With her latest album Snakes & Saints, Nashville artist Treva Blomquist gave her music the freedom to go where it wanted, straying from her previous Americana leaning sounds. This leap of faith paid off for her, resulting in an incredible album of songs that explore a more indie pop feel with lo-fi drum hooks and a polyphonic synth soundscape. Helping to shape the sound of the album were producers Nathan Johnson and J. Brandon Owens, talented musicians in their own right as members of the band ENJOYER. For Blomquist, the album’s message resonates with the current atmosphere in the country. “I went in a new direction intentionally and wanted to express the unique relationship of light and dark within us”, she says. “We always have a choice. We get to decide who we want to be, and what we want to hold onto.” “Snakes & Saints speaks boldly about truth, life and love,” she muses. “This album reflects a shift — where the rubber meets the road, where one seizes on the need to persevere despite the obstacles tossed their way, only to wake up and discover the possibilities that lie ahead. We are on a journey, but more importantly, this album emphasizes the need to take action to successfully arrive at your destination, wherever it may lie.” A gifted songwriter, she moved from her hometown west of Seattle to Nashville as a young woman and had has honed her craft as a singer and songwriter in the years since. Amongst her accolades are placing as a finalist in her first ever songwriting competition in the 2005 Kerrville New Folk Competiton, recognition in the USA Songwriting Competiton’s folk category in 2006 and the Grand Prize at the RiverBluff Performing Songwriter Competition for her song “I Could Get Used To This” from her critically acclaimed debut album Plain Vanilla Me. With two online live events coming up, Blomquist is making the most of the current changing landscape within the industry and aiming to get her album out there to as many listeners as possible. You can connect with Treva Blomquist and purchase her albums via the following links:
Your new album Snakes & Saints was released on July 31st and was a departure in sound for you into a more indie pop sound. What was that process like for you, delving into those different sounds while staying true to your Americana roots?
Yeah. It was fun. It was just like painting with new colors. When we would get together to record, we just kind of played and whatever worked, we kept. We just weren’t pinning ourselves into a genre box and were more like “Let’s just listen to the songs and be ourselves and see what comes out”. It was really fun!
What can you tell me about the evolution of your music and letting the music take you where it wants to go? Is that a more recent process for you?
Well, I always think that everyone who contributes a bit to the music contributes kind of a piece of themselves. While I wrote the songs and kind of brought them to the guys I worked with, the two producers Brandon and Nathan, they brought a lot of themselves to this album too. As an artist, and I’m 100% independent, I don’t have a label who needs me to give them a record that fits something. There is freedom in that because I am free to create in the moment. I don’t know. I think it’s different and unique.
You wrote the songs for the album before entering the studio. What can you tell me about the influence your producers had on the album and did you end up revising or rewriting any of the songs during the recording process?
I would pretty much come in with a song or two or three and would be like “What do you think of these?” and they’d be like “Umm, keep working on that one” or “We love this one”. Then we’d just dive into whatever was ready that day. That was more of the process that we took this time. It was really fun.
What can you tell me about the themes of the album and what kind of message you are hoping that people take from it?
It’s interesting. The album took a bit of time to finish and really make because we all just had different things we were doing simultaneously. It was interesting to me too, as we were making the album, to be like “I don’t understand why this is taking a while”. It’s not like there was fault or blame, it was just taking a while. It’s also interesting that it’s done and ready and then there’s a pandemic (laughs). It was like “Woah! Hold your horses!”. I’m not sure what to do now (laughs)! But then, after really thinking about it, I feel like the message is one that’s great for this time we are in right now. I think it’s about looking inside and finding those passions and those things we do hold valuable and true, and holding tight to those and kind of letting go of the other stuff that is just beyond our control.
You have talked about being struck by the contrasting imagery of the album’s title and the moral ambiguity and opposition of snakes and saints. You have said that people can’t really judge good from bad by looking on the surface, that it’s what lives within that tells the story. What can you tell me about exploring those themes of good and bad/evil and what you learned during your own process of self-discovery?
Gosh, that’s a big question! I believe in God and I’m a Christian, so that’s where I’m coming from in what I’m talking about. I think it’s gotten very tricky these days because I think, and in the bible even it talks about how there are wolves in sheep’s clothing, that there are people saying they are one thing but their heart is not. That is also something that is beyond our control. What I have control of is making sure my heart matches who I am.
You were born in Seattle, so what was it like growing up there and what inspired you to move to Nashville? How has being in Nashville, a hub of musicians and songwriters, inspired you as an artist?
I grew up south of Seattle in a tiny, tiny town. It was basically a country kind of lifestyle. I grew up on a farm. I moved to Nashville for music and was really excited about getting here and just singing. I had no idea what that entailed (laughs)! It was just something I wanted to do and I felt so glad that I was able to. I went to MTSU and a lot of the people I met there are still big pieces of my community now even, today. But yeah, being here in Nashville pushes you to continually be better. I spent a few years in Arkansas. My husband had work there so we moved there for a few years. It was so different. It was also good, but there wasn’t as much community to push me forward. I was trying to come back here as much as I could during that time because I didn’t want to feel like I was left behind and didn’t want to get the idea that I was a big fish, because I know that I’m not. I know that I’m not and I want to keep swimming next to the big fish because it makes me better.
You have said that our capacity to change and our creativity allow us to adapt and that people can use them to make themselves and their world better, but how that capacity to change can be easy to forget as we become adults and grow and accept the definitions or identities that we’ve created along the way as absolute instead of fluid. What has your journey been like in growing beyond old identities that you may have had of yourself?
Yeah. It’s hard! It’s hard work. I think we long for belonging and identity as humans. I think it’s almost like a natural instinct for us to grab those things. I have little kids so I see it in them too and trying to be careful of the things that you praise even in someone. It’s easy to become a piece of them.
Kids can pick up on things so much easier than adults sometimes!
Yeah. Like, does someone always get praised because they’re pretty? Do they get praised because they’re smart, too? I don’t know. I think identity is…it’s a hard one. I think it’s worth exploring and questioning for each person. It’s worth us taking the time to sit down and ask ourselves “Who do I really think I am?”, not “Who do other people say I am?”, and do I accept those things about myself and like those things about myself? If not, we can change. We do have that capacity. It’s easy to forget that we can still be growing, even when we’re not necessarily getting taller anymore (laughs)!
You don’t have to be stuck in a certain place. You can grow and change.
Yeah! I’m so encouraged by so many people who are deciding to go back to school after years of hating whatever it is that they do. They decide to go back to school and make it work and eat ramen for a while but are like “I’m going to do it!”. It’s really cool.
You also have a few hobbies outside of music-a flower garden from which you make flower arrangements, painting and pottery. What can you tell me about how you came to start these hobbies? You posted one of your paintings of FB and it’s really beautiful!
Thank you! Yeah, I just like to dabble and try new things. I love my flowers. I live on 4 acres, so when we moved here I really wanted to be able to walk around in my yard and at any given time, pick a bouquet throughout the seasons of the year. I started researching different flowers that I was going to grow and then realized that I just love growing flowers and have the space to grow them, so I just started growing flowers. In fact today I just gave some flowers to a friend and she’s going to try to make cookies and put the flowers-they’re edible flowers-on the cookies! I can’t wait to see how they turn out!
I love to bake and have used edible flowers for cupcake decorations before, which was really fun!
Oh I bet! I bet they were so beautiful! So with the painting you saw, I just watched a YouTube video on how to do it. It’s called flip cup painting and I just started trying it and it’s so fun! They always turn out so different. And with the pottery, I had always wanted to try it and decided to try a pottery class and love it! I signed up for class again so I’m going to keep learning pottery!
Do have a favorite flower that you grow in your garden?
I grow a lot of dahlias and I actually just found out that they are edible. I have a lot of dahlias and a few roses and a couple of sunflowers. I love growing tulips in the spring. They are one of the first flowers to come up and winter is just really sad. I just love seeing those first flowers of spring.
You recently performed your very first drive-in concert! What was that experience like?
(laughs)! Oh I thought it was awesome! Shelly Tackett who is an artist friend of mine books it. It was really cool. People just came by the carload and just sat in their cars. It was almost like their little pod. And we played off of the back of a trailer with a sound system, but it worked great. It’s different, you know? It’s different, but everything is different now. It was really fun. It was a little bit of a rainy afternoon and because of the rain it was cooler. That was nice. It is different when people honk their horns when you finish a song (laughs)! If they really liked it they honked. It was like “Oh, yay! Cool! Thanks!”.
You were also involved in a fundraiser for the Songs For Kids Foundation’s ‘500 songs for kids’. What can you tell me about that foundation and how you came to be involved with them?
Yeah. They’re awesome! They raise money to take music in to hospitals to kids and just bring them joy. They’ve done this, the 5oo songs for kids, for a really long time. I don’t know what year this was for them. They normally do it in Atlanta and they pick…Rolling Stone normally has like 500 best songs of all time or 500 best love songs. Rolling Stone normally releases some kind of a list and they will assign a different song to a different artist. It’s almost like an open mic and it’s in Atlanta, so they get a ton of people who come through Atlanta. It’s actually a really neat event to go to when you can go in person because you never know who’s going to show up to play a song. It’s very fun. This year it was online and I was happy to be a part of that and it was fun too to see inside of people’s houses and see what kind of makeshift stages everybody’s got (laughs).
Your new album is the first album that you have released on vinyl! What was that like for you and why were your previous records not released on vinyl?
Yeah, that’s a good question. This was just the first time I tried it. Vinyl has taken on a new popularity. My last album was released in 2016. I don’t know. Vinyl is starting to come back and I just hadn’t done it yet. It was fun! It’s so big (laughs)! When it came out I was like “Oh gosh! Look at that”. It looks great. I love how all of the artwork and everything turned out. It just felt strange to see my face so big on something. I’m used to it being smaller on a CD (laughs)!
Are you a fan of vinyl yourself? Do you have a collection?
We do. We have a record player and have my husband’s father’s collection. It’s cool. We also have the little bits that we’ve added to it.
What’s next for you? What do you have coming up?
On September 22nd I’m going to play an online show with the guys from the band. It’s going to be at Gray Matters Studio and is going to be broadcast live. It will be a pay what you want ticket price and will benefit a charity. I still need to talk to the guys and confirm the charity. I’m so excited to play the album with the guys! It’s going to be really fun.
What can you tell me about your band?
They actually are their own band called ENJOYER. They are just nice guys and I enjoy making music with them. They’re nice guys and are really talented.