Tristan Prettyman looks out over the East Hollywood landscape from the top floor of the Capitol Records building. The San Diego county resident spent the day doing press and has a label showcase later tonight at the Troubadour. In two weeks, she leaves for a cross-country tour supporting Joshua Radin. But at the moment she's crying.
“The minute that the breakup happened, all these songs started coming out,” says an emotional Prettyman, referring to the tracks on her latest album, Cedar + Gold. Following a very public split from sugarcoated surf-popper Jason Mraz last year (they were engaged), she channeled her heartbreak into her latest offering. The album itself moves away from the “surfer girl” aesthetic of her previous records and into darker, more mature territory. It shows in songs such as “I Was Gonna Marry You,” a self-explanatory kiss-off to Mraz, and “Glass Jar,” a raw account of the moment Mraz proposed to her.
Her hiatus from music was actually about four and a half years. After touring heavily behind 2008's Hello..x, Prettyman went to find herself in Bali, taking a yoga sabbatical to explore the Pacific island nation. “I didn't even want to see a guitar,” she says. “It was like, 'I don't play music. We're going surfing and riding around on a scooter.'”
Upon returning from her travels, Prettyman was diagnosed with vocal cord polyps, similar to the affliction John Mayer and Adele faced. It took surgery to get her back to music again, but it wasn't until her split with Mraz that she found herself putting pen to paper in the way she'd done previously.”Some of these songs were written in 'fuck you' moments. I felt trapped, like I couldn't tell my side of the story, so I put it in a song,” she explains.
Collaborating with songwriters Greg Wells and Dave Hodges, Prettyman exposed more of herself than she'd done previously. The candid tracks bely the upbeat surfer vibe her fans had come to expect of her. “I've always felt like my music was never really light like that,” she says, though Cedar + Gold still retains some of her pop appeal. “I've always felt like it was a little more deeper, a little more darker.”
While she's maintained the same themes throughout her career, Prettyman's now traded boardshorts and wetsuits for Christian Louboutins heels and homemade bracelets. She underwent a transformation that glamorized her image while still keeping her lyrical wit.
Though she was in fear of alienating those who found her appeal as a “surfer girl,” she grew to be more comfortable in her own skin. “I kind of realized that I'm allowed to be both. If I get dressed up, my fans aren't going to be like 'What the fuck, why do you have heels on?'” she says. “One thing doesn't de-validate the other.”
Despite the oft-ravaged sounds of Cedar + Gold, Prettyman's decidedly on the upswing. She's starting a new chapter, despite how strenuous the path to get there has been. “I kind of feel like the slate got wiped clean, like I came out another artist,” she says.
And as for Mraz? She says she's open to mending aspects of their friendship. “When someone proposes to you, they're always in your heart. It's easier to love that person than to be 'Fuck you, you ruined my life.'”