20-year-old Joyce Tratnyek, a singer/songwriter and producer hailing from the busy life in New York City. Solastalgia her first album following a decade of writing lyrics and five previous single releases was released on January 7th,
At the age of 10, Joyce began her musical journey fueled by a passion for composing songs and investigated how sound could evoke emotion. Joyce was raised Portland Oregon, where she absorbed a cocktail of grunge, shoegaze, pop-rock and more. At 20 she is a singer, composer and producer all set to release her first album for the world.
Solastalgia is a testament to years spent perfecting her craft, where every note and lyric bears the weight of real emotion. Join Joyce Tratnyek in her musical tale about waves of nostalgia, traces of angst and bright colors that mark the beginning of something huge.
The album has a total of 18 unique songs, the transition between each song proves her prowess, the entire album spans 1 hour and 10 mins, this is enough time to soak into the realm on Solastalgia.
In this interview, Joyce dishes the dirt on her journey, influences and what they were that made “Solastalgia” keep ticking from climate change to mental health. Let’s plunge into the artistic space of Joyce Tratnyek and discover a unique musical world.
Listen to Solastalgia below
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What is your stage name
My stage name is Joyce Tratnyek, same as my real name.
Is there a story behind your stage name?
My parents wanted to give me a “literary” name, and so my name was inspired by James Joyce and Joyce Carol Oates. They said it was also because I brought them joy as a child.
Where do you find inspiration?
I try to find it everywhere, although I think you have to be in a certain mindset to do that. Like sometimes I’ll be bored sitting on the subway, so I’ll challenge myself to notice interesting things around me that could potentially turn into lyrics. It’s like I have to manually switch my brain into CREATIVITY: ON mode, which gets really exhausting after a while. Sometimes you just need to stare into space and let your mind rest and wander a bit instead.
What was the role of music in the early years of your life?
I always loved music, even as a child, certain melodies would make me happy and excited. I was drawn to melody, but also to words, and I loved writing from a young age. However, it wouldn’t be until I was 9 years old that I finally put the two together and started songwriting.
Are you from a musical or artistic family?
Not really! Neither of my parents are particularly artistic, although my mom played piano in her younger years. My twin sister has a really unique talent for drawing though, but she’d never admit it.
Who inspired you to be a part of the music industry?
In third grade, a friend gave me Taylor Swift’s debut album CD for my birthday. I quickly became obsessed with it, and swore that I would write songs like her.
How did you learn to sing/write/to play?
I took piano lessons as a young child, but wasn’t very invested. When I decided I wanted to start writing songs, I would just sing melodies out loud and write the lyrics on random scraps of paper. My babysitter at the time let me borrow her guitar for a few weeks and taught me some basic chords. I remember I was so tiny at the time, and the guitar was huge compared to my 9 year old body, and it also had this gecko sticker on it that would change colors when you rubbed it.
Over time, I went back to the piano, re-teaching myself some things, and making up melodies and chords that I thought sounded good. I can read music thanks to my early childhood piano lessons, but these days I mostly experiment until I find chords I like, often making them up as I go.
What was the first concert that you ever went to and who did you see perform?
When I was a child, my dad took me to one of the big concert halls in downtown Portland, Oregon (where I grew up) on New Year’s Eve to see Esperanza Spalding perform. He had always been a huge fan of her music, and also loved the fact that she was born and raised in Portland like my sister and I, so I think it was only natural that she would be my first concert. I remember getting dressed up fancier than I ever had in my life up until then, and waiting for her to come on stage.
My father and I had the nosebloodiest of nosebleed seats, we were at the literal back left corner of the highest balcony, so that if I leaned back just a little bit, my head would touch two walls. But she was the kind of performer who makes you forget all that—I remember being electrified as I heard her sing the songs I grew up hearing, like “Cinnamon Tree” and “City of Roses.” She seemed to radiate joy, like a small sun.
Even when she made a mistake or her electric bass suddenly popped out of tune, she was so graceful and elegant that I couldn’t help but fall in love with her a little bit. That wasn’t the performance that inspired me to become a performer myself, but it’s a night I’ll always remember with passion.
How could you describe your music?
I would call my music gritty yet pretty, with the sonics of grunge and shoegaze, but the melodies of pop, the dynamics of Nirvana, and the lyrics of Suzanne Vega.
Describe your creative process.
My creative process is such a mess that I barely remember what it looks like when I’m not actively doing it, ha.
What is your main inspiration?
My main inspiration is the hope that someone out there will enjoy listening to my music, and it will make them feel a bit happier, or at least understood.
What musician do you admire most and why?
I love Dave Grohl. He seems so badass, kind, and welcoming all at the same time. I admire his journey as a musician, from a self-taught drummer who dropped out of high school to tour, then the drummer for Nirvana, then the mastermind behind the Foo Fighters, one of my favorite bands ever.
He’s overcome so many things and continues to make music that’s real and authentic. He’s definitely my idol, and I would love to try his barbecue cooking and jam with him someday! Hey, stranger things have happened!
Did your style evolve since the beginning of your career?
Yes, so much! When I first started writing music, I pretty much only listened to Taylor Swift, and the music I was writing reflected that obsession, it was pretty bare-bones guitar-based pop-folk. Over time I started to diversify my music tastes, going through Bob Dylan, Twenty One Pilots, Nirvana, and K-pop phases. All of these bands still influence me. Also, learning how to produce my own music was a game changer. Suddenly, I had more options than just singing and strumming my acoustic guitar, I could make my music sound like anything I wanted.
Over time I started to lean towards louder, harsher sounds. I just think there’s something cathartic in a wall of noise. When I first heard the song “Modern Girl” by Sleater-Kinney, it felt like my entire world shifted a little bit. The way that song sounded made me feel things no other song had before—it was so gritty, grungy, and harsh, but so soft and beautiful at the same time. That’s the vibe that inspires me the most today, although I like to experiment with other styles too.
Who do you see as your main competitor?
I am my only real competitor. Even my friends here in the NYC music scene all support each other, and besides, our styles are so different from each other, that it would make no sense to compare amongst ourselves. I do get jealous of some big-name artists who are around my age, but I try to remind myself that just because I didn’t become famous at 16 or whatever, that doesn’t mean that I will never be successful, since no one’s journey is the same.
What are your interests outside of music?
Outside of music, I love animals, the environment, reading, fashion, and graphic design.
If it wasn’t a music career, what would you be doing?
I would be doing graphic design, for sure! That’s my other passion aside from music, and it’s actually my major in college right now. I got into it by designing my album art as a teenager, and now I design all my own visuals, including album covers, CD packaging, and merch. I go to Parsons School of Design in New York. It’s so exciting for me to explore all the ways that music and design intertwine with each other.
What is the biggest problem you have encountered in the journey of music?
I think getting people to listen to your music is really hard, there are so many independent artists releasing new stuff these days, and lots of it doesn’t get heard, or at least not by people who will truly appreciate it. A lot of people just like to listen to familiar music, which I understand, making room for new artists in your heart is hard. It’s one thing to just get in front of new people and let them know you make music, but it’s even harder to get them to actually listen to it—I think listening to new music is a leap of faith, and it can even get overwhelming sometimes. I think of music as sort of an unspoken bond between the artist and the listener.
If you could change one thing in the music industry, what would it be?
I honestly love being born in this generation, because I think I was born to be a DIY artist, and there’s no better time to do that, with the accessibility of resources and technology. But there are definitely things that still need to change. One thing I believe is that we should have more female producers, and women should learn to produce their own music. When I did, it was literally a game changer, it finally felt like my music was my own.
I’m not saying all female artists need to produce all their own releases and never get help from other, likely male, producers or engineers, just that it’s amazingly empowering and helpful to meet those people at their level and speak to them in their language in the studio. I’ve been talked over by male producers as a child recording my first songs, and I still remember the way it stung. Now, making music has never felt more freeing.
Why did you choose this as the title of this project?
Solastalgia is a word I came across while reading an article about how climate change can affect mental health, especially for Gen Zers such as myself. It’s a recently-coined word, referring to the distress people feel due to environmental change around them. “Hopeless” is the thematic heart of the album, as I wrote it about how thinking about climate change gives me suicidal thoughts.
However, the rest of the album looks at the title in a more abstract way, not necessarily related to physical environment, although I have a habit of using weather, nature, or seasonal metaphors in my songs. In the context of most of the album, solastalgia is basically referring to a complicated blend of emotional pain: nostalgia, fear, depression, loneliness, boredom, anger, and longing for things I can never have.
What are your plans for the coming months?
I’ll be busy with many artistic projects! Most likely I’ll release a single or two to follow Solastalgia, and try to get into playing shows more often in NYC. I would love to do a tour for Solastalgia, I’m hoping maybe in a few years. I also want to experiment with making more of my own music videos, producing songs for other artists, and co-writing more often.
Do you have any artistic collaboration plans?
Not right now!
What message would you like to give to your fans?
I appreciate each and every one of you, even if we’ve never met. I hope we can someday, and I hope my music can be there for you when you feel most alone, the way my favorite artists are there for me. You can always dm me on instagram if you want to talk 🙂