Umbrella Tree is a trio from Nashville, TN who banded together in the summer of 2005. (From left to right in photo) Derek Pearson plays drums, Jillian Leigh sings and tickles the keys and Zachary Gresham sings and plays guitar and bass. They have released three full-length albums along with a digital download of acoustic songs. Their music has been described as progressive rock, gothic musical theatre and bohemian bookworm pop. Scattered as those depictions may be, one adjective representing their music remains consistent: indescribable.
On August 2005, the spry trio played their very first show at The Basement on New Faces night. The tiny club underneath Grimey's Record Store filled to the brim with many supporting friends eager to hear what the three had been up to all summer. With the crowd's approval, Umbrella Tree felt motivated to play more shows and record, record, record.
Their debut-album, What Kind of Books Do You Read?, was released in Spring of 2006 not even a full year after the three members had connected. Zachary recorded the project in an attic in East Nashville with his half-inch 8-track tape machine. With only 8 tracks, the band was very limited with their arrangements. Nevertheless, they remained ambitious, recording sometimes with two to three instruments on one track. The album was then mixed by Loney Hutchins and mastered by Al Willis.
What Kind of Books Do You Read? was received well by listeners hitting the top of the best sellers list at Grimey's several times during the year. The lyrical content of the album, written by Zachary and Jillian, circles around themes such as animals, ghosts, fistfights and westerns. Whimsical and fun, this album showcases the band's musical abilities in the very simpliest form.
Not long after their first release, Umbrella Tree was knee-deep in another project.The Church and The Hospital was released in February of 2008 with an In-Store at Grimey's and a long awaited release show at Mercy Lounge. Donning all white garbs to promote the album's conceptual themes, Umbrella Tree cranked-up the theatrics by including strange performances such as a sign-language translator, a puppet-show and a tea party complete with tea-sipping grandmothers.
This album was recorded and mixed by Jeremy Ferguson at Battle Tapes Recording in East Nashville and mastered by Jim Demain at Yes Master Studios. This time Umbrella Tree decided to incorporate a myriad of other musicians besides themselves. A culmination of string and brass instruments such as harp, violin, cello, trumpet, tuba and saxophone permeated the album to create more musical depth than their last installment. And since working digitally allowed for limitless track possibilities, each song was seasoned with layers and layers of dramatic instrumentation.
The Church and The Hospital was not intended to be conceptual at the beginning. A theme magically presented itself once most of the lyrics were completed. Zachary was focused on his experience with Orthodoxy and so naturally his lyrics gravitated toward the Church while Jillian's lyrics skirted around her own experiences with hospitals. Suddenly parallels appeared between the two different settings: priests and doctors, the crucifix and the red cross, the need for healing both spiritually and physically. Thus, a concept was born. Thus, a record was born!
After the fires of The Church and The Hospital cooled down, the group decided to record a few acoustic tracks at the Prizefighter Compound. This album includes remakes of songs from previous records such as "Whitesox" which is really "Wisemen" with lyrics concerning baseball instead of war. Also a brand-spanking new song called, "Souls are Warm Like Eskimos" found itself positioned happily alongside classics such as "Donnybrook Fair" and "Nursing the Patience". Recorded and mixed by Justin Herlocker and mastered by Steve Mabee, Acoustic at the Prizefighter Compound is available free for download on Noisetrade.
In July of 2009, Umbrella Tree released The Letter C and hosted a music video showcase at Mercy Lounge which included the premiere of their own epic 16 video DVD. The album was recorded at the Scoliosis the Studio by none other than Zachary Gresham, who had increased his engineering capabilities significantly since 2005. Also, Derek Pearson got his hands dirty with this one by filming, editing and directing each song's original music videos. Mixed by Jeremy Ferguson and mastered by Jim Demain, The Letter C was destined to be a great sounding record.
His Majesty Grows Suspicious
Written By: Zachary Gresham
Hand me down authority from all my father's thrones. Bind the hand of mutiny before it takes control. Shelter all the women and the children from the cold. Send the men to war for land and stay to mine for gold. And tell all of your children you'll be there when they are old. Just tell them you'll be watching them and they will make it so. We don't see their faces but we know that they are there. We have received instructions for invading everywhere. We have discovered peoples whom we find inferior. We let loose the foxes running through their town square. And I tell all of my children that it's me in their heads. Those voices are convincing they'll do everything I said. I say a lot of things and they are not so, but my children don't know, no my children don't know. I inspire admirement most places I go, but I can't have them worshipping something made out of gold like I'm inessential. Conscious of my subjects with their ears turned to the ground. Some of them are wailing at the burial mound. I make up the rules because sometimes I don't hear a sound, but none of them remember so I write the laws down. And I have become suspicious of these new dieties. Do I need a new divinity for every nicety? I say a lot of things and they are not so but my children don't know, no my children don't know! I inspire admirement most places I go, but I can't have them worshipping something made of gold! If it ain't me then I can't see them doing as their told! Am I the only one with any sense of control? This is essential!
Written By: Zachary Gresham
589 Toledo and Rome Reunite Arian-provoked Unilateral addition of the filioque There’s 40 days in the Fast Not if you don’t count Sunday There’s 50 days in the Fast Not if you don’t count Holy Week Just tell me where am I at There’s 40 days in the Fast Not if you don’t count 1054 The West and the East Across the board Excommunicate One another with the finger of heresy You speak the language of Rome One Church one language You speak the language of Greece The whole New Testament was written in it Accuse you of heresy We can do better than that In both the West and the East Equinox, full moon, Easter Sunday! 1204 A knock at the door Constantinople Crusaders sack the place And now we pray for unity When crusaders sack a place We spend a thousand years a-praying for unity
The Bird & The Fish
Written By: Jillian Leigh
All I am is this little blackbird, and I live on a powerline. All I see is this little blue world, but I don't believe in the sky. The sky was made out of wires and paper the city skyscrapers are cardboard and glue. The only real things are my little black wings, but my little black wings can't fly me to you. All I am is this little goldfish, and I swim in a water bowl. All I see is this little gold treasure, but I can't believe that it's gold. The treasure was made out of plastic and paint and the trees are all fake and the pebbles are too. The only real things are my little gold fins, but my little gold fins cannot swim me to you. And this isn't fair isn't Love doesn't failure is Love's in the air. Your water is air is my death's everywhere is my breath. I can't breath when you're near.
Written By: Jillian Leigh
In the hall you admired the paintings drawn, I drew them in the morning they’re saving me from all the demons. Hear the clock? Eagle eye is watching us. I will die tomorrow if you don’t understand me. You say, “The clock is only telling time.” You say, “The drawings will not save my life.” You think I’m crazy, but I know I’m right. Like beauty, confusion, is in your eyes. Like beauty, confusion, is in your eyes. Walk with me, I’ll show you where I keep the key to the dresser drawer where angels send me messages. What are these? I have to take the blue at three? You must be delusional, maybe you should take those pills. You say, “The clock is only telling time.” You say, “The medicine will save my life.” You think I’m crazy, but I know I’m right. Like beauty, confusion, is in your eyes. Like beauty, confusion, is in your eyes.
'What Kind of Books Do You Read?' - 2006. Studio album.
'The Church & The Hospital' - 2008. Studio album.
'Acoustic at the Prizefighter Compound' - 2008. Download only acoustic set.
'The Letter C' - 2009. Studio album and album-length DVD.
Three Ways to Kill an Emperor
The Bird & The Fish
Samuel Crawford's Widow
Claire in Cairo