“If someone were to say to me, ‘Tell me about yourself,’ I would just hand them a copy of Hello and say, “Here, this is everything you need to know,’” says singer/songwriter and guitarist Tristan Prettyman. Indeed, Hello, Prettyman’s second album, is an appealing portrait of this freewheeling San Diego, CA, native as she narrates stories about her life, loves, and heartbreaks in her seductive, smoky alto. “I really wanted the album to be a reflection of me,” Prettyman says.
With laid-back melodies springing from finger-picked acoustic guitar, plaintive pedal-steel guitar, Wurlitzer, Hammond organ, and strings, Hello explores Prettyman’s love of country-blues and folk from the ’60s and ’70s, artists like The Band, Joni Mitchell, and Bob Dylan. “There’s something really pure and uncontrived about what they do,” she says. “I really connect with that simplicity, and I think it made me write more bluesy songs.” Recorded over six weeks in London with British producers and songwriters Martin Terefe (KT Tunstall, Ron Sexsmith) and Sacha Skarbek (James Blunt, KT Tunstall), Hello delivers on the promise Prettyman raised with her Virgin Records debut twentythree — a critically well-received collection of “bright, breezy ditties about romantic bliss” as People magazine put it in its review. Following twentythree’s August 2005 release, Prettyman toured for two and a half years, with such artists as Ray LaMontagne, G. Love and Special Sauce, Chris Issac and Jason Mraz. The inspiration for Hello came from a recently failed relationship where Prettyman was inspired to use her songwriting skills to get past it. “After the split, I wrote a lot of angry songs, which felt normal, but the last thing I wanted was to make a depressing, break-up record. I think I had to get past those emotions to get to where I needed to go with everything else. So there are a few, like “Echo” and “Blindfold,” but I didn’t want to waste time being negative. I just wanted to rock out and get groovy and be happy!” And so the songs mine emotions about love that range from optimistic (first single “Madly” “Handshake,” and “You Got Me”) to more conflicted (“California Girl,” “War Outta Peace,” and “Just A Little Bit”), with a detour into world-weary on “In Bloom.” With its simple piano and string arrangement and Prettyman’s jazzy vocal cadences, the latter is perhaps the most sophisticated song she’s ever recorded. Her muse now in full swing, Prettyman has come a long way since she discovered her dad’s guitar and taught herself to play at age 15. “Before I knew it, I was writing songs,” she says. “I’ve always been really passionate about writing, that was my strong subject throughout school.” But music competed for attention with other her hobbies, including surfing. “If someone was having a get-together, we’d all go surfing, barbecue, and just hang out, and I’d just sort of play for my friends,” Prettyman says.
A friend of a friend, who worked with filmmakers Taylor Steele and Chris Malloy, caught one of those impromptu performances and asked Prettyman to contribute a song to the soundtrack for the 2001 surf film Shelter. Soon Prettyman was performing at clubs and bars around San Diego, selling an EP (The Love EP) at shows and on her website. From there, the major labels came calling and Prettyman signed with Virgin Records, who released twentythree. Critics praised its low-key acoustic folk-pop with Rolling Stone leading the pack, calling Prettyman “one of the more promising young pop folkies.” Now with Hello, Prettyman says she’s “stepped it up a notch,” chalking up the artistic leap between twentythree and Hello to the confidence that comes from incessant touring (“we were able to record pretty much everything live because I had toured for so long”) and just the passage of time. “I have grown so much in the last two years,” she says. “I’ve gone through so many changes and I think the album definitely reflects that. It’s more grown-up, and it just feels legit. I’ve never been more excited about anything in my life as I am with this record. It is so me.” Hello will be released by Virgin Records on March 11, 2008.