Tristan Avakian, known by his professional name As Waters, delivered(s) an unforgettable performance. His lyrics tell wonderful stories in the vein of an old time balladeer! His songs are original and touching and his presence on the stage is impactful. Sandra Thompson, Executive Director, Acorn Theater, Three Oaks, MI
As Waters is the artist name and self-titled debut album of guitarist/singer-songwriter Tristan Avakian.
Created over the course of two North American tours, ‘As Waters’ is a classic heartbreak album, much like ‘Blood On The Tracks’ (Bob Dylan), ‘For Emma Forever Ago’ (Bon Iver), ‘21’ (Adele), ‘Back To Black’ (Amy Winehouse), ‘Vulnicura’ (Bjork) and ‘Sea Change’ (Beck). Similar to these works, it evolved spontaneously out of a necessary catharsis. “I started writing again for the first time in years, and to my surprise, it wasn’t like anything I’d ever done”, Avakian says. Born and raised in New York City, Tristan Avakian moved to Toronto in 2006. In spite of the fact that he is known principally as a musical theater/rock guitarist (including We Will Rock You, Rock of Ages, Hedwig, Book of Mormon and most recently, the award-winning Kinky Boots), the material on ‘As Waters’ is story and lyric driven, and the
instrumentation comes in second.
Written primarily on a battered acoustic, the songs lent themselves well to open mic nights and Tristan began to try them out in assorted cities while on the road with the various musical theater productions (from the spring of 2013 to the fall of 2014). Avakian explains, “I tried to present one new song each time. The songs took on something of the cultural identity of whatever city I was in, refracted through what I was feeling at the time… eventually I had a body of work. And people were coming forward to tell me how touched they were by the songs. People whose opinion I respected. So, I had no choice but to make an album.”
On a tour stop in Nashville, Tristan recorded three songs with Grammy winning musician, producer Gary Gold (http://garygold.virb.com/bio), which was enough to secure a successful Indiegogo campaign in June 2014. He continued writing on the road, recording the rest of the songs in Los Angeles and taking them back to Nashville to mix.
The eclectic nature of the material demanded an organic approach, as it goes though a variety of styles, all of which pre-date Woodstock, but with a bracing post-punk sensibility instantly familiar to fans of modern songwriting. Several of the songs were given orchestral treatments, with arrangements by Steve Weisberg (Nick Cave, Hal Wilner, Marianne Faithful, Courtney Love, Beth Orton, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Emily Haines, Aloe Blacc).
“The combination of these elements was strangely freeing…. As I approached the production stage, I realized I could do whatever I wanted,” Avakian states. “For example: Imagine Josh Homme fronting the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, singing a Leonard Cohen song you have never heard before. Because it is new. Track four is called “Amnesia”, and that’s more or less what it is. It’s hard to apply the word ‘fun’ to something that is meant to be devastating…but it was kind of fun.”
More a soundtrack to an emotional odyssey than an attempt at a top 40 “hit”, clearly this was not meant to be a laptop album. ‘As Waters’ evokes an era when things were made by hand, to be lasting and beautiful, rather than utilitarian and disposable.
The album includes nine original songs and one cover – Beck Hansen’s “Just Noise”, sourced from Song Reader (his sheet music book; Beck has never recorded it).
Live: As Waters at The Acorn Theater – Dame Atlantis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zUwAz6U1bo
Robin’s Roost, 106.7 FM Radio Harbor County
https://soundcloud.com/tristanavakian/sets/as-waters-radio-interviews – full one hour interview
With hosts former Columbia Records exec Robin McBride (Robin’s Roost) and former Chicago DA John Smietanka (With Respect).
“One of the best live performances we’ve ever had here on the Humble and Fred show!” – Humble Howard, May 18, 2016.