Tristan Barton’s twin daughters are only 11 days old, so it’s a small miracle he’s able to speak today. He seems happy and dazed – a bit sleep-deprived – and totally in love with the 2 tiny creatures gurgling off-screen. But today, we’re here to talk about another great love of his – music – and how he came to produce some of the most moving, emotive and downloaded music in Artlist’s catalog.
You might be familiar with “The Racer” – an epic, cinematic track that combines violins, bass and percussion to create a tense, masterful and hauntingly beautiful piece. It’s the perfect soundtrack to the final scene of a sci-fi fantasy or the heroic last battle of a superhero movie. The track was originally made for a short film by Brad Day called “The Racer,” which went on to win Best Drama Short in 2019’s International Motor Film Awards. Tristan’s a little modest about his award count – many of the short films he’s worked on have won awards, and he was a Queensland Music Awards 2021 Finalist. Tristan was also Nominated Composer for the 2019 Motor Film Awards, but all he has to say about it is, “yeah, I guess I’ve had a couple of noms.”
‘The Racer‘ is a slow-building orchestral composition
led by a layered string section that evokes an emotional intensity
Tristan’s Aussie, so he likes to abbreviate words. Today he’s speaking from his house in Cairns, Brisbane, but he moved around a lot as a kid because his dad was in the navy. He was born in Sydney and then moved to the States for a few years, then back to Australia, where the family lived between Canberra and Cairns. Tristan and his 3 siblings switched cities and schools every couple of years until the family finally settled in Cairns.
When music is your happy place
Tristan was 13 when he picked up drums – or, more accurately, they picked up him. He was obsessed with Dream Theater, an American prog-rock band known for their technical prowess and complex drum scores. “It’s like prog rock music, but then the singer sounds like he’s an opera singer. It’s cool. It’s different.” Tristan could not get enough of it. He joined school bands and programs and went on to study jazz at CQU in Mackay, Queensland.
Music is Tristan’s happy place, so you can imagine his mood when he learned he would spend part of his course on a tropical island. “Have you heard of the Whitsunday Islands? They’re these beautiful islands surrounded by a coral reef, and the university had an agreement we’d go there 6 times a year for a week and play for free to the guests.” So Tristan got his musical education performing with 120 of his mates on an island in paradise. No wonder his music’s so beautiful.
‘Revelations‘ features celestial strings, elegant piano, natural sounds
and unparalleled cinematic build through subtly escalating tension.
For the last year of his degree, Tristan studied composition in Japan, where he got a taste for the art of music-making. After he graduated, he moved to Paris, where he did nothing but make beats in the library all day. “I’d just jam out and make beats and stuff and honed my production skills without knowing where it was going,” Tristan says. “[The music] was shit, so bad, but so much fun.” His partner at the time was a singer and worked with music licensing platforms, which is when Tristan realized production could be a viable career. He sent a couple of tracks to a couple of labels and felt very sad when he never heard back.
They’re super easy to work with, and they give me the freedom to be myself as an artist, which is super important.
Tristan moved back to Cairns in 2012 and worked in hospitality for a few years. At some point, he stopped producing hip hop and started working on the epic, cinematic music he’s famous for today. He never quite got the hang of hip hop, but he took to this style right away. “I picked up cinematic production quite quickly,” he says. “I liked the visual appeal – soundscapes with thematic motives driving the ideas. So that’s what I pitched to publishers in the early stages, and I got my foot in the door with cinematic, soundscape-style music.”
‘Thoughts In Motion‘ is a unique collection of cinematic themes with
flawless ethereal Vocals and samples for enhanced intensity and flavor.
Once he’d got one foot in the door, his entire world followed. No one could overlook Tristan’s talent. He says his music is driven by emotions and feelings and designs each track to make his readers feel a certain way. “I specifically like builds. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated, and I don’t use every musical technique – I just want people to feel something, and if I succeed, then I’m happy with it.”
Tristan joined forces with Artlist in 2016. He’s a bit of an anomaly because he only has 20 tracks in the catalog, but he’s still one of the top-performing artists on the site. Brands like Sony, Audi, Tiffany & Co, Salvatore Ferragamo, Panado, Zodiac have used his music, and he’s worked with film director Jordan Taylor Wright (Justin Bieber, Usher, Chainsmokers) on influencer campaigns for major brands. In addition, Tristan has produced and performed with dozens of independent Australian solo artists, including Greta Stanley Collin Lillie, Matilda Duncan and Tayla Young, and he continues to play the odd show as a drummer as well.
Tristan is a big fan of Artlist. “I think what they’re doing is really cool, really different.” He says he loves the freedom Artlist gives him – he’ll write a track to brief and keep the rights to it, so he can toy around with it later and continue to push his creativity.
“They’re super respectful to the artist,” Tristan says. “They kinda let you do what you want, and that takes a lot of trust. But they’ve stood behind [my music] since day one. They’re super easy to work with, and they give me the freedom to be myself as an artist, which is super important.”
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Losing yourself in music
Tristan feels most inspired when he hears music that triggers an emotion in him – then he’ll go on a mission to find out how the artist does it. “In jazz, they say first you imitate, then you innovate,” Tristan says. “When I hear artists I like, I’ll try to imitate a certain aspect in my own way, and it often triggers this whole other idea that has nothing to do with the original idea that inspired me. It’s almost more exciting.”
Tristan says sometimes he’ll get so carried away writing music it feels like he’s blacked out and come to again. “I love messing around with rhythm in subtle ways,” he says. “I write rhythmically – it’s not overly complex. It’s about finding the right place for it. Like putting a puzzle together.”
Tristan is happiest when lost in music, and he’s currently working on a whole bunch of projects and says he has a lot of new music to share over the next 12 months. He’s currently working on a new track for Artlist, which he describes as a “cinematic, upbeat, uplifting, pop track with super positive vibes.” He says the ultimate dream is to produce scores for feature-length films – “just something to sink my teeth into for 3 to 6 months and really shape the sound of a story.”
And just on cue, a light wailing sound comes from the other room. “Sorry,” Tristan says with that dazed, happy look. “I’m going to have to get back to the girls.”
If you’d like to use Tristan Barton’s music in your film or project, check out his page on Artlist.
Alice Austin is a freelance writer from London. She writes for Mixmag, Beatportal, Huck, Dummy, Electronic Beats, Red Bulletin and more. She likes to explore youth and sub-culture through the lens of music, a vocation that has led her around the world. You can contact and/or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.