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Tree63 Bibliography: (click on each album cover to view tracks and Tree63 lyrics)
Each day is full of constant curveballs and soul-searching, but out of our most vulnerable and defenseless periods often come the most valuable lessons of character, spiritual sharpening and insight to the questions that weigh heavy on our hearts. The members of Tree63 can certainly relate to having their artistic pursuits and personal plans being tumultuously tossed around since the release of 2002's The Life and Times of Absolute Truth, but that spin cycle has also spawned their most visible growth on all planes.
"It's been an incredibly challenging and difficult time for all concerned," notes front man John Ellis. "Throughout this last year and a bit, we've continued to believe that Tree63 has a distinct and definite calling from God, but the circumstances that God has led us through have often tempted us all to believe the opposite. The last record didn't sell as well as we'd hoped in the U.S.; our drummer Darryl [Swart] left the band in July '03 after seven years; not to mention the additional responsibilities related to our ever-expanding families. We've endured uprooting ourselves from South Africa once again and a constant feeling that we're not achieving anything. And yet we've all come out still committed to God's plans for our lives. Growth indeed!" he affirms.
As much as such circumstances could have warranted throwing in the towel, there were several career milestones that were impossible to ignore. After all, since 1999 the South African-bred troupe defied the odds by not only topping their homeland's mainstream charts, but securing spots in American waters as well. The group's venerable string of singles from its self-titled Inpop debut, including "Look What You've Done" and "Treasure," which hit #1 stateside, resulted in the 2001 Dove Award for "Rock Album of the Year." Tree63 was also featured as part of 2002's Festival Con Dios, performing for thousands on a nightly basis and garnering consistent critical praise.
But amidst the attention and accolades garnered throughout their American introduction, Ellis and company remained committed to God's master plan instead of faltering with ego swell or directional doubt. Along with exposing wounds from Tree63's recent season of change, perhaps that unwavering steadfastness is what makes the lyrical dichotomy of 2004's The Answer to the Question so intriguing.
"Tree63 is not called to just entertain. We've been called to proclaim Christ, and there's an enormous difference," clarifies Ellis. "There are many artists we've met who do have a calling to entertain, to 'rock the flock,' so to speak, and so long as they're following God that's fine. But Tree63 has a prophetic edge that keeps us always searching for other ways to do things, and that puts us out on the edge sometimes."
Tree63's distinct vocals and intimate lyrics fill the disc with a current of spirituality, unwavering trust and complete surrender. The band finds its foundational footing amidst "Now My Eyes Are Open," retools its evangelical focus on "I Stand For You," casts aside the world's temptations and pressures on "Overdue," and bows down in humble praise before "Blessed Be Your Name." It's a topical turnstile that further delivers practicality throughout the life-affirming "Let Your Day Begin" and the victorious empowerment of "So Glad."
"There's a real intimacy in the lyrics, a way of addressing Jesus that is integral to the way I pray and write songs-the intimacy this band was first built on," reflects Ellis on the regained balance. "Some of our music is prophetic, some contemplative, some confrontational-all worship ultimately. That's what Tree63 is truly about. This is a record of songs about God, about our love for Jesus, about some of the frustrations that come with being alive with Christ in a world dead with sin."
On the sonic front, Tree63's passion breaks through yet again, revisiting its revered muses (The Police, U2, Crowded House, Coldplay) without sounding derivative. Cuts like the anthemic "King" tower with blood pumping aggression, "You Only" saunters with guitar-driven purpose and rhythmic attitude, while "Over & Over" capitalizes on Ellis' distinct wail and a series of inviting instrumental flourishes.
"We try to keep constantly aware of what's currently in fashion, but at the same time to draw carefully and wisely-and tastefully!-from the pool of our influences," explains Ellis. "There are only so many 'rules' when it comes to sonics: it's all been done before, it just costs more these days! We don't want to keep repeating ourselves. This new record happens to be the closest we've ever come to capturing the true essence of what Tree63 is live, which is exciting."
In keeping with the band's road warrior tradition, the remainder of this year will be spent on tour in support of the project. More than just commanding concert crowds with their sheer performance aptitude or production spectacle, the guys hope their stretched insights will convey a message that's insightful yet digestible for all audiences, regardless of anyone's faith level.
"We'd love to see this music excite people who didn't know that being a Christian is actually the most awesome thing one could possibly do with one's life," affirms Ellis. "Hopefully, Tree63's style makes our message palatable enough to make non-believers at least curious. We want to honor God with our talents and gifting, to be faithful in our calling and to celebrate as we see God's will for our lives-and for the lives of those we come into contact with-come to pass. That's all we can do."