Nashville’s Tristen Gaspadarek and her vintage Epiphone Casino made a big splash with her debut full length album, Charlatans At The Garden Gate last year, which received glowing reviews from NPR and Rolling Stone. The Chicago native grew up in a musical family with a keen taste for the good stuff—rock and roll, folk, r&b, and country and western. Her music is full of original musical twists on classic beats and her writing voice is sharp and complex. Epiphone caught up with Tristen who painted the town of Austin during SXSW performing several shows including opening for M.Ward of She and Him.

You just finished a new record is that right?

TG: Yeah. I wrote a bunch of songs on my Lowery keyboard at my home in Nashville and integrated the use of the Alesis HR-16--which Buddy Hughen and I were using on my solo tours this year--into my recordings. I’m hoping to meld some modern sounds with very organic sounds of strings and live drums and bass. I wrote quartet arrangements and vocal arrangements so we have sort of a keyboard, string and drum focused record with Buddy Hughen wailing on guitar in the open spaces. It's called Caves.

Charlatans At The Garden Gate was very well received. Some writers find that inspiring--others find it paralyzing. How did the making of Charlatans inform the new songs you've been writing? Did you feel like you had to steer your sound in a different direction?
TG: I do feel like every record should be approached with some concept sonically, but mostly just as parameters to guide the endless possibilities we have now with computers and the worlds of sound. I think the fact that I wrote most of the songs on the organ naturally informs the way the songs ended up working on recording. The style of a record usually follows my curiosity in a certain aesthetic. I like good songs and I think a good song can be presented in many, many different ways. I’m enjoying seeing my songs through a certain lens on each record. I start with a lot of songs and the ones that fit glue themselves together in my mind as they turn out on the recording.

Tristen and her Epiphone CasinoThe Nashville music scene is in a great place right now and is lauded as one of the best in the country. Does it feel that way for you musically?
TG: I think Nashville has great players. And we do have a lot of cool bands representing us well all over the country. And Nashville has a rich musical history and reputation that it constantly strives to uphold. It's proved to be a great place for me and my music.

How does being an artist in a city full of artists influence what you go out to hear and what kind of musical experiences you're seeking out?
TG:
I actually stay home a lot of the time. When I'm not on tour, I usually feel better staying in and working on things than going out to shows. I'll go see a friend's show if I'm feeling stir crazy. I get my fill of seeing shows and being in bars when I'm on the road. If I like an artist/band I'll probably try to play a show with them.

I've seen you play Epiphones, acoustic guitars, uke's; how do you regard instruments as a tool for your singing?
TG: Any chorded instrument will give you your pitch, allow you to relate to landscape, if you will. I don't prefer any particular one, I like them all--piano, guitar, uke. I really like singing with drums. I've been playing with a band (guitar, bass & drums) since I was 17. I had a steady band in Chicago and all through my college years. I've really grown comfortable singing with that arrangement of instruments.

Are there any artists you've been thinking about lately that might surprise your fans--ideas that are brewing that you'd like to talk about?
TG: I probably couldn't surprise you with artists I like. It's all about melody and lyrics to me. I want it to feel good to me and right every time and that's the goal. I'm very much into words and lyrics, storytelling, poetry & rhythm. I like well-crafted songs and intentional songwriting. I believe in being worthy of the platform. I like modern distinctive unique bands and sounds.

What's happening at SXSW for you?
We're playing the Filter Magazine Party on Friday, March 16 and the Raptor Party Saturday, March 17. Stay tuned for more.