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Alternative musician, Tancred, Talks “Nightstand,” Isolation and Music as Expression

Jess Abbott, the exceptional alternative artist and musician also known as Tancredhas had a lot on her mind.  Her latest album, “Nightstand,” explores her journey towards a greater internal understanding, particularly during periods of isolation.  Between the hauntingly beautiful instrumentals and the powerful and artistic lyricism, Nightstandis a must listen for the all-too-common “over thinker” attempting to navigate and understand his or her own mind. I sat down with Tancred following her album’s release, and we talked the song writing process, the perfect long car ride songs and the role music plays as an outlet for cathartic expression.


HC: What really stands out on “Nightstand” is the emotion behind your lyrics.  What was the writing process like for this album and where did you find your inspiration?


T: I was living in California when I was writing, recording and touring with Out of the Garden, and then I moved out to New England right around the time I started writing “Nightstand,” which is where I’m from. I had been spending a lot of time either at home alone or out doing heavy socializing. I was also touring a lot which can be very isolating.  Even when I was socializing a lot, I found myself often feeling like I was going through the motions, trying to figure myself out and feeling kind of alone in that time. I went on a tour to Europe that kind of sat with me for a while, and when I got home, I would spend three days a week just writing.  I had spent a lot of time with my last album wanting to really externalize the feeling of independence and celebrating that, but when I was writing “Nightstand,” I was kind of burned out on that. I really wanted to get in touch with myself in an internal way, and trying to take these periods of isolation and make them into something that I was feeling.


HC: Do you have an ideal writing spot? Where do you get your creative juices flowing best?


T: I was on the third story of the building I lived in, in a little window nook that I had my gear set up in. I was high enough up where I could see a lot of area and I could see a lot of trees and stuff. It was a really nice, quiet, personal spot to write. The place that I write always changes. I think ultimately, like anyone, I like being alone in a personal space. Sometimes I’ll light a bunch of candles, get the mood lighting going, sit with my thoughts, have a couple of drinks—I suppose I have to seduce the creativity out of myself.


HC: In “Nightstand” you seem to explore various themes: loneliness, love, youth. What are the main messages you are trying to get across through this album?  


T: All of the songs are definitely part of the same thread. I want to say something like isolation or spirit I think.


HC: I read that you self-recorded your album “Capes,” how was the recording process this time around with “Nightstand?”


T: Between “Capes” and now is like night and day. Each Tancred album has been exponentially different than the one before in terms of style, and also just budget and recording. For “Capes” I literally had no budget and I was just doing it for fun, for myself. I’ve been working with Polyvinyl a lot and they really care about their artists and making them do the most that they can. I worked with other writers on two of the songs, and I had a few of my friends sing on a song. [Nightstand] has a lot of great equipment really dialed in. We just did everything we could with this album as opposed to “Capes” where I was just like hanging out in a basement.


HC: Do you have a favorite part in the process of making an album – writing, performing, mixing/mastering, recording?


T: I think ultimately my favorite part is writing, because my favorite part of being a musician in general is when I have finished demoing a song and I just listen back to it in my car. If I write a song that means a lot to me, and if I feel like I did it justice and did what I set out to do – you just feel so satisfied. It’s like with anything, if you set out to do something in life and then you do it, you’re like, “Yes, I did that thing. Cool!” You get a feeling where you’re really proud of it and really excited. That excitement that one day you’ll be able to show it to people – it’s such a nice feeling, it’s such a rush.  I also really love recording guitars. Tracking guitars is so much fun to me.


HC: Do you have a song on this album that you’re most proud of or one you would consider to be your favorite? Why?


T: “Song One” is definitely that for me. It was my first time really exploring writing non-traditional instrument parts. I’ve written string parts and some flute parts, but there’s a bunch of instruments that I don’t normally play. That was a really good exercise for me and really expanded what I do. Also, when we were recording the song we were experimenting with a lot of things. I played a Nashville guitar that was up two octaves and we had an accordion player. We did a lot of subtle things to it. The flow of the song emotionally is something that I’ve tried to do before, but it’s never been as right as it did with “Song One.” “Song One” really sets up this album for me – I can’t imagine “Nightstand” without it.


HC: One song that I absolutely love on “Nightstand” is “Reviews.” What is the main idea behind this track?


T: That song for me is a lot about being in any position where you’re leaving yourself open to criticism – trying to navigate that sanely while you also have a lot of personal stuff going on. This song is about the pain and task of trying to balance that with the rest of your shit in your life, and trying to get down to the things that really matter to you.  


HC: The first time I listened to “Nightstand,” I was driving and went through the album from top to bottom. Do you have an album that is your go-to long car ride pick?


T: I should ask my band because they get sick of me playing the same stuff all the time.  Something that I grew up listening to and that I’ve been getting into a lot more lately is Steve Miller band greatest hits, 1974-78 specifically. I could turn that whole thing on and it’s such great driving music, probably because I grew up listening to it. My mom would drive us a couple of hours to go camping and stuff and she would put that on.


HC: Do you view music as an outlet for self-expression, or as being something that’s cathartic for you? What does music mean to you?


T: I feel like my relationship to music changes all the time. I think ultimately it is cathartic for me. I tend to overthink things and I’m in my head 24/7 and it gets really exhausting. I think writing a song gives me an opportunity to get some things out, flush the brain a little. Writing music when I was younger felt really fun and exciting. The older I get and the longer I’m doing this, it’s harder to feel connected to that. At the end of the day, this brings me closer to music because when I do write a song it feels really special, and it feels like release.


HC: Her Campus serves as a platform on which young women can express themselves and make their voices heard.  Your music seems to be a major form of expression for you.  What’s some advice that you would offer to young people trying to get their voices out there?


T: I think what I would say is that it’s really, really, really, important to listen to yourself.  I think it’s really hard to do that because everyone is so plugged into social media. You hear the thoughts and opinions of everyone you’ve ever met constantly. I think it’s difficult to keep in touch with what you believe. I think it’s really important to take a second with yourself and really meditate and form your opinions. There’s so much music out there now that it’s increasingly more difficult to maintain some originality.  Ultimately you should do things that make you happy and not what you think will make other people happy.


Give Tancred a listen here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/tancred/435115555

Elizabeth is a senior at Marist College studying Public Relations and Advertising.  Currently serving as the Editor in Chief and CC of the Marist Chapter, she enjoys writing about entertainment, music, lifestyle, and news.  
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