Remember when music used to be about turning on a record, laying back in a reclining chair, having a drink in one hand and smoke in the other, relaxing, listening, and looking up at the evening sky? That’s what this self titled album from Derek and the Trees makes you want to do which is a beautiful thing.
Derek and the Trees began where a lot of great bands do — on the Jersey shore. The lead singer, writer and guitar player Derek John, had a dream and a passion stemming from early teenage years that he only recently was brought to fruition. I caught up with Derek on the beach in New Jersey to talk about his new music. Derek explained how he first heard the band at a BBQ about four years ago.
“[Their music was] playing in the backyard and I liked what I heard. So I went down to North Carolina, where they live, and recorded all the songs in one day. They were friends more than anything.” With his band just gaining momentum, the New Jersey natives music is worth checking out. (pull)His voice shifts easily from a low, calm and gentle moan to a strong and impressive wail in seconds, as you hear the true life stories of growing up on the Jersey shore.
Citing influences by Bruce Springsteen, Ben Harper and other legendary idols, Derek’s music fuses their styles together to come up with this breezy, laid back sound that effortlessly has you feeling like you’re on the beach with a beer and some good friends, smiling and surfing in the ocean. (/pull) That’s what the summer on the beach is all about, after all.
This fascinating young artist with eloquent and innovative sounds described his own music as, “Mellow and groovy, with roots mixed with folk/rock or even pop. It’s a mellow, folk rock acoustic blend. Some songs have a pop structure with a more mellow attack to that. Basically, If you took all of my influences and dumped them in the ocean.” Fair enough.
The most inspiring part of the album is that it is instantly recognizable as a work of art by someone who lives and breathes the Jersey shore He’s a true poet who takes after one of his biggest idols, Bruce Springsteen. You can just imagine him on the beach with a guitar, tan skinned with the sun shining down into his brown eyes, allowing his surroundings to give him inspiration for a new song. Derek’s beginnings are similar to the legendary Springsteen, and although his genre and sound is a bit different from that of the Boss, you can see this young man is destined for greatness.
Putting his heart into his music this football player turned beach bum turned poet claims that, “it’s very primitive for somebody to be interested in music. It’s a natural inclination to be drawn to that.” But don’t go calling this guy a musician. “I would use the term artist,” Derek explains.
“I think writing a good song is the hardest thing to do in the world. A good song writer can paint a picture or tell a story, not just write music. When you write a song, you’re doing much more than that. This is an artistic endeavor. This isn’t something I want to do for money. It’s what I want to do as a person, as a person who wants to find their place in this world. It’s much deeper than wanting to make money or wanting to be a star; that’s all well and good, and if that happens than yay! But if it doesn’t then I really don’t give a crap. If I can make music till the day I die, if my fingers and my brain allow it then I will.”
Derek looked out at the ocean and pondered, “When you write something, it’s like putting your heart on a plate and putting yourself out there.” He laughed. “It can be a terrible experience. Or it can be a wonderful experience,” he grinned.
Derek names the song Damage is Done as his personal favorite from his collection. “The lyrics are very raw and the meaning of the song get across very well.” That is something Derek prides himself on, as he should. “I take a very long time to write what I’m trying to say. There’s some bands that fill space with meaningless lyrics in their songs just to fill space. I think that’s unacceptable.” He said, shaking his head.
“I guess Ben Harper is who inspired me to be like that – he is an amazing fucking writer. A lyrical poet. He cuts no slack with his music and his lyrics. I think the hardest thing to do as a songwriter is to combine good lyrics with good music — and it’s the ultimate goal for any songwriter to mesh them together perfectly.”
That’s one thing about Derek’s music. The lyrics are very telling of his roots on the Jersey shore. Every artist does it, it’s inevitable to be affected by your surroundings. But Derek does it in such a more personal way, like he’s one of your friends, talking to you about life in Long Branch, yet there is a more universal tone that anyone can identify with.
As Derek describes, “It might be refreshing for people to hear my music because it’s so natural. A lot more natural from the fluffy stuff. Jack Johnson had major success with just a guitar and a microphone, and that’s refreshing as hell. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be good.”