”
M: “Did you do everything in one take?”
T: “We probably did three or four of the songs in one take and the other ones in two takes. There’s only one or two songs where it took me like three tries. Most all of them were… the first one was the right one. You know? It was just the right situation to be in.”
M: “It must be nice to have a sound engineer who really understands.”
T: “Yeah. Yeah. He totally understood what I was going for and didn’t have any preconceived notions… he left it up to me, what I wanted. He gave very good feedback as to the feelings of the songs and stuff. It was a great experience. It was like, wow, this is how an album should be recorded.”
M: “Was that your first time working with an engineer?”
T: “I’ve worked with engineers in the past with bands I’ve played in. My last album before this one, I recorded myself in my room with like a digital recorder and then I had it mastered.”
M: “That was, ‘Tolled Stories’?”
T: “Yes. I did that one myself. It was a self-released album and promoted that for like a year and a half and did two tours down to New Orleans and back up. And played a lot of shows for it. Then I recorded another EP after that–5 songs–and I even payed $400 to get it mastered. And then I listened to it and I just didn’t get a good vibe, so I never released it. So I just put it in a drawer somewhere and started writing more and wrote a whole other album. And did my tour and had all these new songs.
So at the end of August is when I recorded it. This time I didn’t want to record it myself because you can get lazy that way and I just wanted to be able to relax and just play the songs, so I hired somebody to do it. And it was the right choice.”
M: “So is that EP still sitting in a drawer somewhere?”
T: “Yeah, I have a whole drawer filled with all these burned CDs of mixes and different songs and demos. I should probably make one of those B-sides collections someday. 18 songs on one CD, all these demos and outtakes. But yeah, it’s just sitting in a drawer somewhere and I don’t know what I’m going to do with it. I recorded it on a 4-track cassette player, so it’s got kind of like a raw sound. I’m sure I’ll do something with it.”
M: “Maybe revisit it later?”
T: “Yeah, maybe. One of the songs on the new album I wrote like two years ago and came back to it. The song, “Running Free” about the dog. I wrote that one the morning my dog died about two years ago.”
M: “Oh, I’m sorry.”
T: “It’s okay. So there’s all different degrees of stories and emotions on that album, so I think I covered most of them.”
M: “That was actually the first song that Adam had me listen to. He said that it was his favorite song.”
T: “I almost didn’t put it on. I almost kicked it off, but he pleaded for it and so did the mastering guy and a handful of other people, so it has to be on there. In retrospect, I’m glad I put it on there. All the songs I recorded made it on the album.”
M: “How did you choose which songs were going to be on the album?”
T: “I guess… I’m a list-maker by nature, so I make a lot of lists. So I’d make lists of the current new songs that I had and as I would go along I’d cross out the ones that I didn’t feel that great about. I’d write another one to take its place. So I had a final list, but it was changing right up until the day of recording. I had to choose what I was going to record. One of the songs I wrote the night before I went into record, so it was an ever-changing thing. I guess I tried to look at the overall theme of each song and see if it fit with the album.
Every song had to have some sort of image to take away or story behind it. Not personal. Some of it is based on personal experience, but a lot of it isn’t. So they all had to have a story. I wanted to release a real album, like a singer-songwriter album.”
All About Writing: The Process.
M: “So the songs on the album, aside from the one you wrote the night before and ‘Running Free,’ did you write them on tour?”
T: “‘Two Dumb Lovers’ I wrote a few months before the tour. That was the song that brought the rest of the album in the right direction. I wrote that song and then I started to write songs progressively, but I didn’t write so much on tour. I did some writing, but I don’t think any of those songs were written on tour. I wrote a lot of them when I got back because when you’re on tour, you have a lot of time to kill, but you just want to sleep or you’re driving and going all day.
Sometimes I would just sit by a river or something, wherever I am and just write. I sit in my truck a lot and write. I did most of the fruitful writing when I got back, after having all those experiences and have time to sit and think and read.”
M: “In your Maryland Gazette piece, you said that you can’t just sit down with an agenda, that it has to randomly hit me and it’s all about taking advantage of that feeling. Would you say that touring isn’t really conducive to making that feeling come to be?”
T: “The feeling did hit me a lot while I was on tour and I’d like pull out my iPhone and write a memo, or write while I was driving. I’ll always write down snippets of a song idea or a line that sounds good. It did hit me a lot on tour. I guess I just wasn’t as efficient about it. But I just got back and reflected on it and just started writing. That’s all I was really doing… going to a day job, come home and write songs every night, play guitar. I didn’t go out and party or anything. A lot of people do. I just sat at home to play and write. And you write some bad ones to get to the good ones.
I’ve written a lot of songs since I did that interview. I did that article [Maryland Gazette] and it actually got a few people to come out to the show because it was front page news and my face was all huge. This old lady brought me a copy–[in an old lady voice] “I thought you might want a copy…” It took me like 10 hours to get to that show. It took me two hours to get through New York City on the bridge.
My AC was dead in my truck and it was like 90-something degrees with humidity. I ended up changing into shorts in dead stop traffic. And then I got there, got to the gig in Maryland with 5 minutes to spare and I just walked right on stage. Everybody was there waiting for me. IT was cool to have a nice article about you… to have a nice article like that out of your home state or general area… it was cool.”
M: “Yeah, I read it. It was really nice. A lot of the press pieces that I keep seeing about you keep referring to you as an ‘old soul.’ Would you attach that term to yourself or is it just something people have been saying to you for your whole life?”
T: “Well, I guess I’ve been… It wasn’t until I started putting my own personal experiences in my songs that people started reading into it and saying that. But I think there is some truth to that because I’ve always felt like I should have been born in a different time. Old times interest me so much more than current times. It’s so boring. Like old west stuff, and cowboy movies. I like old stuff, old guitars, old instruments. I just bought this hat today. It’s an old hat. I guess I feel that way sometimes. I guess I don’t feel the way a lot of my peers do… young and wild and like that. Sometimes I feel way older.”
M: “Like an 80-year-old man trapped in a 25-year-old body kind of thing?”
T: [Laughing] “Maybe, sometimes I guess.”
All About Vinyl: Digging for Music.
M: “Is that why you consider yourself a ‘music archeologist’ as you put it in the Nashua telegraph?”
T: “Yeah, I suppose I like digging back into old blues and folk and just back to roots of music. Like current music doesn’t really interest me and it kind of makes me sick. Like the hot bands out there today… it’s boring… like Mumford & Sons… oh god. I’d rather listen to Robert Johnson or Dave van Ronk…”
M: “Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie…”
T: “Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, yeah. I don’t listen to Pete as much as I did, but Pete Seeger’s live album at Carnegie Hall really got me into a lot of oddball folk music like Malvina Reynolds. He was kind of like a folk teacher. And it’s cool that he’s still alive and kicking and chopping wood everyday…”
M: “So when you go looking for old music, where do you go?”
T: “Thrift stores: Salvation Army, Goodwill. People give me their old records sometimes. Find obscure records at the thrift store for 99 cents and it’s like, you just paid 99 cents for the awesome album and it’s got all this great music on it. I like artists’ weird old cassette tapes. Like I found this Bill Morrisey cassette at Good Will and paid 99 cents for it.
And he’s this Grammy award winning songwriter that hardly anyone knows. I found him that way. I’d heard his name, but I’d never heard him before and I bought the tape and it turned me onto a different type of song-writing.”
M: “What are some of your favorite finds?”
T: “Probably Bruce Springstein, Nebraska, on vinyl, original pressing. Rolling Stones, Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass), London Records, in perfect condition. Let’s see… I’ve got Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf records reissued that I got when I was living in Brooklyn. And I got a lot of records from my parents… Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, Talking Heads. Another one of my favorite finds from the thrift store is probably After the Gold Rush by Neil Young. That’s a great record. Django Reinhardt. Found a Django record that I really love. It’s all scratchy and old and awesome. It’s not really old. It’s from the 80’s. Found that for three bucks at an antique store.”
M: “All vinyls, I assume?”
T: “All vinyls. I don’t have a big collection. I probably have 150 records.”
M: “That’s a good start.”
T: “Yeah, but I’ve been collecting since I was like 15. I’m very selective about what I pick. And I recently just cut some of the fat out, like the stupid Motley Crew albums and Billy Idol… stuff that I had and just gave it away.”
M: “Do you listen to your music strictly on vinyl?”
T: “No, I listen to all kinds… I listen to CDs in my car when I’m driving. If I’m doing something like cleaning the house or doing dishes or something I’ll put on a record. I listen to NPR all the time and NHPR too. Sometimes when I’m sitting at my desk I’ll listen to the radio or my iPod or I’ll listen to cassettes. I listen to all kinds of different formats. I use iTunes occasionally. I buy records. I buy CDs.”
M: “Vinyl is making a pretty huge comeback right now.”
T: “Oh, definitely. It’s becoming cool to collect them. That’s why it’s so hard to find good records at thrift stores now because people are scouring them now.”
M: “And there’s record exchanges popping up all over the place.”
T: “Yeah, one thing I love about vinyl is it lasts through the ages. I’ve got a bunch of 78s at home, some pretty old records. iTunes and stuff… it just exists in a format on a harddrive or on an iPod. But really it’s thin air. There’s nothing really there. CDs people like… You get a stock of them at home and the cases break and it gets all scuffed, but a record… you gotta put it on a shelf and they last. I have records that my Mom listened to when she was like 15 in the mid-60’s… The Beatles and stuff. I have records from the 1940’s that survived and they still sound good. CDs have a shelf life… but vinyl can last over a hundred years if you take care of it.”
M: “Have you been releasing your music on vinyl?”
T: “I just recently did, actually… in January. I did a kickstarter campaign. It’s actually for the album, Wandering Time. I raised a little over 2 grand and I did it on gold vinyl, white vinyl and black vinyl. I was pretty psyched to do that. And I like the way it came out. I’ve always wanted to be on vinyl.”
Written by Matia A. Guardabascio.↓
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Matia Guardabascio is a proud citizen of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in both English and French Literature. As the daughter of a musician and a school teacher, Matia grew up in a musical household with parents who made a concerted effort to instill in her the value and importance of the arts. She is a music enthusiast, an avid reader, a writer of prose and poetry, a traveler, and an enthusiastic imbiber of red wine. The piano is her favorite instrument, followed by the drums, and she loves Impressionist artwork, especially because she doesn’t need to wear her glasses to see what’s going on. That’s right, the glasses are not for show. She wears tri-focals because she reads too much, or as her good friends might say, she actually 80-years-old.