Local singer-songwriter reflects on his new album
Tristan Omand was willing to do anything to record a new album — including selling some of his recording gear in order to finance the project. In fact, he’d gathered up the gear and was ready to pawn it when Chris Hislop called.
Hislop, who runs the production company Bright & Lyon, made Omand a surprising offer: He would use the money brought in at previous Bright & Lyon shows to fund Omand’s new album.
“It was an affirmation for me,” Omand said. “Now, I’m not hawking my (equipment) trying to get (albums) out. It’s not cheap to press vinyl and I don’t make a lot of money. To have someone put their faith in you, it shows that I’m not fucking around. I’m going somewhere.”
Omand’s latest album, “The Lesser Known Tristan Omand,” was released earlier this month. He’ll celebrate with an official album release show on Saturday, April 16, at The Stone Church in Newmarket.
Hislop has been a massive supporter of Omand’s for the past five years, so when he heard the musician was scraping together the finances to record again, Hislop wanted to help. Omand used the money to return to Rocking Horse Studio in Pittsfield to record with producer Brian Coombes.
“I remember it being a 12-second conversation,” said Hislop. “Actions like that generally need lots of discussion, but we knew it was an ideal fit and the perfect thing to do.”
Omand blends blues, Americana, folk, and country. His music recalls the intimate, working-class aesthetic of the folk artists of the ’50s and ’60s. His intricate, finger-picked melodies and chord progressions echo the emotional folk and outlaw country of idols Hank Williams Sr. and Johnny Cash.
But Omand’s lyrics set him apart. His penchant for storytelling and creating memorable characters and places echo Newmarket’s own Bill Morrissey, and even Bob Dylan and Tom Waits. But with “The Lesser Known,” Omand turns his focus inward; it’s his most autobiographical album to date.
“The album encompasses a little bit of each album I’ve done, which means adding a little more of my personal experience into it too,” he said. “A certain amount of it was planned, to write more introspective songs. I just felt like it was a good time to do it, and that’s how it came out.”
The eight original songs on “The Lesser Known” feature Omand’s signature literary, broken-hearted narratives and dry-to-the-bone humor sung with the warm croon of his country drawl.
In “A Letter Home,” Omand details his life as a working-class folk musician, while in “Old Straight Six,” a song steeped in metaphors, he sings, “Well, you’re bending my ear / you’re twisting my arm / you’re taking the long way around the barn,” a phrase he learned from his grandfather.
Other songs put Omand’s literary chops on display. On “30 Days of Darkness,” Omand builds a narrative around life in biblical times.
“That was the only song I wrote where I thought of the riff and wrote from there,” said Omand. “There’s always one song on each album that started with the music, and the rest is the opposite.”
Like his 2014 release, “Eleven Dark Horses,” also recorded at Rocking Horse, Omand brought in a few musicians to help, including Delanie Pickering, Will Kindler, Jay Psaros, and Coombes himself. But because of the album’s autobiographical nature, Omand wanted to keep the presence of the guest artists light.
Hislop thinks Omand’s music can stand on its own.
“Tristan Omand, as ‘lesser known’ as he may be, is the real fucking deal,” Hislop said. “He’s a songwriter that is still very much growing, but at this particular time, he makes those that have been writing for far longer than him blush. … The kid is an absolute animal.”
The singer-songwriter said he prided himself on his ability to cut out big production and trusted Coombes to capture his sound as organically as possible. Crediting his time in the early 2000s recording with his previous punk-rock band, The Asthmatics, Omand felt he had an advantage when it came to cutting songs in just a few takes.
“There’s something so refreshing about cutting (takes) live,” he said. In fact, the album release show will be recorded for a possible live album. “I don’t go too heavy on the production because I have to be able to perform it live and do it justice.”
Omand said he plays more than 100 shows a year, and this year will be no different. He’s planning on a tour this summer, and if you’re traveling, you might see him on the road. He’ll be the guy going from gig to gig alone in his pick-up truck, with nothing but his guitar, some clothes, and a lot of ambition.
“I haven’t given up,” Omand said. “I talk to people who I knew 10 years ago and they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m glad you’re still playing.’ And I say, ‘Yeah — what else would I be doing?’”
Tristan Omand performs Saturday, April 16 at 6 p.m. at The Stone Church, 5 Granite St., Newmarket, with guests Dan Blakeslee and The Whetherman. $12 advance, $15 at the door, tickets at brightandlyon.com.