To put it lightly, 2019 had already been a strong year for Triston Marez. With a breakout EP released in January and two summertime singles amassing over 600,000 streams Triston had made great strides in solidifying himself as one of the premiere artists in the bustling Texas country music scene.
And with the Until I Found You, his second EP this year, Marez is doing just that. Released nearly nine months after his debut EP That Was All Me, Marez is already showing growth in his artistry. His new EP features six songs that Marez had a hand in writing, and doubles down on his traditional sound that pays homage to the influences that were instilled in him by his parents.
Read along as Marez describes those influences, as well as his breakout 2019, all about Until I Found You and what he hopes listeners take away from it, his big plans for 2020, and more!
Pro Country: Can you describe your musical roots and some of your journey that has gotten you to this point in your career?
Triston Marez: I come from a family with a deep history in country music. A lot of my family in Oklahoma was really big into the Bluegrass scene. That’s where I get my traditional roots from, and that’s why I like to stick to the traditional sound. A lot of them wrote country music as well, so country music is really deep in my roots. My mom is a country singer. I grew up listening to her sing, and it was always on the radio. That’s where I grew my love for music. It’s just always been in my blood. In my first grade talent show, I sang a Buck Owens song; my mom likes to say that was my start.
PC: Who were some of the influences that you heard in those early years that have shaped your sound?
TM:It was a mix of things. My dad listened to a lot of rock and heavy metal, as well as a lot of classic country. 60s and 70s country and the outlaws like Johnny Cash, Merle, and Buck Owens were big-time influences. I also have the rock scene mixed in a little bit too, and that’s why you’ll hear some rock guitar mixed in with the fiddle in my music. I mix those two things together while keeping things modern, yet still traditional. I’ve been digging into Waylon Jennings a lot lately, and I’m just loving his stuff. Those guys were going against the grain back in those days too; you just don’t see that stuff a whole lot anymore. You definitely don’t see it in Nashville very much, but you see it in other places. Guys like Cody Jinks are really making a difference in the music scene in the music industry.
PC: You mentioned that you performed a Buck Owens song at your first grade talent show. What was it about music that connected with you at such an early age?
TM: That was pretty much the only time I really played at that point. What really got me started with music was that I was just surrounded by it. It was on the radio, CMT was always on when we were cleaning the house, and I remember my mom listening to the Dixie Chicks nonstop.
I got my first acoustic guitar when I was six or seven, and my mom got me into guitar lessons, but I was more into baseball. I did lessons for a year, then baseball took over. I had heart surgery in middle school, and I wasn’t able to play sports for eight months, so that’s when I picked the guitar back up, and I taught myself all the basics again. It took me a while to get back to it, but I had nothing to do for that whole eight months, so I really learned to play the guitar, and that’s where my first love of playing music came from.
I never really told anybody that I played guitar; I never really wanted anyone to find out. I never wanted anybody to ask me to sing in front of them, and I didn’t want my baseball buddies to find out either. I’m not sure why, but I just kept it a secret.
During high school, I had actually started posting covers on YouTube. It gained a little bit of traction, and I started to realize that something was going on. I started thinking that I might have something, and that got me into doing open mic nights in Houston. I started doing talent shows at county fairs after that.
The Houston Rodeo was my first time performing in front of people. I owe them 100% credit for getting the spark and the flame going for my love of entertaining. I did a talent show for them called the Rodeo Rockstar. I uploaded a song on YouTube, they invited me out to perform in front of judges, and that was a big deal for me. If you won, you got a free day in the studio. The first year, I made it through the first round and didn’t make it past the second. They told me to work on exposure and getting in front of people. I was writing songs for that whole year, did a lot more open mic nights, and the second year I went back to the Rodeo Rockstar, and I was lucky enough to win. As soon as I got in front of people, that’s where my love of music took off.
PC: You had a lot of success with “Take Me Home” and “Out on the Dance Floor” prior to the release of your EP That Was All Me. What did having that level of success with your first two releases mean to you?
TM:That’s why I gave credit to the Houston Rodeo. I recorded “Take Me Home” with that free day in the studio. That’s the first song I wrote with my mom. Houston Rodeo really launched me and helped get me out there. “Take Me Home” was a great start. I learned a lot through that whole process. The process of getting in the studio with session players and charting music and all of that, it was an eye-opener for me. That grew my love for the other side of music that people don’t really see every day. I was at the point where I just needed music out, and I just wanted to see what happened with it. It was a little slow at first. I remember being so excited when it got 1,000 streams; I thought that was the coolest thing. “Out on the Dance Floor” was really what helped me a ton. That song was the next step. I put a video on Twitter of it, and it went “viral” in my words. It sparked attention from Texas Music Pickers and a lot of people in Nashville. “Take Me Home” was the beginning of just getting my foot in the door, and “Out on the Dance Floor” got my name in front of the right people in the business. I met my manager Alex Torrez through through “Out on the Dance Floor,” and it’s been amazing working with him. I’m very thankful to have those two songs.
PC: By the time the That Was All Me EP was released, “Take Me Home” and “Out on the Dance Floor” had achieved solid success on Spotify, and the EP had a lot of success out of the gate as well. Did having that success again give you a sense of validation in the music you were making?
TM:It was a great step. When we released That Was All Me, “Out on the Dance Floor” had about 100,000 streams. When we released the EP, it really helped the ton. It was really fun. I had just met Alex Torrez, we looked at where we were, and we were trying to decide if we were going to release a single or an EP. Based on the streams we had with “Take Me Home” and “Out on the Dance Floor,” we figured that we should release an EP in January of this year and get our foot in the door and get our name out there. That’s what we did. It was an amazing process. I got to write with Terry McBride and Brice Long, which was amazing. Those guys wrote songs that I look up to. That EP was a stepping stone for me. I can’t thank the people who listen to me and that EP enough.
PC: Were you feeling any kind of pressure to match or surpass the success you had with That Was All Me on your new EP Until I Found You?
TM: I’m my own worst enemy, I’ll compete with myself as much as I can, and I think that’s the only pressure that I felt. I wanted to be able to do my best and let people know that I had something music coming. The real pressure was writing the songs. On That Was All Me, I wrote three of the songs and cut the other two. The pressure with the new EP was in the writing room rather than releasing it. It was a fun process. I wrote with great writers, and I think that’s what the real pressure was; getting songs that fit me that people would also be able to relate to. The pressure started with getting more mature with my songwriting and the songs I was putting out.
PC: What went in to the decision to release “Wish I Could Dance” as the lead single from Until I Found You?
TM::With the success we had with “Darlin’” and “Unbreak a Heartache” in the summer, we knew we had to release an upbeat song to continue that streak of energy. With this project, we were in need the songs that fit well with our lives show. Being the kind of entertainer I am, I love to put on an energetic show. We wanted to release that as the lead single because it was upbeat. Kids were going back into school, and we wanted to give them something to dance to in the dance halls. That was our favorite upbeat song on the EP. We wanted to get it out there so people would know it for a live shows, as well as people getting to have fun with it in the dance halls.
PC: “Fort Worth” is one of my favorite songs on Until I Found You. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that song?
TM:I wrote that about a guy talking about a breakup and heartache, and knowing that she had taken off to a different city and left him. He was just sitting there, and the hook is the unspoken words, and that he wishes he could have stopped her from leaving Houston and going to Fort Worth. He wishes he could have told her to stay. That’s another song I wrote with my mother, and it’s one of my favorites. One of my favorite songs in country music is “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind.” I absolutely love that song. I love the way they tell the story in that song. I wanted to bring that sound back with my own style.
PC: “Until I Found You” is one of the standout tracks on its EP. Why did you decide to name the EP after that song?
TM: It was a mix of two things. We didn’t have a picture to fit any song title, and we didn’t have a song title that fit a picture, if that makes any sense [laughs]. We are going to make “Night to Remember” the title of the EP, but we didn’t have any pictures that fit that title. We didn’t want to do a whole bar picture for the EP, because we did that with “Wish I Could Dance.” We had this one picture that we did on a back road that was at my mom’s place, and we thought that was perfect for “Until I Found You.” It’s dark, it fits the scene and mood, so that’s why we went with that title. We also really wanted to show maturity in the songs I was writing. I wrote that one with my good buddy Andy Wills, and we just thought that song had the mature side of the music we were putting out, and had a West Texas kind of sound to it. I’m glad we decided to do that, because that’s one of my favorites on the EP.
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from the Until I Found You EP after listening all the way through?
TM:This EP has a lot of up and down on it. It’s got party songs, it’s got heartbreak songs, and it’s got upbeat songs. I hope the words and songs touch people. If it helps people get their minds off of things or help some with a heartache, I’ve done my job. I hope people relate to it. I wrote this EP with great songwriters, and worked with great musicians and producers that really put their heart and energy into it. All of the songs are from the heart, so I hope people can feel that. That’s a big thing for me, because I try to stay true to who I am, and write songs based on real life experiences.
PC: You have been a regular opener for many of the big name artists in Texas, including Aaron Watson, Josh Ward, and Mike and the Moonpies. What were you able to take away from those experiences that helped you as you were transitioning into a headliner yourself?
TM:Those guys are great! We opened up for Aaron Watson in El Paso about two months ago. The way he speaks to crowds is really amazing. It was funny, I’ve been a Texas country music fan for a long time, and I’ve seen Aaron Watson play live many times. Two years ago, I won meet and greet passes with Aaron and a lot of other Texas artists at the Ryman Auditorium. I got to meet him and took a picture with him. When we were opening for him this year, we were backstage at the theater, and he walked up to me and said that he remembered meeting me at the Ryman, and he remembered that I was with my mom. He’s a great guy, and really down to earth.
We’ve also gotten to open up for Josh Ward, Jon Wolfe, Jake Worthington, and Shotgun Rider, and everyone of them and everybody on their team, has been amazing. I’m so thankful for them and giving me the opportunity. They’ve all given some advice and tips I’m on the way. I’m a new guy on the scene, and I’ve listened to all of those guys, so for them to take the time and give me advice, it’s an honor. This whole year has been an eye-opener for me.
PC: This year, you’ve released two EPs and have had great success both streaming and on the road. What has been the biggest thing you’ve learned over the course of 2019?
TM: I’ve learned to keep my head up and keep working hard. This business is so hard. With all the talent in Texas, you just have to keep working. There’s always somebody that wants it more than you, so you have to just keep working at it. No one’s going to make it happen except for you, so I’ve learned to just keep working hard.
PC: Along with the promoting Until I Found You, what are your plans for the rest of 2019 and beyond?
TM:I’m glad the EP is out, because we’re planning on releasing an album within the next year. It’ll be a 10 to 12 song album. As I was coming up, I’d always hear artists saying that they were already working on the next album when their album wasn’t even released yet. I’m getting to feel that now, because we were working on this album two months ago, and the EP wasn’t even out yet [laughs]. We’ve written 10 songs, and we’re trying to get 30 done by the end of this year, and then pick and choose from there which ones we want. For now, we’re just hitting the road hard and getting our name spread out there. I’m continuing to write music and finding songs that fit me well. I thank the writers said who have given me the chance to write with them, and the artists that have given me a chance to share the stage with them. We’re going to do shows in November with Jon Wolfe, which is going to be great, and then we have a tour with Kevin Fowler in the winter, so I’m so excited for that!
*Images courtesy of Alex Torrez*