Tristan Omand: At first, I thought that I would be some kind of loyal, handsome, and very intelligent Labrador retriever. But then again, I love seeing deer in the wild, so maybe I’m one of those. I would be the deer, watching from a thicket of maple trees, as the oxen plow their land. But I would be free to roam the forest and not be bound by farm implements, and I’d be all majestic and stuff. Yeah. Hopefully some half-drunk hunter doesn’t blow my deer head off.
B&L: Why music? Why do you seek it? Why do you create it? How’d it come calling to you?
Omand: Why music? Well, there is really nothing else for me as far as a life path or career goes. I’ve set myself up for it, and through good and bad, I truly love the life I’ve built around it. I remember looking at my parent’s record collection as a kid, just being fascinated with the concept of an album, and wanting to make my own, which began with cassette demos on boomboxes and eventually 4-track recorders. I also remember seeing the Who’s, “Tommy,” live in Portsmouth as a child, and noticed the guitar player in the band and thought it was pretty damn cool. I was hooked right from the beginning.
B&L: Was there a moment or experience that led you to try your hand at making this your life? What keeps you inspired to keep going?
Omand: I first went on tour with my old band the year after graduating high school. The whole deal of going from town to town in the van, meeting people and playing guitar every night was an amazing experience. Each day had a purpose, which was to get to the show and play as well as possible and hopefully make a connection. I figured it was a whole lot better than stocking shelves, too…
B&L: What’s the making of a great show? What do you look or hope for as you step foot on that stage?
Omand: I feel that a great show starts somewhere inside the artist who is presenting it. So if I am having a bad night, and go up on stage with that being clearly shown in my delivery, then the crowd will pick up on it. It’s up to the artist to put the crowd at ease. The setlist has a lot to do with it as well. But being ready to do your job is the most important part. Before I go on stage sometimes, I psyche myself out by saying, “you’ve done this hundreds of times, and your whole life has led up to this point. You can do it.” I really have to say that to myself, and it works. When the thing your going to do, you think about every single day of your life from most every angle, that helps too. I’m a bit obsessive, and it’s the only way I know how to operate. I don’t take this stuff lightly! I want to feel good about what I’ve done.
B&L: You’re about to release your latest record, “The Lesser Known Tristan Omand” on Saturday, April 16th at the Stone Church. What goals did you set for yourself when you set out to make this thing?
Omand: I wanted the songs to be accessible, and easily recreated in a live setting, and I didn’t want to over-sell them. Some really great players sat in on a handful of them, and really knocked it out of the park. When I started writing the tunes, the first batch turned out a little darker than I wanted, and I felt I had already delved into that territory on my last record. What’s the point of doing the same thing twice when it comes to making records? I had to push myself away from the darkness and downtrodden characters, and focus inward a bit. I also wanted to make a happier album, which would be a good contrast to my last record, “Eleven Dark Horses.” There is still some darkness on it, and some of my usual offbeat characters, but I feel it’s a step in another direction.
B&L: You’re the first official “Bright & Lyon” recording artist. While that sentiment makes us feel like a million bucks, how’s it make you feel? (I just laughed out loud while writing this question). But in all seriousness, we’re very excited to be a part of this.
Omand: It’s a feeling of validation, for sure. That there is faith in what I do and that I’m not just a weekender. I’m in it for the long haul. Bright & Lyon, you wonderful oxen…you do amazing work with the shows that you book and promote! I’m honored to be the first B&L recording artist!
B&L: I hate the “inspiration” question, but guess what? I’m gonna roll it out. Where do you draw inspiration from when you write? Your tunes are so organic. Very “hands on.” Very “blue collar.” All that… There’s an honest “working man’s” flow to your tunes. I mean, bowling, an old straight six sitting three on the tree, parking the Buick sideways on the lawn, board stiff sheets, coffee, booze, on and on. Tell me a bit about what fuels the creative fire.
Omand: I’m just trying to make sense of the world around me and the characters that populate it, but through song. I’ve always had a proclivity towards writing and words in general, and part of my “journey” as a songwriter is to explore different avenues in life and try and put situations and characters that people can relate to into my songs. There are so many themes in the world to pull from rather than the old relationship and love crap that has been sung about way too much. Love songs have their place, but there are tons of things to write about. And part of the challenge for me as a writer, is to explore that territory that usually stays in the shadows, or is deemed “un-writable”, such as bowling, straight six engines, and old women who see Jesus in their burnt toast in the morning…
B&L: You’re a tried and true Granite State-r. How does New Hampshire inform your music? What keeps you sticking around these parts?
Omand: I’m proud to be from New Hampshire, and I think it influences my music quite a bit. The characters around here are real salt-of-the-earth people. Not out to impress, just here to live and work. Plus, I’ve been to a lot of the “cool” places in the US, and they just don’t do it for me. I’ve been told that I need to move so many times, but I just dig it here. My family is here, my friends are here, and there is a great music community that I have come to be a part of. New Hampshire has a lot of natural beauty, and that is important to me. I don’t think I could write in a place that’s all asphalt and skyscrapers.
B&L: “The Lesser Known…” is a bit more stripped down than your last effort, “Eleven Dark Horses.” Was this by design? What do you enjoy about “going things alone?”
Omand: Each record I do has a pretty clear vision. When you get into a studio, or hire an engineer, it costs money. I don’t have the budget to screw around and be all artsy about the process. I get in there with a list of tunes, and an idea of what I want, and we go for it. Limitations can be very helpful sometimes when it comes down to it. “Eleven Dark Horses” was intended to be a little over-the-top as far as production goes. I wanted it that way. And with this new record, I wanted it stripped to the bone and a bit more raw, and I think we achieved that.
B&L: What can folks expect when they come out to see you perform at the ol’ Stone Church this Saturday?
Omand: I feel like folks who come out to the show are going to leave with a bunch of imagery and stories swirling around in their heads, after seeing Whetherman, Dan Blakeslee, and hearing the tunes in my set. We all bring something unique to the table, and I’m sure that the crowd will feel the energy.
B&L: I’m gonna get strange for a second… Have you ever listened to your voice when you belt out, “…the life you wanted, is within reach…” It’s straight Billy Corgan. I know that’s probably not the aesthetic you’re going for, but man, I thought it was awesome. So, another question I hate asking, but am going to anyway… Who do you pull influence from? You ever heard of Bill Morrissey?
Omand: I have not noticed, nor have I been told of the Billy Corgan-ish tone to my voice! This is certainly the first time that I have ever been compared to him. It’s interesting the way people hear and interpret the tunes! I’m a big fan of Bill Morrissey…heard about him from a few locals, and then found one of his tapes at a thrift store for .50 cents about four or five years ago now. I was hooked. The fact that he was so closely tied to New Hampshire sealed the deal for me. I have since collected many of his records, and read his two novels. Love his work. Some other big influences: Dylan, Johnny Cash, John Prine, Neil Young, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Dave Van Ronk. I also love the poetry of Chuck Berry’s lyrics. As far as guitar players go…Tommy Emmanuel, David Rawlings, Rory Gallagher, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Hendrix, Roy Buchanan…
B&L: Question number 12. If you could have a dozen of anything, what would that dozen of something be?
Omand: A dozen copies of “Shawshank Redemption” on laser disc. Okay, I’m joking. In all seriousness, I’d like a dozen copies of the 80s classic “Twins” on laser disc. No, but really, I’d say that this is a truly hard question to answer… At first after reading the question, the notion of twelve pre-war Martin acoustic guitars came to mind, but that is just asking too much. I’ll leave that to Vince Gill. I’d say, a dozen copies of Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley,” because I think everyone should read that book.
Tristan Omand will present his brand new record “The Lesser Known…” this Saturday at the Stone Church. For more information and to obtain tickets click here. This gig will be recorded for a future live record release. Be a part of history. M’kay?