AltWire presents: an interview with Trees of Life
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Straight out of North Orlando, FL, The Trees of Life, comprised of:
Skylar Rush – Drum/Vocals
Bobby Fields – Percussion/Vocal
James White – Guitar/Lead Vocals
Tim Samples – Guitar
Dave Swanson – Bass
The trio brings a fusion of rock, reggae, funk, and blues to bring a unique collective sound. Their newly released EP, “Here We Grow” gives their audience a glimpse on their journey.
On November 11, 2017, they joined the lineup for Cocoa Florida’s 2nd annual Rootfire at the Park. They took the time out of their busy schedule to chat with our team about their life so far and their upcoming plans.
For our readers, and those who haven’t yet heard of you, can you please tell us a little about yourself, the band, and your musical style?
James: Music style-wise, every single member of the band comes from a different background. It’s kinda amazing to see guys from different styles of music in the past all come together to do this reggae-rock, jam band type of feel.
Tim’s got a blues background, he’s a dead head. Dave does metal and funk, Bobby, our percussionist was a lead singer for a band called Syllable 7 out in Baton Rouge, and they were a funky hip hop act. As far as a style, we all take influence from different places of the world.
At the end of the day being able to come together to play this type of music has been a truly beautiful experience to be able focus on a positive message and be able to jam at the same time.
Did you come from a musical background?
Skylar: I started playing the drums as a kid, much to my parents’ dismay at the time. (laughs) I couldn’t get beats and rhythms out of my head, and I just practiced as much as I could until it started to sound good.
Bobby: I don’t think anybody in my family ever played music prior to me, that I know of. But, there’s always a heavy respect and interest for it, so I grew up kinda submerged in it. Live music has always been an exciting thing for the people I grew up around but I think I might be the first to have gotten involved in it from a performance standpoint.
James: My dad was a lead guitar player, I completely refused it for the longest. I didn’t want to be like my old man at the time, we definitely butted heads when I was a kid. But, by the time I was 21 we became friends and rekindled the relationship. It only took til I was 15 or 16, and I picked up the bass and that’s where I started. This is my first time being a frontman. I’ve always had a supporting role as a guitarist or backup vocals.
How and when did you realize music was your calling?
Skylar: As soon as I picked up a pair of drumsticks I knew I was hooked. I knew there was nothing else for me. It was always what I wanted to do, it’s where I feel most like myself, where I feel most at home. And, more importantly, where I feel most inspired, it’s music. As soon as I caught that feeling, that was it, I made my mind up.
Bobby: It comes and goes for me, kinda like schizophrenia does (laughs). I got pretty heavily involved in music in like 5th, 6th, and 7th grade, and then dropped for several years then got involved again after high school and then dropped it another few years and got involved again. Kinda split personality sort of thing but it’s always been inspiring and passionate whether I was performing on stage or watching from in front. It’s always been deep in my heart and soul for sure.
Which musical artists have inspired you?
James: The Beatles, Burton Cummings most recently a band called Dispatch. I think that’s the best part of the Trees Of Life, we’re not a reggae band, we’re not a rock band, we’re not a hip-hop group but we do have a little bit of all of those.
Skylar: For me personally, I fell in love with The Red Hot Chilli Peppers at a young age, like early Chilli Peppers when they were real funky and gritty. I love The Roots, Tribe Called Quest, classic hip hop, the Marleys, all the Marleys as far as reggae goes, Black Uhuru, even back to Al Green and some classics like Curtis Mayfield. Bobby and I have a similar taste in music.
Bobby: It’s pretty widespread for me, from classics to jam bands to dead, Galactic, I grew up in Louisiana so New Orleans funk and jazz is a huge influence. Funk hits me in the heartstrings more than anything. In my teens, Dispatch brought me around to what we’re doing right now. As far as personal performance style, Sage Francis.
How did you decide which songs went into your EP, “Here We Grow” how did you decide which songs went into it and which didn’t?
Bobby: Right now we have 30-some songs.
James: When we did our EP, honestly, I tried to remember what were the first 7 songs that I wrote, and that’s what went on the EP, literally. We discarded “Lions Sleep No More”, because it didn’t fit as a compilation. Those 7 songs were 7 of the first 8 songs I ever wrote myself. I’ve been performing solo for 8 years and with the band for 2 and a half and I wanted to get those over with.
Skylar: Since then our writing process has certainly evolved. Bobby has pages and pages of lyrics, I have a couple of pages myself. Tim is a hell of a writer too. That’s a beautiful thing about this collection of human beings and musicians, we’re all writers. We stay very open to everyone’s writing style, lyrics and contribution so that we can all be the most genuine collaboration that we can be. Otherwise, we’re just trying too hard and it comes out false. We try to be the as genuine to each individual in the band so we can give the most collective sound that we can.
What have been the most unusual/strangest experiences during a show?
Skylar: It was awesome, don’t get me wrong, the people were welcoming, phenomenal, eccentric, they’re brilliant artists but it was a colorful collection of people at an old military compound that was converted into a flea market and we were in the middle of it with all this weird stuff!
Another unique unusual fact about the band is that Bobby was actually the original drummer. My mom bought me a shirt that was too small for Christmas, and I went to return it and right next to the store was a Radio Shack where James used to work. So I went in there and I was getting headphones to wear for when I practiced. James asked what I did and I said “I’m a drummer” and he said “I got a guy for you!” James and I exchanged numbers and Bobby was working a locksmith gig that was 12 to 14 hours a day. James and I got together and played a little bit and Bobby comes back on our EP release show, and he looks at me in the middle of a set and asked “can I play the djembe?” And I said “hell yeah, get up onstage!” So he started playing the djembe and he did a verse and it was like “oh my god we can never part with this guy ever again!” So Bobby was the original drummer and I know it sounds brash but I took his job and then he came back in a huge way and in my opinion he’s become a solidifying factor in The Trees of Life. In my opinion, without Bobby there’s no Trees of Life.
What are some personal hobbies that you enjoy when you’re not performing or recording?
Skylar: I like to surf and draw a little bit, we all get into our own kind of trouble as a hobby (laughs). Either be good, or don’t get caught type of thing (laughs).
Bobby: I spend most of my time when I’m not playing music, either meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with my wife and mutts.
James: I’m a truth seeker, I do a lot of research. I do have a serious enjoyment for fishing even though I have not acted on that lately. But it’s something I need to get back doing. I’ve been getting caught up on work and pushing the music. Other than that researching life and trying to find my own truth is my focus and the message I want to put forth in my music.
What advice would you give up and coming artists?
James: Everything at the end of the day comes down to effort level. You need to make sure that every move you make has intention. Us as a band, we classify the different shows that we take. Some are money making shows. It might be some dive bar where there’s 40 people but you can make $600 a night, it’s a money show. You’ve got shows out there that are what I call influencer shows. You’re doing a favor for somebody to maybe get something down the road, you know what I mean?. Those shows you can’t ask for money. Then you get exposure shows like Rootfire today, which is an honor to be a part of. Everyone close to you is still coming but there are so many people that are involved. I don’t expect anything because it’s all about spreading the love, getting the word out that you’re there. It’s all about finding balance of making capital to help push the band and push everything forward but also making the sacrifices needed to create the exposure needed to build a fan base. At the end of the day, if you got it in your heart that music is what you want to do, you have to put in the effort level.
What is the greatest advice you’ve ever received that has helped you in your career so far?
Skylar: I remember Bobby was telling me a story about how he had spoken to a musician who was very popular in the early 2000’s and kinda fizzled out, but is still active, though not quite where he was. He said “Be kind to everybody on your way up, because at some point there might be a way down. If you’re a dick on the way up, when you do experience a low in your career or god forbid, a total drop, you’re going to need those people that you were kind to in order for you maintain your career and continue to make this music you love to do. Moral of the story, no matter how quickly or deep your recognition gets or if you have a couple of songs that absolutely blow up, don’t think that’s the end all be all. Continue to be humble and nice to everyone. That’s what it’s all about. You never know when this music community you cherish, will be there to build you back up.
What’s currently in store for the band?
Skylar: We have a full studio album coming out in spring 2018, “We’re All Connected”, with 14 songs, we have about 30 originals ready to go. We’re so excited to drop this album. We’ve been working on it for the better part of the past year and a half. We’ve gone through a couple of rocky relationships with various musicians in order to get it done. We’ve put our blood, sweat and tears into it.
James: All the songs from the original “Here We Grow EP” are completely redone. Now that we have Bobby back, he’s added in all the songs. He wasn’t in the EP at the time. We’ll be performing with Supervillains on New Year’s Eve at Sanford, Fl and we’re always excited to play with those guys. Other than that we hope to continue playing this music because we love to play it for everybody.
Is there a message that you would like to send to your fans and our readers?
James: We’re all connected, you are not alone, keep it simple, use what works. Here we grow!
Bobby: Love yourself, no one else has the opportunity to.
Skylar: it’s all about community effort. None of us can do anything on our own at the end of the day. People play supporting roles to accomplish anything that you want. It’s a fact of life. Focus on the things you have control of which is your reaction to life not life itself. Life happens for you, not against you.
We love you, and we love the human race and it’s really what we’re all about. We hope you love you!
Connect with The Trees of Life:
Official Website: http://thetreesof.life/