With an easy manner and casual, surf-infused style, singer-songwriter Tristan Prettyman seems a lot like the girl next door. For Solana Beach locals, that’s because she is the girl next door –at least, when she’s home long enough to take a deep breath.

A native of San Diego, the place provided both her early foundation in music and, more recently, a refuge to recharge. After a multi-year break from the business and a publicized breakup from fiancé Jason Mraz, it was in her family’s refurbished Solana Beach bungalow where she wrote Cedar + Gold, the 2012 album that put the ingenue back on the map. Since its release last fall, Prettyman’s star has been steadily rising, with a single in Nicholas Sparks’ film Safe Haven; profiles in the Wall Street Journal and Glamour; and an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

With her growing fame and frequent tours, being a rock star isn’t all glitz. “I haven’t been on a date in so long, I couldn’t even tell you,” she says.

Still, long before there were late-night appearances and nationwide shows, Prettyman was paddling out at local breaks with her dad. Having learned to surf at 11, by her teens at Torrey Pines High School she was on the school team, practicing every morning before class. Soon enough, Prettyman caught the eyes of Roxy model scouts.

The gig lasted “for about a week. I did [something like] three shoots for them,” she recalls. “But then I went to Europe and ate everything, and they were like, ‘Sorry. No more bikinis.’

“I like to eat food, and not worry about working out. I’m so awkward in front of the camera.”

If modeling was out as a career path, so was becoming a pro surfer. “I liked surfing because it’s like music in a lot of ways,” says Prettyman. “I could do it to get away from everything. I could reflect in nature … like a reset. When I was a kid I wanted to be a sponsored surfer, and when I got out of high school, I was like, ‘Meh, I just like surfing for fun.'”

Still, the culture of the sport has been integral to her sound, and her professional success. When directors Taylor Steele and Chris Malloy were seeking tracks for their 2001 film Shelter, it was former pro Brad Gerlach who brought them an acoustic recording of Prettyman performing her song, “Anything At All.”

“We said, that’s a great track, who is it?,” remembers Steele. “And [Gerlach] said, ‘I have to ask her, I don’t know if she even knows I recorded that.’

 “The whole [conceit] of the surf movie is that we got this house in the hills of Australia, and [featured people including Rob Machado, Kelly Slater, and Jack Johnson] were surfing and making music and enjoying the free and easy lifestyle,” Steele says. “Her track fit right in. … She surfed and lived that life.”

By 2008, Prettyman had released three recordings, including The Love EP in 2003, the album twentythree in 2005, and Hello in 2008, which hit No. 2 on the iTunes Digital Album chart. Those spurred headlining shows across Europe, Japan and the U.S.

The fun, however, quickly faded.

 “I felt like a fake,” Prettyman says. “I didn’t want to be there playing, but I [was] going through the motions.” So, she left the stage and traveled everywhere from New York to San Francisco and Bali to Australia. During her sojourn, she also learned to say namaste, inspired by a run-in with surfer “Critter” Baugh, who instructs at local studio Yoga Tropics. Prettyman hit the mat and hasn’t looked back.

In high school, Baugh “was the shortest, scrawniest kid ever, and [now] he was super-tall and hot, and I was like, ‘Whoa, what have you been doing?'” Prettyman laughs.

Says Margaret Stockalper, who owns Yoga Tropics, Prettyman “fit right in with the [studio’s] surf scene. It helped calm her down. At the time, she was with Jason Mraz, and she was bringing him in. We giggled about that.”

Yoga was also a retreat. “Everybody goes in [to the studio], rolls out the mat, and you’re just another yoga student,” says Stockalper. “I think [Tristan] identified with that, stepping out of the limelight for a minute, finding a place where she felt comfortable, and wasn’t being judged. It was a time for her to take care of herself.”

These days, being home is a luxury. While the artist still lives in the family bungalow, she’s been touring more days than not, driving up and down the coast and crisscrossing the country.

After the unpredictability of tour days–punctuated by stops for tacos and favorite snacks from Whole Foods; familiar San Diego spots, from Zinc Cafe for coffee to Naked Cafe for breakfast; dinner at the Moonlight Lounge in Encinitas; and smoothies at Solana Beach’s Beaming–Prettyman is in “relax mode.” [DOES SHE MEAN SOLACE AND THE MOONLIGHT LOUNGE?]

“I’ve been doing yoga, or pilates, going on walks, meeting my mom, surfing with my dad, a lot of cooking, and a lot of reading,” she says. “When I’m home, I’m checked out.”

And as for dating? Being home might be best. Of would-be suitors, she says, “Surfing is not required but definitely helps; I love me a surf buddy! If he lives in San Diego, that also helps.”

But meeting Mr. Right isn’t all about dawn patrols and localism. “Fight for me,” she says. “I meet a lot of guys who are so intimidated by what I do. I’m holding out for the one who supports me, and believes in what I do, and treats me no different than my friends and family.”

Prettyman also learned lessons from her breakup. “It made me more aware of what I want in a relationship, and it made me want to look at myself and really get in there and do some work,” she says.

“I am pretty freaked out when it comes to commitment. You can’t go into a relationship one foot in, one foot out waiting to bolt if it doesn’t work out. … You gotta try it on, and see what it feels like and not be scared. But I am happy to say it hasn’t made me cautious. At the end of the day. I’m still a sassy, flirty lady.”

But don’t let the sass fool you: When it comes to work, Prettyman is (almost) all business. During one of her recent stints in San Diego, she offered a glimpse of her professional side, playing two sold-out nights Feb. 1-2 at Solana Beach venue The Belly Up Tavern. Maintaining her game face on home turf wasn’t as easy it looked.

“It was crazy because I knew everybody [who was there],” she says. “There were family and friends, there were people from the yoga studio, people from the [local] cafe, and I just wanted to sit on the stage and be like, ‘How are you doing? I haven’t seen you in so long.’

“I was smiling the whole time. This is my dream. This is the town that held me for the last three years while I figured my shit out. It was special, because home doesn’t happen a whole lot [anymore].”

The amazing thing about Prettyman, says yoga studio owner Stockalper, “is that she’ll go on Jay Leno, and go all over the world, and then she’ll come back and be at the Belly Up with her people, happy as a clam.”

And yet, as her career continues its steady ascent, the pressure grows, too. “It becomes a Catch-22,” Prettyman confides. “I can’t have the attitude of ‘I don’t care what happens,’ because at a certain point, are you going to go for it, or are you going to step back and wait for something to happen? So it’s a double-edged sword.”

Still, Prettyman is poised to leap, pitfalls and all. “I am working hard. …And I’m jumping in with both feet.”


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