Musicians at Home | Tristen
Friday, July 13th, 2012
By Susannah Felts
Scattered atop a table in Tristen Gaspadarek’s East Nashville home are cardboard rectangles and fabric remnants that she’ll soon transform into blank books to sell on tour. It’s something different, she explains, not the same old T-shirt. For the 29-year-old singer-songwriter, the constant challenge of How can I make something cool with what little money I have? tints every facet of her style, from handmade merch to wardrobe to furnishings. “I’ve always shopped secondhand, and I pride myself on being able to make something out of nothing,” she says. “If I wasn’t making music, I’d be making
Gaspadarek, who performs simply under her first name, grew up in a Chicago suburb, where, early on, her father taught her to record songs, encouraging a talent for songwriting that drew her to Nashville after college. Her first full-length album Charlatans at the Garden Gate is a jangly pastiche of retro textures, fresh pop hooks, and whip-smart lyrics—one that racked up much critical praise. A second album is slated for release this summer, and Gaspadarek says it’ll be something of a departure from Charlatans.
For the moment, Nashville suits her, both for its rich musical soil and its easy living. It’s a town where a girl can pluck from the best
of the best players when it comes time to record; and where she can move her thrift-store finds into an unassuming brick home, fall in love with kitschy green linoleum and floral wallpaper, and pour her heart and hours into writing songs. Within that art-friendly space (which she shares with her fiancé Buddy Hughen, also a guitarist in her band), other inspirations converge, from volumes of Khalil Gibran poems to TV shows and films. Gaspadarek points to her short hair: “Twin Peaks. Big aesthetic inspiration from that show.”
Rummaging through a closet jammed with sartorial curiosities, she explains that people often give her or lend her stage-worthy garb. She rarely shops, and she’s become handy with a sewing machine for alterations. “I’ve always been sort of forward with fashion, so I’ll wear crazy shit,” she says, pulling out a dress that once belonged to Hughen, and a shimmery red “Flash Gordon” sheath: “Like, what the hell is this? But it looks amazing on.”
Visuals, she notes, have always been important to her. “The artists I really respect—Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, the Beatles—they had nice suits!” she says. “The aesthetic was part of it.” You might say she's on to something.