One of the most interesting developments in music has to be the changing/expanding listening habits of modern music consumers. Less influenced by radio and no longer siloed by scene-specific convictions regarding what is and what isn’t cool, it’s now more than OK for indie kids to profess love for the latest candy-coated pop from Taylor Swift; as it is to rock a t-shirt emblazoned with Raymond Pettibon’s four bar Black Flag logo. Having such diverse tastes, in fact, is now often viewed as a marker of hipness.
Nashville-based, North Florida-bred singer-songwriter Lindsey Sweat, AKA Trella, is an artist whose music could be heard as a bridge between those seemingly disparate sonic appetites. The decorative, electronic production, pop melodies, and expansive hook (“When I find myself stuck in the shade, I will retreat / Back to you is back to me”) on “Retreat” from the popular 2017 EP Vapor has earned the song two million streams on Spotify and placement on an eclectic assortment of playlists. But as approachable as the song may be sonically, Trella’s depth and flexibility as a lyricist is more Henry Rollins than Taylor Swift.
In 2019, Trella (a 2012 graduate of Jacksonville’s Douglas Anderson School of the Arts) released the stripped-down single “Happy to Be Here.” Minimal, sparse, the song highlights Trella’s skills as a vocalist and gifted storyteller capable of connecting her experiences to those of her listeners.
“Got tired of looking at the blue light / sick and tired of seeing life through their eyes / I want to feel right / Trade it all in to be alive,” she sings in the song’s climactic chorus.
“Some of it was about my frustrations with the music industry, but mostly my frustrations with culture and society and the disconnection that social media has created in humanity,” Trella told me about the song. “I had grown tired of numbers, figures, likes, comparisons, etc. and I was just craving connection and vulnerability–raw authenticity. I realized that true contentment comes when you look up, look into the eyes of the ones you love, listen to the birds sing, feel the breeze on your face.”
Besides a burgeoning career as a solo act, Sweat is also an in-demand songwriter, putting pen to paper for a range of artists while working on a forthcoming full-length Trella album. I caught up with her recently to ask about her songwriting process, and a song we really loved in 2019, “Happy to Be Here.”
Can you tell me where you are right now and what are you up to?
I’m still living in Nashville, although I am currently in New York, about to play a show tonight! I’m writing for my own project and for many other artist projects as well as playing shows all around.
What’s your writing process like? Can you walk me through it? Is it different for Trella than if for other artists?
My writing process is different every time. Each song calls me in different situations. Sometimes a song starts in the shower or in the car–in mundane life circumstances when my mind is wandering off. Then I’ll hum the melody or lyric into my phone and save it for later when I’m by my piano or computer or in a writing session. From there I will form together my scattered thoughts and concepts on my own in my bedroom, or I will choose to collaborate with friends that could really offer some amazing perspective to the thought or idea. Then sometimes I will write a song in twenty minutes just me and my piano in my bedroom [laughs]. That’s why I love songwriting. It truly is different every time! Always taking me by surprise, I can never get bored of it.
2017’s Vapor was your first EP as Trella. “Retreat” has two million plays on Spotify. What did that record do for you, opportunities-wise?
Yes! That EP is so special to me. That record was a straight up collection of songs from one of the hardest times of my life thus far. Retreat was my aha-moment kind of song when I began to really come alive during that period of time. Spotify playlisters really loved it, and I’m so thankful for that, because it has presented me with many opportunities. For a lot of people, that was their intro song into my discography because they heard it on a Spotify playlist. I think more than anything, that record really became the foundation of me and who I am as an artist. Something to build off of. It was the start of the story for me as an artist. My pop-writing career began to grow.
Can we talk about the track “Happy to Be Here”? Maybe not a departure, but definitely more vulnerable or sparse than, say “Retreat.” Was minimalism a goal with that one?
“Happy to Be Here” was meant to be super minimal on purpose, for sure. That was really the point. To be thankful right here right now, no matter what your circumstances. To look around and appreciate the simplicity of being alive. Even when you’re not necessarily where you want to be or who you want to be. It’s really a song of gratitude.
Lastly, can we expect a Trella full-length in 2019-2020?
Right now, I am writing for a project to come out in 2020 (ETA), but you can expect some more singles from me in 2019.
This interview originally appeared as part of our feature “The Music We Needed: 19 Songs we loved in 2019” in Void Magazine, Vol. 10, Issue 6.