Tristen on Bob Dylan, Tori Amos and her life soundtrack

She’s a synth-pop alt country queen in search of even more adjectives.

Tristen Gaspadarek, who records and tours under her first name, is equal parts Paul McCartney, Tori Amos and Henry Rollins. In her short career, the songstress has crafted hooky, soaring songs (“No One’s Gonna Know,” “Baby Drugs”) that have garnered a loyal following and raves from outlets such as Rolling Stone, Spin, NPR and Vogue.

Currently touring under her second album, “C A V E S,” the follow-up to her 2011 critically-acclaimed “Charlatans at the Garden Gate,” Tristen took time to talk to the Big Questions.

Tristen grew up in south suburban Lansing, attended DePaul University and cut her teeth playing gigs at the Abbey Pub. She’s since packed her bags for Nashville, where she lives with her lead guitarist and husband Buddy Hughen.

In the excerpt below, Tristen talks about her songwriting process, her influences and being married on the road. To hear the whole interview and Tristen’s songs—as well as samples from her life soundtrack— listen to the Big Questions podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud and YouTube.

On the people in her songs:
They’re composites of people and relationships. It’s not really about one specific person. “Baby Drugs” is about a specific person, but it wasn’t my relationship. No, I get a lot out of my friends’ relationships. A lot.

On being touring with your husband:
It’s perfect. There’s nothing more sexy than a guy who’s really in his prime, creatively, in a band. I mean that is hot. That’s the dream. There is no conflict. You get to see the world together. It’s amazing.

On co-writing songs:
The reason I did it is because I wanted to get involved in my community a little bit more. Co-writing is about getting in a room, and creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable enough to share their ideas and comfortable enough to say when they don’t like something.

On the psychology of music:
I went to DePaul University for relational group and organizational theories of communication. I am really into talking love — the kind of conversation a group of girls will have about their relationships when they’re really good friends.

Tristen’s influences:
In seventh and eighth grade, No Doubt’s record “Tragic Kingdom” was very influential, I have to say. Tori Amos’ song “Jackie’s Strength” — that song is amazing. That record is amazing.

And then we have [Bob] Dylan, that was very much a college discovery and life-altering experience. And Bowie. Everybody listens to Ziggy Stardust in college, I think.

Then I moved to Nashville. I was really into Tom Petty. I got into really traditional country music, so I was obsessed with Wanda Jackson and Skeeter Davis and Loretta Lynn. On Wanda Jackson’s last record, I sang on back up.

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