GABRIELLE LAWRENCE:I Did it to Myself,” the single, really resonates with me as a twenty-something coming into my own, and getting to know my body. So many of the lyrics tugged at the messy parts of myself. What inspired you to write that experience?

TRISTAN CARTER-JONES: In general, my main goal is to be as brutally honest as possible in my writing and I just like to tell the story of wherever I’m at at the moment. I Did it to Myself was a self-examination of the—I guess—more fucked up parts of myself that want to get messy and are needy and unfinished. I wanted to expose that so that it could resonate with other people who are feeling the same way. That’s a big theme for me—just wanting to connect with people through music.

GABRIELLE LAWRENCE: I think the openness and vulnerability at the core of your writing process definitely shine on the album. When did you start writing this? Was it during the beginning of COVID? I know we had the opportunity to do a lot of self-examination during that time.

TRISTAN CARTER-JONES: “I Did it to Myself”, specifically, I wrote during the pandemic. It was after New York had gone into lockdown, but before we kind of got to the other side of things. It was actually the first song I’d written in a very long time. I wasn’t able to write much during the beginning of the pandemic because I felt so bogged down with everything that was going on, and I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to express or how I wanted to express it. I think it was a direct result of that time for self-examination and like taking inventory with yourself. About half of the songs were written during the pandemic and the other half a year or two before.

GABRIELLE LAWRENCE: So in “Black Light”, it feels like the speaker is desperate to be seen, heard, nad understood. Many of the speakers on this album are quite vulnerable, but it seems like they’re craving something much deeper. That has me thinking about the difference between vulnerability and intimacy. How do these concepts play out in the journey of this album?

TRISTAN CARTER-JONES: Yeah, you can be vulnerable, I think, without being intimate. Vulnerability, I think, is just the ability to be open about wherever you’re at in the moment. Intimacy is more like sharing those private details of yourself or sharing that vulnerability with a specific person. So a lot of this album is coming from a very vulnerable and raw place, but there is definitely that desire for real intimacy. I mean, I was lonely and just alone for a very long time. When I wrote a lot of the songs I was on my own, and for the majority of my life, I’ve been on my own. I grew up feeling very isolated in the communities that I was growing up in, and it wasn’t until I got older that I was able to find peers who kind of understood where I was coming from. I have a partner now too, but it felt like being alone was just how life was going to be. And that’s part of the journey of the album: getting to the point of putting yourself out there in search of someone to share those vulnerabilities with and growing into intimacy.

GABRIELLE LAWRENCE: Along with the search for intimacy, so much of the album is calling out to something greater than the self. Something cosmic.

TRISTAN CARTER-JONES: I think of myself as a very spiritual person and I believe in some higher power. I’m lucky to still be here for so many reasons, and I believe that I’m here for a greater purpose. I believe that I’m supposed to be doing something for other people, greater than myself, and I think that at the moment that’s what the music is. The best way that I know how to connect with people is to make them feel like they’re less alone.

GABRIELLE LAWRENCE: Who are your musical inspirations on this journey and how do they show up on this album?

TRISTAN CARTER-JONES: I mean, it’s all over the place. There are so, so many. We have a lot of throwback inspirations like Janis Joplin, Chaka Khan, and Marvin Gaye. Led Zeppelin was a big influence of mine as well. My favorite contemporary artist and probably one of our favorite writers is Frank Ocean. Fiona Apple is another. They’re the first two to pop into my head just because they are so relentlessly themselves in their writing and deeply vulnerable in a way that I very rarely see anywhere else. I aspire to maintain that sense of honesty because I think that creates some of the most original music—when you’re not trying to be formulaic and fit into a space, but instead, you’re trying to create your own space. Isaac Hayes is the big one though. We listened to so much Isaac Hayes during the creation of this album. It was just unbelievable. Yeah, that’s hard. It’s like being asked your favorite book or your favorite song. We’re in a time where we have access to absolutely everything, and many of my contemporaries have such an eclectic taste in music with influences from so many different places.

GABRIELLE LAWRENCE: A lot of music styles these days are very blended too. You cite one person and 12 more are in the footnotes so…


GABRIELLE LAWRENCE: Thank you for attempting to answer such a big question. And always, always shout out to Chaka Khan. I would love to know what brought you the most joy while making this project. What makes you smile when you think about it?

TRISTAN CARTER-JONES: So the writing process has always been grueling. The songs come out pretty easily once the inspiration strikes, but it’s kind of hard to look back at what you’ve written. It can be painful sometimes unless you’re writing songs about joy. But I find that for better or worse, pain is one of my greatest inspirations, and heartbreak is a great inspiration for me. The process of actually creating this album was one of the most joyous experiences that I’ve had. From being in the studio with all the different artists that were a part of making this, down to the engineers and the producers that were in the room. It felt like I had been waiting my entire life to make my debut album. So just being in the studio and watching it come to life made me so full of joy that I could have cried every day. Sometimes things don’t come out the way we imagine, but I feel like this album came out exactly how I wanted it to. I am so proud of it, and it brings me great joy to see other people enjoying it or feeling inspired.

GABRIELLE LAWRENCE: It’s refreshing to hear how the hard uncertainty of life and growth transformed into joy for you. Thank you for putting your all into this project. 

DAKOTA JONES lives HERE on the legendary SoundCloud, so step into their world and gather yourselves for a listen. You’re welcome.


GABRIELLE LAWRENCE is a queer Black feminist. They write, edit, and feel. Their work revolves around healing and wellness, food sovereignty, spirituality in nature,  and building compassionate systems. 

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