"When some of their biggest fans include members of delirious? and SONICFLOOd, you know a band comes highly recommended. With much anticipation, Tree63 delivers their self-titled U.S. debut (inpop Records), which features modern rock worship at its finest. As part of SONICFLOOd’s fall 2000 U.S. tour, Tree63 proved why they became the success story from the UK’s Soul Survivor festival in 1998, the country’s largest Christian music festival. Tree63 exhibits the band’s signature large modern rock sound as the backdrop for a unique collection of modern worship songs. The collaboration between John (lead vocals/guitar), Darryl (drums/backing vocals) and Martin (bass/backing vocals) has produced both a musical and lyrical depth that is unsurpassed. The project is a hybrid of newer material and existing repertoire that has been a part of the band’s live performances over the past few years. Tree63 came to America thanks to inpop Records partner Wes Campbell. Campbell was drawn to visit the band after hearing a demo from inpop president Dale Bray. Campbell tells a great story about hearing the band perform for the first time. When he visited the band in their hometown of Durban, South Africa, they announced that they had set up a concert at a large local venue for Campbell. Campbell was very nervous, feeling the band might have chosen too large a venue to showcase their talents. To his surprise and amazement, the band packed the hall, turning away hundreds of fans. It is then, he knew he had to sign this band, and it was this kind of audience reception that has continued to surround Tree63 since its inception just a few years ago.
John Ellis, Darryl Swart and Martin Engel will be the first to tell you they never really expected to be where they are today. Tree63 has made history in its home country by being one of the only Christian bands to ever rise to the top of the nation’s mainstream radio chart. The group’s single, “A Million Lights,” recently reached the #2 slot on the mainstream chart while simultaneously holding the #1 position on every Christian radio station in the country. Tree63 was formed in late 1996 when John, Darryl and a former bass player assembled to perform at a Durban Christian music festival produced by Martin. The group was originally known as “Tree,” reflecting on the imagery of trees in the Bible. (“The Bible begins and ends with a tree, and in the very middle is Christ, who hangs from one,” John explains.) The band continued to be booked at various events and in mid-1997 made a decision to record some of the original songs that had become a part of their live shows. This very first independently produced project was called Overflow, and was recorded in Martin’s studio. “It was never our intention to say, ‘Hey, let’s start a Christian band and make albums,’” John shares. “I was writing songs anyway, and God was a big part of our lives, so we just wanted to do something with our music.”
“We want our music to be relevant to our generation. A lot of our vision is to be able to let people know that Christianity is cool, but it’s not for wimps. It’s for strong people, even though the world’s perception may be the opposite. It’s a hard road to travel sometimes, and a narrow one, but the rewards at the end are great. We’ve just got to keep on being faithful.”
Overflow created quite a buzz for the band in just a few short months, and in early 1998 went on the road with another Christian act from Durban called MIC. For the first time, Tree63 traveled outside of South Africa, taking its live show into Europe where it received an incredibly warm welcome. It was during this time that well-known modern worship leader Matt Redman invited the band to perform at the Soul Survivor festival in the UK. On the very first night of the event, Tree63 walked on stage and opened for the popular British worship band delirious?. “We got an incredible response,” John recalls. “We were so well received it was beyond our wildest expectations. I think the audience was really drawn to the fact that even though we have a really good time on stage and we love to perform, our emphasis is really on worship more than performance. We can’t help but for the worship to come through in what we do on stage. We just love to worship God in the middle of this big rock and roll sound.” Through a continued relationship with Matt Redman that year, Tree63 was eventually signed to a recording contract with Kingsway Music, and began working on a second album in April of 1999. The second album was titled 63, named after Psalm 63 (which is also referenced in the band’s new name), and was released in the UK during the summer of 1999. By the time 63 was released in South Africa at the end of the year, Martin had joined the group on the road as the new bass player. The album generated quite a bit of interest for the band in the United States, which led to the group’s eventual signing to inpop for a U.S. release. The brand new self-titled release for Tree63 marks its introduction to America and includes new recordings of some of the band’s original material from the first two projects. The songs have a fresh, sonic appeal that will now be showcased to a brand new audience who will be hearing this band for the very first time. The project includes the song “Joy,” which has been previously recorded 4 times for other praise and worship compilations including “Worship Together.”
As the new project releases in America, the band continues to take each day’s opportunities one by one. While it continues to keep a busy promotional schedule, Tree63 joined SONICFLOOd on the road this past fall for a 40-city tour of the U.S. – the band’s first American tour, and will join Rebecca St. James on her fall 2001 U.S. tour. As preparations are under way, John, Darryl and Martin are looking forward to being able to bring their own brand of modern worship to a whole new audience. “These songs are really important to us,” Darryl shares. “They are truly from our hearts. We want our music to be relevant to our generation. A lot of our vision is to be able to let people know that Christianity is cool, but it’s not for wimps. It’s for strong people, even though the world’s perception may be the opposite. It’s a hard road to travel sometimes, and a narrow one, but the rewards at the end are great. We’ve just got to keep on being faithful.” John adds, “In a lot of ways, we feel like this is a new band with a fresh vision. God’s plan has always been greater than we could have ever conceived, but even if we don’t ever sell another record or if the band should stop tomorrow, we feel like we’ve really achieved what He’s had for us. We trusted God even when there wasn’t a clear focus on what we were to do. When you give it all up to God, isn’t it funny how He gives it all back to you – and even more than you could have ever imagined? That’s how we feel now.”
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