Before it was the popular thing to do in CCM, Tree63 released modern day worship music. This wasn’t just good worship music, it was quality music. In 2001, Tree63 was awarded the Dove Award for Rock album of the Year for their Inpop Records self-titled debut. Unfortunately, the group decided to disband. However, following a seven year hiatus, this South African band has decided that they weren’t done. They announced a KickStarter (that is still ongoing) for a new record to be released in the summer of 2015. I recently spoke to Tree63’s John Ellis about the upcoming release.
Gabe: Growing up in South Africa, how did you become interested in making music?
John: Africa, as I’m sure you’re aware, is a very musical place, but growing up in Apartheid South Africa as a white suburbanite, we were really only exposed to European radio hits and European/American culture. So, as a young kid, it was first Elvis and then The Beatles that inspired me to make music.
Gabe: It’s been about 7 years since Tree63 put out a record. What are some reasons you guys decided to come back?
John: We played together in South Africa in April 2014, and we just realized we had stopped short in 2007; we had so much music still in us as a group. The sound we make is very special and very unique, and it has a lot of life in it still, so it was tempting to make another record together and see what this version of Tree63 might sound like.
Gabe: From your perspective, how has worship music evolved over the last decade?
John: It’s become very vibrant, but also extremely commodified and competitive as a business endeavor. It’s exciting and challenging at the same time: exciting because it’s still necessary, challenging because it’s such a long way from where it needs to be. This is the collective worship of the living God, after all, not a mere genre of music. It’s a very fine line…
Gabe: Over the years, what are some things that have inspired Tree63 to write songs?
John: The search for a more genuine, more honest way to express belief and hope, as well as some of the inevitable doubts and confusions that come with trying to follow Christ in an era in which the meaning of spirituality has all but disappeared.
Gabe: What are you most proud of as an artist that you got to do with Tree63? What’s left to accomplish?
John: Tree63 managed to fuse genuine rock ‘n roll with spiritual curiosity… Tree63 wasn’t born in the church, it was born in the clubs and on the street, and the songs were able to reach a far broader audience than just ‘other members of the same choir.’ Tree63 also spoke to believers whose faith was rocked by the inevitable failings of humanity this side of eternity; the songs honestly addressed despair and disappointment as well as hope and joy. That is the never-ending mission: to confront dangerously simplistic expressions of faith with honesty and a desire for reality, so as to inspire deeper hope, deeper joy, deeper maturity. And to have something to hum in the shower!
To be apart of the new record, visit Tree63’s Kickstarter page: www.kickstarter.com/projects/tree63/the-new-tree63-record. And be sure to follow them on Twitter: @Tree_63