Prettyman rebounds with inspired album
Polyps on the vocal cords. These blistery soft growths are presumably undesired by someone who banks on her voice. But Solana Beach resident Tristan Prettyman sees her two little buggers, since removed, as a “crazy, magical blessing.”
“I basically was forcing myself to write and start playing music again, even though inside I was super-uninspired. I scheduled a tour and to make another record, basically settling on this batch of songs I had,” Prettyman said in an email interview.
Then came the next bump in the road to new music: voice problems. A doctor’s discovery prompted new thinking.
“The day before I was leaving to go make my record, in London, I canceled everything. The morning I was headed to surgery is when I wrote ‘Say Anything.’ Something inside me shifted. As if the universe was like, phew, got you out of that one just in time,” the Torrey Pines High School grad said. “The recovery and also the breakup that followed really allowed and inspired me to find my voice again.”
The word “relationship” made it into her introduction of “Say Anything” to a Belly Up Tavern audience Feb. 2. Someone blurted the name of Prettyman’s former fiance: fellow North County singer-songwriter Jason Mraz. Two days later in a phone interview ahead of dates in Japan, she said she now wears in-ear monitors and did not hear the utterance. (Thanks to a troublesome connection, questions were then submitted through her publicists.) Mraz revealed their split in June 2011.
“Say Anything” is the second track on “Cedar + Gold,” Prettyman’s third album and first since 2008. Released by Capitol Records in October, the collection covers the heartbreak spectrum from “I Was Gonna Marry You” to “The Rebound.”
Prettyman said the emotional nakedness of the lyrics comes naturally, if not always previously.
“I’m a pretty open book, and will continue to be,” she said. “If people are real and direct with me, in a respectable way, I will be with them. It’s real life. It’s not good or bad. Plus, I think more now so than ever, it’s important to be real. Show that it’s OK to be sad, to be not OK, and to have emotions. Music for me is all about connecting, letting someone else know they are not alone.”
Prettyman and her supporting players match the potency of the words, and with variety to boot. The dance-floor shenanigans of “Bad Drug” give way to the torchy balladry of “Come Clean.” The poignant stunner “Glass Jar” is powered by just voice and acoustic guitar. Banjo provides key texture for the jaunty “Quit You.”
The video for the first single, “My Oh My,” which apparently features more real tiger than film director Ang Lee’s acclaimed “Life of Pi,” has scored 965,000 views on YouTube. It also shows a different, more grown-up side of the folk-pop-playing surfer and former Roxy model (31 in May).
“I remember writing ‘My Oh My’ and thinking, ‘This is awesome and doesn’t sound like anything I have written yet.’ I loved it,” she said.
“Bad Drug,” which Prettyman said had producer Greg Wells hooked immediately, developed as part of a songwriting game.
“Whenever I do the songwriting game songs, I always approach them like this. I do most of it on GarageBand (Apple software), programming loops, and using filters. One day I may release an EP of all my weird club tracks! Ha ha,” she wrote.
“The Rebound” is another sad-song palate cleanser. It’s clear after 10 seconds that naughtiness will be hooking up with goofiness. Prettyman must have been cracking up while writing it.
“I was. And because it’s a true story that happened at the Encinitas Trader Joe’s, it’s even more funny,” she said. “It was great when the dude I wrote it about heard it for the first time, and he was bright red. After the show he was like, ‘Wow.’ He then asked me if I could send him a copy so he could send to his mom. And speaking of moms, it’s actually one of my mom’s favorite songs.”
Stephen Rubin is a North County arts and entertainment writer