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Tree63 not growing any roots

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THE Lead singer of Tree63, John Ellis, has dispelled rumours that their reunion for an impending tour is permanent.

“This tour was prompted by Splashy Fen’s 25th anniversary, a festival which helped so many bands out over the years including us.”

He said when they were invited to play it prompted him to think of the Tree63 legacy and he decided if the other two band members were going to fly out from the US, they might as well add a few extra dates.

“This is not a career move. It’s to remind the public what Tree63 was. We tend to get left out of the South African narrative. Very few bands had an international impact like we did. We’re seen as a religious band which delegitimised our achievements. People say we didn’t deserve success, but success is success.

“We didn’t play music to save souls, we played it for the sheer love of rock ’n’ roll and the sheer joy of making music as a band.”

When they formed in 1996, Ellis was going through a spiritual revolution, which his lyrics reflected.

“I was a songwriter who started singing about what I was feeling spiritually, about this newfound spiritual awareness. It’s been a weird journey... it’s about songs and at heart I am a songwriter, which is why my solo career focuses on singing/ songwriting.”

They achieved huge success particularly on the Christian scene.

“To this day I don’t know how we got big. At that time I was in a spiritual place and I had bigger fish to fry.”

He recalls fondly how 5FM’s Chris Prior played a St Legend demo which was Ellis’s band before Tree. Alex Jay also picked up on a Tree63 demo and played it on 5FM: “In those days the DJs were allowed to play what they wanted to which means they meant something to music.”

The band was then offered a deal in 2000 and by 2003 they were so popular in the US they had to relocate: “From then on it was… constant touring and releasing an album every two years.”

By 2007 he took a sabbatical and returned to South Africa: “Suddenly it’s seven years later and you’re like, ‘hang on’. I am glad I came back here on lots of levels.

“The thing is, we were popular and successful in the US and toured the world. I am doing other things I enjoy, but I can’t only make a living from music in South Africa.

“Tree63 left a body of six albums and several songs over the course of the 10 years, some of which people still get married to.”

• Catch Tree63 at Atterbury Theatre, Pretoria, on April 14, April 15, and Splashy Fen on April 17.

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