In this single from Tristen's fourth studio album, Aquatic Flowers, the Nashville singer-songwriter examines the complexes that keep people trapped in bad patterns. "'Complex' casts an eye on someone trapped in a cycle of self-sabotage," Tristen explained in a press release. "It's about someone who actually feels comfortable repeating the same patterns and making the same mistakes because - even though they're painful, even though they're clearly unhealthy - they are, more importantly, familiar. The song asks: how many of us blackout, stumbling forth, blindly operated by the unconscious, the complexes that keep us attracted to our own familiar downfall?"
Tristen told the Songfacts Podcast
she was inspired by her own journey of self-discovery. "Starting around 27, I did some Eastern philosophy to get some self-work and some understanding and self-awareness," she recalled in the 2022 interview.
"Life has a way of hitting you over the head with the same issues until you address them. Some people, they just get hit over the head forever, but you can repeat bad behaviors and bad patterns up to a point, and your late twenties is really a good time where you start to address that, hopefully. I've worked later in life on figuring out some issues with self-help and therapy."
Tristen started working on the album prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, while she was still pregnant with her son, Julian. Her condition made singing a challenge, especially as the baby continued to grow.
"We began recording when Julian was in my belly," she told The East Nashvillian
. "He was in a breech position, so his head was up against my lungs, and I couldn't catch my breath as fast."
Tristen told the Songfacts Podcast that the process of writing and recording the album was a lot simpler than her previous efforts, which had her bringing upwards 30 songs to the studio, most of which wouldn't make the final cut.
She said, "For this record, we said, Look, we're not going to bite off these huge chunks of music. We're just going to pick a couple of songs, have sessions, finish them, pick a couple of songs, have sessions, finish them. We really were only working on two to three songs at a time."
Tristen made the album with her longtime musical partner and husband, Buddy Hughen, whom she met when she first moved to Nashville in 2007. She told The East Nashvillian how their working relationship evolved. "The process has been figured out. We have a different attitude about simplifying our arrangements these days, because you've got to be able to play these things live," she explained. "The songs on Aquatic Flowers were based around Buddy and I playing instruments at the same time. We'd build a track around that, and we would finish each song entirely before moving on to something new."
"We used to have arguments about the songs, a long time ago," she continued. "Buddy went to Berklee, so he has a certain toolkit and a certain kind training that makes him someone I need. But he also used to say, 'You can't play that chord and sing that note at the same time,' and I'd say, 'Yes I can, because it sounds weird and good.' I don't have that kind of training, so I'm just relying on instincts. It's a good partnership. We work well together."