Tristan Prettyman on Her New Album, Cedar & Gold, and Her Breakup with Jason Mraz: “It Was Torture”
By Rachel Musquiz
November 30 2012
After taking a four-year break between albums, singer-songwriter Tristan Prettyman has finally returned to the music world with Cedar & Gold, her third studio album, out this month. When VF Daily caught up with the former Roxy model, she told us about an unexpected vocal-cord surgery and how she “lost” her voice after her split with pop singer Jason Mraz. Highlights from our chat:
VF Daily: It’s been a few years since your last album. What have you been up to?
Tristan Prettyman: I have been on quite the journey. I took a lot of time off, about four years. It was supposed to only be a year to take some time for myself and travel. I was feeling a little burnt out after the last record and about six years of touring. . . . I went to Bali and Australia, New York and Costa Rica, and then I started feeling guilty because I was having so much fun traveling. I came back home and started writing and recording, and then I noticed I was having some vocal issues. It turned out I had two polyps in my vocal cords and ended up getting surgery, which made it another year with the recovery. And then I was engaged [to Jason Mraz] and unengaged, and all of a sudden I wrote a whole new batch of songs that ended up on this record.
You collaborated with Jason Mraz on your very first album. Were you friends back then, or was that the beginning of your relationship? We met years before that, and we were actually dating when I recorded that record. Then we split up for about two years and ended up getting back together.
When you started dating, was it an understood thing that everything in your relationship would be fair game for each of your future albums?
[At the time,] we were kids. We were just in love and young, thinking, “How cool! We get to go on tour and sing with each other.” I think that’s certainly in the back of your mind, but at that time, it was all love songs. We’ve always been each other’s muse.
Have there been any songs he’s written that you think misrepresent your relationship?
There’s actually a song on my record called “Glass Jar” that is all about that. Everyone has their own experience [in a relationship] that both people are going through. They are in something together. But I just recall him saying to me, “This is valid of my experience of what happened,” and I was like, “O.K., well that’s not really valid of my experience.”
I went ahead and wrote a song about it. Anytime I felt myself in any sort of sadness, or even happiness, or “Oh my God, I still love you,” or really having no idea what was going on, I would just turn to music. I could talk to my mom and my dad and friends, but only until I put what I was going through into song did I ever feel any sense of peace. Music was so there for me throughout this whole experience and that’s why [this album] is so vulnerable and raw and honest.
A few songs really spell out the details of your engagement to Jason Mraz. Why was it so important for you to share your side of the story?
It was really for myself. You’re in something with someone who obviously has a bigger voice than you and everyone is automatically going to take that side. There was a time before this record came out where I didn’t feel like I had a voice. It was torture. It was like, “Hold on, you’re painting a whole picture that isn’t true. You’re ignoring everything that went on, and you’re pretending this didn’t even happen.”
Still to this day, you don’t really hear him talk about it. For me, I like talking about it, because I would be talking about it regardless of who it was. I’ve always talked about it.
I can look at this record now and think how far I’ve come, and how far I’ve grown and also how grateful I am for all those experiences, regardless of how difficult they were at the time.
Your songs about the breakup are more bittersweet than bitter. Is that an accurate depiction of how things ended?
It was a bummer. You get proposed to and think your life is going to be this one way. You say yes, and think, “We are going to spend the rest of our lives together.” Then all of a sudden, that person says, “You know what, I don’t think I want to do this anymore. I changed my mind.”
You wonder why you didn’t work harder. You wonder why you didn’t save it, or make it through. There is a lot of love there [from] over the years, and there always will be.
For me, I have to hope the universe is detouring me to something better. There’s a line from one of my songs, “Never Say Never,” that says, “Maybe the best hasn’t happened yet.” That’s sort of become my motto.
I read an interview where you said you felt like your slate was wiped clean, and you came out as another artist. Was heartbreak the only catalyst?
The slate is wiped now. Now it’s free game. I like to think of it like Mario Brothers. One level is like the ice game, and the next one is like the dungeon. This one happens to be the one inspired by a lot of heartbreak.